Lunch/ Pasta

Pasta Pomodoro

August 5, 2020 by Chris Collins

Pasta Al Pomodoro is an incredibly simple dish, but there’s a few tips and tricks to bringing out the best in this sauce!

overhead shot of pasta in white bowl with fresh basil and parmesan surrounding

Pasta Al Pomodoro

If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while you’ll know that most of my pasta recipes contain a whole cup of cream and about 37 blocks of cheese. Today we’re going for something a little different. Still a recipe you’ll absolutely fall in love with never the less 😁

What is Pasta Pomodoro?

Pasta Pomodoro is a celebration of the tomato (‘pomodoro’ means ‘tomato’ in Italian). It’s a classic Italian dish which is often quite light, contains few ingredients and is served with spaghetti.

What is pomodoro sauce made of?

At it’s very most basic, a Pomodoro sauce usually contains good quality tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and in most cases fresh basil. It’s also not uncommon for Pomodoro sauces to contain onion, parmesan and tomato puree, all of which we’re using as well today. And that’s all you’ll need!

close up shot of fork twisting in pasta

Roasted Tomatoes

Okay, so here’s where we’re going to go off track a little bit. Most recipes use canned tomatoes for the base of the sauce. Usually San Marzano Whole Tomatoes, which I’ve personally tested with an works great! BUT, here I see a window of opportunity to inject some extra flavour.

By roasting tomatoes you completely transform them. The flavour intensifies and turns slightly sweet. Chuck a few cloves of garlic in there too to add some gorgeous caramelized roasted garlic and bobs your uncle. Roasting the tomatoes is a really easy but nifty trick to bringing out the best in them.

I recommend using good quality ripe tomatoes (here I use vine-ripened tomatoes).

Process shots: slice tomatoes open, season with s&p and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (photo 1), flip over and add garlic (photo 2), roast until wilted and lightly charred (photo 3).

How to roast Tomatoes - 3 step by step photos

Pomodoro Pasta Sauce

The roasted tomatoes, oil, garlic and the juices they come with make a good bulk of the sauce. We’re also going to add in some onion, which will just be fried off in a good helping of extra virgin olive oil.

Tomato Puree

This is another game changing ingredient. Tomato puree (i.e tomato paste in the US) will deepen the flavour of the tomatoes. To really bring out the best in the tomato puree though you’ll want to fry it. Sounds odd, but by frying tomato puree you caramelize it and take out that sour bite it has. The difference this makes is huge!

Blender

From there everything goes into a blender and pulses into sauce. I tend to pulse everything, then add in fresh basil and pulse a little more, just so you can see more of the basil. You can however add basil at the start and blitz it into the sauce if you wish.

Can I sub dried basil?

Because you’re not really cooking the sauce for very long you don’t have enough time for dried basil to infuse into the sauce. As such, fresh basil is essential here.

Process shots: add onion to oil (photo 1), fry until soft (photo 2), add tomato puree (photo 3), fry (photo 4), add to blender (photo 5), add roasted tomatoes & garlic (photo 6), blitz (photo 7), add basil and pulse a few times (photo 8).

8 step by step photos of How to make pomodoro sauce

Pasta Pomodoro

From there it’s just a case of popping the sauce back in the pan and tossing through pasta.

What pasta to use?

Spaghetti is most authentic, but any long cut pasta will work great. Here I use Linguine!

Starchy Pasta Water

The final key to this pomodoro sauce is using the water the pasta is cooked in. The starchy pasta water will help emulsify the oils in the sauce and help it cling to the pasta better. It’ll also turn the sauce nice and silky and ever so slightly creamy.

Process shots: add sauce to pan (photo 1), add pasta (photo 2), toss using pasta water (photo 3), toss through parmesan (photo 4).

4 step by step photos of How to make pasta pomodoro

What to serve with Pasta Pomodoro?

In the past I’ve added grilled chicken or Italian sausage, both work nicely. If you’re looking for a side I recommend garlic bread, cheesy pesto garlic bread or cheesy garlic bread!

