Pasta al pomodoro (aka spaghetti and tomato sauce) is a classic Italian dinner for good reason! This recipe uses a handful of ingredients and about than 30 minutes to make a restaurant worthy meal. It doesn’t get more Italian than simple food done perfectly.
What could be an easier weeknight meal than pasta and tomatoes? I’ve made it hundreds of times and I bet you have too! Take a can or jar of tomato sauce, cook up some noodles, and toss it together. But how about we make it better with only a little more effort?
What do you need?
- Pomodoro Sauce – San Marzano tomatoes*, garlic, olive oil, salt, and little hot pepper if you want
- Spaghetti – You can use other types, but I like the recipe with a long pasta which isn’t too wide or too thin
- Parmesan Cheese – You’re going to really taste it here (since it’s on top) so spring for the best you can get
- Basil – Fresh of course!
*For best results use a brand of tomatoes which does NOT contain calcium chloride and is NOT packed in tomato puree. The ingredients should be tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, and basil. Toss the basil and use the rest.
How to make this
To make pasta al pomodoro, first make a simple tomato sauce with canned tomatoes then puree it smooth. Cook the pasta and toss it with the sauce and some of the pasta water. Serve with basil and parmesan cheese.
1. Make Pomodoro
This very simple and quick!
First gently saute chopped garlic in olive oil and a pinch or so of salt until soft. Then add the tomatoes, breaking them up at bit in the pot, and bring to simmer. Simmer until the sauce is thick and the tomatoes are falling apart. Puree until smooth. Done!
2. Marry the Sauce and Spaghetti
While you’re cooking the sauce, boil the water and parcook the noodles. You want to take it out about 2 minutes before it will be done.
Take the mostly cooked pasta, some of the water from the pot, and some of the tomato sauce and toss it together in the pot over medium heat until the sauce is thick and clinging to noodles.
Tip: Don’t use too much water when boiling the pasta. This will concentrate the starches in the water and make for a thicker sauce.
3. Serve Dinner
To serve, portion the spaghetti onto plates. Top with basil, cheese, and more sauce.
Is this vegetarian?
It depends on your stance on parmesan cheese. If you use a Parmigiano-Reggiano, it is made with rennet and is not strictly vegetarian. However, there are a number of vegetarian parmesans on the market or you can switch to another style of shredding cheese such as ricotta salata.
For a vegan meal either leave off the cheese entirely (the rest of the meal is vegan) or switch to a vegan cheese.
How do I make sure the sauce is thick?
There are a few things you can do for this.
- Cook down the tomatoes longer to evaporate some of the moisture.
- Cook the pasta in a fairly small amount of water (enough to cover by a few inches) so that the starches are concentrated in the water.
- Cook the pasta and sauce together with some water from the pot until the sauce and water are absorbed by the spaghetti.
If you try my recipe for Pasta al Pomodoro, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Italian Pasta al Pomodoro
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper or fresh black pepper, optional
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
- 1-2 oz fresh shredded parmesan cheese
Make the Pomodoro Sauce
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium low.
- Add garlic and a pinch of kosher salt. Gently warm the garlic until it's soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes with their juice. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Puree the sauce in a blender until smooth.
- Add kosher salt. If using add red pepper or black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Make the Pasta
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add spaghetti (or other pasta of your choice) and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions.
- Scoop out ~2 cups of water and drain the spaghetti. Return the drained spaghetti to the pot.
- Add 1 cup of pasta water and 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and clinging to the noodles. Add more water if needed.
- Serve the spaghetti with fresh sliced basil, shredded parmesan cheese, and more pomodoro sauce.
- Tomato Sauce: For an expanded discussion on making the sauce see my Pomodoro Sauce post.
- Variations: A few ideas are to add diced or pearl sized fresh mozzarella, cooked chicken or shrimp, a swirl of ricotta, or fresh diced tomatoes.
- Pasta: A fun option for the pasta is bucatini (which is a spaghetti-like tube pasta).
- Basil in the Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes have a sprig of basil included in the can. Discard this basil and use the tomatoes.