Salt & Wind Travel

Pasta Al Pomodoro | Pasta With Classic Tomato Sauce

When it comes to Italian food, few dishes are more iconic than Pasta Al Pomodoro. Want proof? The classic pasta recipe’s three main ingredients — pasta, tomatoes, and basil — are the colors of il Tricolore (the flag) and they’re three of the most used ingredients in Italian cooking.

{Pasta Al Pomodoro} Pasta With Classic Tomato Sauce Recipe

What Is The Difference Between Pomodoro Sauce And Other Tomato Sauces?

To clarify there are a lot of different kinds of tomato-based pasta sauces in classic Italian cooking. Let’s go over the most common ones to start.

You have “alla Checca,” which is an uncooked summer-y tomato sauce reminiscent of bruschetta topping; then there’s “marinara,” which is the closest thing to Pasta Al Pomodoro but it tends to be made with larger chunks of tomatoes and is cooked a bit longer; more hearty is “Sugo di Pomodoro” which is a slow (and long) simmered tomato sauce often made with onion, garlic, and carrots as a base, and finally, there’s a “ragù,” which is a slow-simmered meat version of “Sugo di Pomodoro” (think what the guys made in the jail scene in Goodfellas).

But Pomodoro sauce is something all its own. Classically made with just olive oil, garlic, basil, and tomatoes (fresh or canned), it’s a very simple sauce that is more of a quick-cooked light tomato sauce than anything else. Simple, but by no means basic. Like so much of Italian cooking, this recipe only calls for a few ingredients so it’s uber important they’re as high quality as you can get.

The best Pasta Al Pomodoro is a dish where the sauce is a perfect balance of sweet and savory and the sauce is a texture that coats each piece of pasta without being soupy or dry. 

How Do You Make Tomato Sauce From Scratch?

Depending on the kind of tomato sauce you’re looking to make — alla checca, pomodoro, ragù, etc — there are a few different steps. However, they all start out by combining olive oil and tomatoes.

For Pasta Al Pomodoro you want to start by infusing the olive oil with the garlic and basil then adding the tomatoes and quickly cooking them. You only want the sauce to simmer for 15 minutes so it doesn’t reduce and doesn’t get a “cooked” flavor. Think of the recipe more like a quick cooked version of “alla Checca” meaning they both emphasize the freshness of the ingredients. 

If you want the end result to be a bit silkier, you can add a knob of butter right before you toss the sauce and the noodles together, and/or you can blend the sauce with an immersion blender to slightly aerate and smooth out the sauce. Neither of those steps is traditional nor are they essential, but I do them for dinner parties because they add that extra touch to make this dish feel a bit more elegant. 

Which Ingredients Do You Recommend For Great Tomato Sauce?

I’m going to assume you’ll get the freshest garlic and herbs you can find, so then the only two ingredients up for discussion are the olive oil and the tomatoes. You can make pasta al Pomodoro with fresh tomatoes (we’ll share that recipe with you in the future) but more often than not we make the recipe with high-quality canned tomato sauce.

The star tomato for pizza and pasta sauces in Italy is the San Marzano (in fact, it’s DOP or a protected ingredient because it’s so cherished) and true San Marzano DOP tomatoes are hard to find in the United States. However, many quality tomato companies grow a strain on those tomatoes here. I’m a fan of the Bianco DiNapoli brand because they’re flavorful and have great texture. 

As for olive oil, if you’ve read our tips on buying great olive oil then you all know that around here we always get extra virgin olive oil for our cooking and our garnishing. 

See The Recipe Made Step By Step

Heads up that we made this recipe during our Cooking Club Pasta Workshop. So, if you want to see it made step by step – and get a glimpse of the menu we’d pair this with – go ahead and contact us!

Now go stock up on all your cooking essentials, then head into the kitchen, make this, and share it with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!

{Pasta Al Pomodoro} Pasta With Classic Tomato Sauce Recipe

{Pasta Al Pomodoro} Pasta With Classic Tomato Sauce Recipe

This is the essential recipe for making classic tomato sauce from scratch. Just five ingredients: garlic, chile, basil, tomatoes, and olive oil, and a little technique are all that's required for this {Pasta Al Pomodoro} Pasta With Classic Tomato Sauce recipe.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 217 kcal


For The Classic Tomato Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium garlic clove smashed and peeled
  • 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can can crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional - omit to make it dairy free)

For Serving:

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or other long thin noodle pasta (use gluten free noodles to make recipe gluten free)
  • Finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for garnish (optional - omit to make it dairy free)


  • Make The Classic Tomato Sauce: Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the garlic clove and one sprig of basil (at least 3 large leaves), and a pinch of the crushed red pepper flakes, if using. Cook until the mixture is fragrant, then immediately remove the garlic and basil.
    Add the tomatoes, a large pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Immediately lower to medium-low heat and simmer, occasionally stirring (make sure to get to the bottom of the pan so nothing burns!) until the flavors just come together about 15 minutes. 
    If you want a smoother sauce, use a stick blender (or transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor) and process it until smooth. Add the butter (if using) and tear the remaining basil leaves into the sauce just before serving. 
    TIP: Pasta sauce can be made up to 4 days in advance. Store refrigerated in an airtight container or freeze up to one month before using. This yields 1 quart (4 cups) of pasta sauce, which is enough for 2 to 3 pounds of pasta.
  • Make The Classic Tomato Sauce Pasta: Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Once you lower the heat on the tomatoes to simmer them, add the spaghetti to the water.
    Cook the pasta 3 minutes short of the package directions, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then use tongs to transfer the noodles directly from the pot to the pan with the sauce (the butter (if using) and the basil should already have been added to the sauce).
    Use tongs to turn the noodles in the sauce and, if you want the sauce a bit thinner, add 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water (this will also help the sauce adhere to the noodle).
  • Serve The Pasta: To serve the pasta, use a ladle and the tongs to twist one portion of the noodles into a "nest," then transfer this to the serving plate. If desired, top with a drizzle of olive oil and some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and serve .



Serving: 1servingCalories: 217kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 6gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 3mgPotassium: 98mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 57IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 11mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Basic Pasta Dishes, Classic Pasta recipes
Tried this recipe?Mention @saltandwind or tag #swsociety!

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