If you like the sound of this Italian classic then definitely make sure you check out my Penne Arrabiata

For more similar recipes check out these beauties too:

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this pasta pomodoro shall we?!

pasta tongs twisting spaghetti in skillet

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How to make Pasta Pomodoro (Full Recipe & Video)

pasta tongs twisting spaghetti in skillet

Pasta Pomodoro

Pasta Al Pomodoro is an incredibly simple dish, but there's a few tips and tricks to bringing out the best in this sauce!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 4
Calories: 632kcal
Cost per serving: £1.50 / $2

Equipment:

  • Blender or Food Processor
  • Large Skillet & Wooden Spoon
  • Large Pot & Pasta Tongs
  • Large Baking Tray
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Fine Cheese Grater

Ingredients (check list):

  • 1lb / 500g Long Cut Pasta (here I use linguine, Spaghetti also works great)
  • 2lb / 1kg good quality Tomatoes, halved (here I use vine-ripened tomatoes)
  • 1 packed cup Fresh Basil Leaves (approx 1oz/30g)
  • 4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more to serve
  • 1/3 cup / 30g freshly grated Parmesan, plus more to serve
  • 1/4 cup / 65g Tomato Puree (Tomato Paste in US)
  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic, left in skins
  • 1 medium White Onion, finely diced
  • Salt & Pepper, as needed

Instructions:

  • Place tomato halves flesh side up and season with a generous helping of salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and flip over. Throw on 3-4 cloves of garlic, then roast in the oven at 390F/200C for 25-30mins, or until the tomatoes begin to wilt and char. Roast at a lower temp for a longer period of time for a more intense, sweet flavour. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out the garlic from the skins.
  • Add pasta to heavily salted boiling water and cook until al dente.
  • Meanwhile in a large pan over medium heat add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add onion and fry until soft and beginning to brown. Add in 1/4 cup tomato puree/paste and fry it off for 1-2mins. Scrape everything into a blender and pour in the tomatoes & garlic (with the juices).
  • Pop the lid on, leave the hole at the top open and pop a clean tea towel over the top. Pulse until smooth, then add in basil leaves and pulse a little longer until they dice into small shards.
  • Pour sauce back into the pan and turn the heat to a low. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper (season well to bring out the best in this simple sauce), give it a stir for a couple of minutes to allow the air bubbles to burst, then start transferring the pasta straight from the pot into the sauce, using the excess pasta water it brings with it to emulsify the sauce. Toss the pasta to coat, using a dash more starchy pasta water if needed to bring everything together.
  • Sprinkle over parmesan and give it one final toss. Serve individual portions with another sprinkling of parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Tomatoes and Oil - Because both of these make up a good portion of the sauce, I recommend investing in some good quality tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. It's a simple sauce so this really will make all the difference!
b) Starchy Pasta Water - Important that your pasta water is heavily seasoned so you don't dilute the flavour of the sauce. Also important to make sure you scoop out the pasta water at the very end so it's nice and starchy. The starch molecules will help emulsify the oil in the sauce.
c) Make Ahead - If you want to make this ahead of time I recommend just making the sauce, then cooking up the pasta just before serving and stirring it through. It tends to dry up if you make the whole thing ahead of time. The sauce will last a good 4-5days if tightly sealed in the fridge (longer at your discretion).
d) To serve - Because it's quite a light sauce I usually serve this for lunch, but you could add garlic bread (or cheesy garlic bread or pesto garlic bread) and to bulk it out more for a dinner!
e) Calories - Whole thing divided by 4 with no extra parmesan/oil:

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Pasta Pomodoro
Amount Per Serving
Calories 632 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18.04g28%
Saturated Fat 3.526g18%
Trans Fat 0.079g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.397g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.711g
Cholesterol 7mg2%
Sodium 169mg7%
Potassium 874mg25%
Carbohydrates 98.25g33%
Fiber 7g28%
Sugar 10.21g11%
Protein 19.79g40%
Vitamin A 2287IU46%
Vitamin C 35mg42%
Calcium 139mg14%
Iron 4.76mg26%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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