Light and bright Penne Pomodoro is a rustic and simple Italian pasta recipe, loaded with tomatoes, fresh basil and penne. Pasta pomodoro is ready in less than 30 minutes.
Make this pasta al pomodoro recipe with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes. We include directions for both in the recipe card below! Serve with a side of garlic bread.
What Is Pomodoro Sauce
“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato, so pomodoro sauce simply means tomato sauce. This pasta pomodoro recipe is naturally vegetarian as it doesn’t contain meat. Due to the use of parmesan cheese, it’s not vegan, however.
Type of Tomatoes
As pomodoro tomato sauce focuses on the flavor of the tomato, it’s imperative you use a brand of canned tomatoes, or variety of fresh tomatoes, you enjoy.
It’s ideal to use tomatoes packaged in a cardboard box. They are more expensive, but you won’t suffer from that odd metallic taste some brands have. If you do use a brand with a metallic taste, just add a bit of granulated sugar to help remove the aftertaste.
We recommend whole San Marzano tomatoes, but diced or crushed tomatoes will work. Crushing the tomatoes is half the fun.
Load up on high quality ripe plum tomatoes. You’ll need to blanch, skin and pit them before adding to the sauce.
To blanch the tomatoes, use a sharp knife to make an “X” incision in the bottom of the tomatoes. Place them in a large pot of boiling water for 30 seconds before removing, peeling and coring. Now they’re ready to go!
While this is named penne pomodoro, you can use any noodle you have on hand. Here are a few of our favorite noodles to use when making penne al pomodoro:
- Rigatoni pomadoro
- Angel hair pomodoro
- Bucatini pomodoro
- Squid Ink Pasta
If you have leftover penne you can always make this delicious Penne Rosa Recipe.
Pasta al Pomodoro in 30 Minutes
This pasta recipe is a very hands off recipe for the most part. Once you get the sauce going the majority of time is just simmering. After heating the garlic in oil you’ll add the tomatoes and basil and simmer.
The only other step is cooking the pasta and adding it to the reduced sauce and tossing. That’s it. Italians love simple but flavorful sauces and this is one of them.
Pasta Pomodoro Variations
Make this a chicken pasta pomodoro by grilling up a batch of chicken breasts or chicken thighs.
Filetto di Pomodoro
Add sliced prosciutto ham to the skillet before the garlic and cook until crisp. Proceed with the recipe as written.
- Generously salt the water with Kosher salt before boiling.
- Make sure to only cook the pasta to al dente. You won’t want mushy pasta shells.
- Use water, Instant Pot Bone Broth or Vegetable Stock if you forgot to reserve pasta water and you wish to thin the sauce.
- If using whole or diced tomatoes, use an immersion blender if you like a non-chunky sauce.
- Other fresh herb options: thyme, rosemary or oregano.
- Grate or finely dice some onions for an extra flavor boost.
- Bulk it up with fresh vegetables, including zucchini, eggplant or mushrooms. Just add them to the skillet before the garlic and proceed with the recipe as written.
Since tomato based sauces are acidic, it’s best paired with medium-bodied red wines: cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel or chianti.
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1½ Tbsp Minced Garlic
- 2 28 oz Cans of Whole Peeled Tomatoes (*Note 1)
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Basil + More For Garnish, Chiffonade
- ¼ tsp Sea Salt
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- 16 oz Penne Pasta
- Grated Parmesan Cheese, To Taste
- Heat a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic and sauté until fragrant (approx. 30 seconds).2 Tbsp Olive Oil1½ Tbsp Minced Garlic
- Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, and pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break apart the whole tomatoes and simmer for 20-25 minutes.2 28 oz Cans of Whole Peeled Tomatoes1 Tbsp Fresh Basil + More For Garnish, Chiffonade1/4 tsp Sea Salt1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- Optional Step: Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce if you prefer a smooth sauce with no tomato chunks.
- While the pasta is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the penne. Cook the noodles according to the "al dente" directions on the back of the box. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.16 oz Penne Pasta
- Add the cooked pasta to the pomodoro sauce and toss to evenly coat. Add the reserved pasta sauce, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Taste and add extra salt and pepper, if desired.
- Serve in individual bowls and top with fresh basil strips and shredded parmesan cheese.Grated Parmesan Cheese, To Taste