At Female Foodie, we love just about everything and anything pasta related, and one of the most timeless, classic pasta dishes we love to enjoy is an authentic pasta al pomodoro, literally translated as “pasta with tomato sauce”. You don’t need much more than good quality tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and a few other pantry staples to make this delectable pasta al pomodoro.
Pasta al Pomodoro recipe tips:
- This recipe is best using San Marzano tomatoes, a variety of tomatoes grown near Naples, Italy (south of Rome). These are the tomatoes you’ll see most commonly used for Neapolitan pizza or any pomodoro pasta dish in Italy, and they’re absolutely delicious. A little more fleshy than Roma tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes have the perfect combination of intensity and sweetness. We prefer using whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes as opposed to pre-crushed San Marzano tomatoes, but in a pinch crushed works great, too. Our preferred brand for San Marzano tomatoes is Cento, but Bianco di Napoli canned tomatoes are absolutely delicious and a wonderful USA-grown alternative.
- High quality extra virgin olive oil will extraordinarily contribute to this pasta al pomodoro recipe. You don’t have to spend $50 on a bottle of olive oil (although if you do, we won’t judge you!), but proactively use olive oil that’s not expired, housed in a dark glass or opaque bottle (light is not a friend to olive oil), and only buy oil labeled “extra virgin”. Even at Trader Joe’s or Costco, you can find good quality extra virgin olive oil for a reasonable price.
- Don’t be afraid to use enough salt. Too much salt will no doubt ruin your beautiful pomodoro sauce, but the more frequently occurring issue is not using enough salt. Taste your sauce throughout the cooking process several times (ideally before adding the pasta) to ensure it has reached the level of savoriness that truly lets the flavor of the San Marzano tomatoes shine. A generous amount of salt should be added to your pasta water too, so that your pasta water tastes as salty as the sea.
This recipe is inspired by countless memorable pasta al pomodoro dishes enjoyed in Rome, Italy (pictured at the beginning of this post, is a classic gnocchi al pomodoro from Ivo in Trastevere, Rome). Need more Rome recs? Make sure to check out our guide to the 20 best Rome restaurants, the 10 best gelaterias in Rome, and the 10 best Trastevere restaurants. Enjoy!
Classic Pasta Al Pomodoro Recipe
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped white, yellow, or sweet onion (do not use red)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 28 oz. can whole, peeled san marzano tomatoes
- kosher salt
- 1 pound pasta**
- parmigiano reggiano and basil for serving
- In a large dutch oven or skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally to avoid browned onions. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Do not let garlic burn. Open canned tomatoes, and as you pour tomatoes into the dutch oven, crush each one with your hand, releasing juices and breaking up the flesh of tomatoes one by one. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- About 20 minutes before tomatoes are done simmering, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water with kosher salt. If using spaghetti or other classic dried pasta, cook 1-2 minutes less than package directions or until just barely "al dente". Remove 1 cup of starchy pasta water from pot just before pasta is finished cooking. Strain from pasta water immediately as to not overcook.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the pomodoro sauce in dutch oven together until smooth. Taste sauce and add additional salt if needed. Add 1/2 of the reserved cup of pasta water to pomodoro sauce, and bring to a soft boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta and stir constantly for about 1 minute. Add more of the starchy pasta liquid if needed. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Top with fresh basil and parmigiano reggiano as desired.