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25-Minute Pasta Pomodoro Sauce (With Fresh or Canned Tomatoes)

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A plate or bowl of pasta with simple pomodoro sauce is one of the top pasta recipes you can cook at home. My classic Italian-style pomodoro pasta sauce can be prepared with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, along with seasonings, olive oil, and basil. This quick sauce is ready to serve in about 25 minutes.

A bowl of curly pasta topped with pomodoro sauce, a recipe that includes canned tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese.

Pasta pomodoro is a classic tomatopasta sauce recipe that needs to be in your file — if it isn’t already! This five-ingredient sauce (plus salt and pepper) comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Instead relying on jars of store-bought red sauce, try making homemade marinara from scratch. Think of this Italian-style dish when you want a quick weeknight meal or anytime you need a pasta fix.

It’s as uncomplicated as could be, basically made with simmered tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Add pasta and grated Parmesan cheese to that bright, fresh-tasting sauce and you have yourself the Italian dish known as pasta pomodoro.

Pomodoro versus marinara sauce

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. Along with simple marinara sauce, they are very much the same, both light and fresh-tasting sauces made with pantry ingredients.

Tomato sauces are the ones people tend to associate with Italian-American food. Especially after many southern Italians and Neapolitans (like my ancestors) emigrated from their country in the 19th century.

Fun Fact: Tomatoes were introduced to Italy by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Those early varieties were actually more yellow-colored than red, so they were given the name “golden apple” which is pomo d’oro in Italian.

The best types of tomatoes for pomodoro sauce

Classic pomodoro sauce comes down to the tomatoes you use. I suggest keeping two types of canned tomatoes in your pantry. That way you’ll always be ready to make pomodoro or marinara sauce. Here’s how to choose the best ones:

  • Unless it’s peak summertime and tomatoes are ripe and delicious, canned tomatoes preserved in cans (or jars) are what I use to make sauce. There’s no denying their convenience and they taste really good!
  • Crushed tomatoes: This is my first choice of canned tomato to use for quick, simple sauces like pomodoro and marinara. They often have excess liquid and seeds removed, so they don’t need to cook down as long as whole tomatoes.
  • Whole peeled plum tomatoes: These are usually plum or “Roma” type tomatoes packed in their own juice or with puree. To prepare them, tear them into pieces with your hands or if you prefer a smoother texture, pulse in a food processor .
Canned tomatoes, onion, garlic and olive oil make a simple pomodoro tomato sauce.
Canned tomatoes make a bright-tasting, delicious sauce.

FYI: The best canned tomatoes don’t need to be labeled ‘San Marzano’ or even grown in Italy for that matter. Authentic Italian San Marzano tomatoes are labeled with DOP certification. That means they are grown in a specific region in Italy — the area south of Naples at the base of Mount Vesuvius.

While those are certainly delicious tomatoes, they are also harder to find and more expensive than other types of canned tomatoes.

I’ve cooked and sampled canned tomatoes for many years, and I can say my favorite brands are often grown in California. When you shop, buy cans that are not lined with BPA. When you open them at home, look for the tomatoes to be evenly bright red in color without any hard yellow spots.

Make the sauce with fresh tomatoes

There’s nothing better than really sweet, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and pasta. Or, let’s face it, simply devoured with olive oil and salt!

Seven tomatoes in a pot of water.
If using fresh tomatoes, score them and drop into boiling water 2-3 minutes.

If you want to use fresh tomatoes in this recipe, their pure, sweet taste will shine in your pomodoro sauce. You’ll need 3 pounds of fresh tomatoes to make pomodoro sauce. Dip them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then remove the skins (they should slip right off). Chop them and proceed with the recipe.

Recipe steps

  • Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes.
  • In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta. Drain it well. Toss the pasta in a large bowl with Parmesan cheese and garnish with sprigs of fresh basil that are torn into pieces. Pomodoro sauce can be frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Long pasta types like spaghetti, ziti, rigatoni or bucatini are other great choices to pair with the sauce.

Sauce variations

I’ve kept this recipe as minimal as possible, but you always can jazz it up.

  • Swirl in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter into the finished sauce for extra deliciousness.
  • Try adding a pinch of crushed red pepper in the style of a spicy tomato arrabbiata sauce along with the onion and olive oil.

25-Minute Pasta Pomodoro Sauce (With Fresh or Canned Tomatoes)

Karen Tedesco
A plate or bowl of pasta with simple pomodoro sauce has to be one of the top pasta recipes you can cook at home. My classic Italian-style pomodoro pasta sauce can be prepared with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, along with seasonings, olive oil and basil. This quick sauce is ready to serve in about 25 minutes.
Print Pin
5 from 4 community reviews
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (80 g) finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) grated or minced fresh garlic
  • 2 28-ounce (1.2 l) cans crushed tomatoes , whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, optional
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound (450 g) dried pasta, long or short cut
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn if large

Instructions 

  • Put the oil and onion in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and stir until it smells good, 15-20 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes, 1-2 teaspoons salt, black pepper and sugar to the pan. Bring to a simmer, breaking up the tomatoes into pieces with a spoon. Cook uncovered 20 minutes or so, until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  • Taste for seasoning – add more salt or pepper to taste.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot (5-6 quarts) water to a boil and add 3 tablespoons salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain well.
  • Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and ladle over about half the sauce. Top with the cheese and toss to coat. Sprinkle the basil over. Serve with additional cheese.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • The sauce makes enough for 2 pounds of pasta. It will keep refrigerated 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.For a smoother sauce, use a handheld immersion right in the pot or let the sauce cool sllightly and briefly pulse in a blender.
Pomodoro sauce variations:
  • Add crushed red pepper to taste along with the onions
  • Swirl in 1 or 2 tablespoon butter to the finished sauce for extra richness.
To make pomodoro sauce with fresh tomatoes: You’ll need 3 pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes for this sauce. Dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds and slip the skins off. Chop them and proceed with the recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 180mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest
Recipe developer Karen Tedesco of the popular website Familystyle Food in her kitchen making a kale salad.

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! Definitely going to save this recipe and repeat!

  2. I love the simplicity of this meal. Delicious! Thank you 🙂