Penne pomorodoro is an easy Italian dish made with penne pasta coated in a simple homemade tomato sauce. Like spaghetti alla nerano, it is a light pasta dish, and one the whole family loves. It is perfect for both warm summer evenings and cold winter nights.
Why we love this recipe
- Veggies blended into the sauce – making is a great dish for picky eaters.
- Ideal recipe for meal prep – the tomato sauce can be made ahead and kept in the fridge or frozen.
- The recipe uses only a handful of ingredients, and they are mostly storecupboard ingredients.
- The sauce is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free – which makes this dish such a useful one for family members on different diets. Serve with gluten free pasta for a gluten free dinner, and don’t top with parmesan cheese for a vegan dinner.
- Penne pasta – as the name suggests, I make this recipe with penne pasta, however you can use any other dried pasta shape you like: rigatoni, rotini, pasta shells and bows. Pasta al pomodoro is traditionally made with spaghetti.
- Tomatoes – I use whole, tinned/canned tomatoes. Try not to use chopped tinned tomatoes – the whole tinned tomatoes do taste better, and as this simple tomato sauce doesn’t have many ingredients, you want each ingredient to bring as much flavour to the table as it can.
- Olive oil – use a good olive oil. It may seem like there’s a lot of oil in this recipe, but the olive oil is a key ingredient to making the tomato sauce more flavourful.
- Salt – another ingredient to make the best tomato sauce, packed with flavour.
- Garlic – fresh garlic.
- Brown onion – you could also use a sweeter milder red onion if you prefer.
- Basil – in this recipe I use the basil stalks as well as the basil leaves. They are packed with basil flavour, and simmering them in the sauce gets the most out of your bunch of basil. Don’t substitute dried basil.
How to make this Italian tomato pasta
(These images are to help you, for the full detailed recipe please see the recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Cook the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat…
- …until soft and translucent.
- Add the crushed garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Tip in the canned/tinned whole tomatoes.
- Break the tomatoes down with a spoon and add the salt and basil.
- Cook until thick.
- With a stick blender, blend until smooth.
- Stir in the cooked penne and fresh basil.
- Mix until the pasta is thoroughly coated in the tomato sauce.
Pomodoro sauce is a tomato based sauce combined with onion, garlic, olive oil and basil.
No, pomodoro sauce does not contain meat. It is actually vegetarian and vegan.
Yes! Pomodoro sauce would be delicious with fresh in season tomatoes. I recommend using Roma tomatoes if you can, or another plum tomato. Blanch them in boiling water then peel them. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds before adding to the onion and garlic mixture.
My recipe tips
- Keep a little of the pasta water when you drain the pasta – this starchy water will help make the pasta and tomato sauce creamy and thick.
- To make it vegetarian pomodoro pasta – don’t top with the parmesan or check it is vegetarian.
- If you are wanting a vegan tomato pasta – don’t top with parmesan or use a vegan alternative.
- You could use passata instead of tinned tomatoes.
- Serve with a simple green side salad, or this parmesan and walnut salad.
- Add some diced pancetta and cook with the onions.
- Stir in some cooked roasted veggies.
- Finish the meal with an Italian dessert: torta caprese for a chocolate hit, or Apricot jam tart
- You can cook the sauce ahead and blend, then keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight.
Other Italian Recipes you may like
- stick blender
- 4 tablespoons (¼c) olive oil
- 1 brown onion, medium roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed/minced
- 800g (28oz) tinned/canned whole tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 large sprigs of fresh basil stalks and leaves seperate
- 400g (14oz) penne
- cracked black pepper
- fresh parmesan to serve, optional
- extra fresh basil to serve, optional
- Cook the onion in the olive oil over a medium heat until soft and cooked through – around 10 minutes.
- Add the crushed garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.
- Add the teaspoon of salt, half the basil leaves and all the stalks.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and cook the sauce for 20 minutes until thick, stirring occasionally to check it doesn't stick to the pan.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
- When the tomato sauce is thick, remove the basil stalks and then using a stick blender, blend until smooth.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 120ml (½c) of the pasta water.
- Stir the pasta into the sauce together with a couple of tablespoons of pasta water and the rest of the fresh basil, roughly torn. Heat it gently. If it's too thick, add a little more water.
- Serve immediately topped with a little more torn fresh basil, black pepper, and parmesan, if using.