Pasta al Pomodoro is all about the tomatoes! This incredibly simple Italian dish is easy to make and only uses a few ingredients. During tomato season you can make this pasta with fresh tomatoes, but for those other months of the year, this canned tomato version is perfect.
What is Pomodoro sauce?
Pomodoro, which means "tomato" in Italian, is a very simple tomato sauce consisting of tomatoes (canned or fresh), garlic, olive oil and salt. Onion and basil are sometimes added as well. Pomodoro is a smoother sauce, whereas other tomato sauces might be more chunky. Pomodoro can be made with fresh tomatoes when they are in season, or canned tomatoes. Since the sauce is all about the tomatoes, make sure to choose good quality Datterini or San Marzano tomatoes.
*This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for further details.
All about simplicity
You might notice a trend in traditional Italian cooking: simplicity! Many Italian dishes rely on the quality and treatment of the ingredients to deliver the best flavor and pomodoro is no different. You might think the ingredient list looks too short and that you'll need to add more seasoning, but try to resist! The magic of this sauce is how flavorful and delicious it is, despite only using a few simple ingredients.
Pasta: I like using spaghetti or bucatini for this dish but you could really use any pasta shape that you like.
Olive oil: of course!
Garlic: I like to thinly slice the garlic for this recipe, but you can mince it as well. If you wanted a more subtle garlic flavor, leave the garlic clove whole and then discard it before adding the tomatoes.
Tomatoes: Pomodoro can be made from fresh or canned tomatoes. I recommend making fresh tomato pomodoro during tomato season. We are using canned tomatoes for this version, Datterini or San Marzano are the best choices.
Kosher salt: Perhaps the most important ingredient after tomatoes! Salt is the only seasoning in this recipe. It will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes and make the dish come alive. Salt is SO important!
Unsalted butter: This is not necessarily traditional, but an important addition in my opinion. You'll add the butter along with the pasta and a splash of pasta water to the sauce at the end for the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce. The butter and pasta water help create a silky sauce.
Pasta water: Do not drain off all the pasta water! I always recommend reserving about 1 cup of pasta water before draining your pasta or better yet, transfer your pasta directly into the sauce with a pasta spoon or spider strainer. Finishing the pasta in the sauce with a few splashes of pasta water helps create a silkier sauce and bind the sauce to the pasta.
This recipe is traditional for the canned tomato version of pomodoro. The only thing that is not traditional in my recipe is the (optional) use of butter to finish the sauce.
You can, but it will no longer be a traditional pomodoro.
For this super simple tomato focused sauce, I recommend using good quality Italian tomatoes like San Marzano or Datterini. If using San Marzano, look for the DOP marking on the can. This stands for "Denominazione d' Origine Protetta" or Protected Designation of Origin in english. The DOP marking on the can ensures the tomatoes are actually from the San Marzano region, instead of being "San Marzano style" tomatoes.
You might also like
Pasta al Pomodoro
- Food processor
- ½ Pound spaghetti or bucatini
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 14 Ounce Can Datterini or San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted buter
- Kosher salt
- Fresh basil for serving
- Parmigiano Reggiano for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well.
- Add the tomatoes to a food processor and pulse until almost completely smooth.
- Add the olive oil and garlic to a pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic is lightly golden. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta to 1 minute shy of al dente. Add the pasta to the sauce along with the butter and a splash of the pasta cooking water. Toss to combine.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh basil and Parmigiano Reggiano. Enjoy!