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Pasta with pomodoro sauce in a bowl

Authentic Pomodoro Sauce (Fresh or Canned)

  • Author: Emilie Raffa
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1 quart (good for 1 lb. pasta)
  • Category: Pasta Sauce
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan


This is my favorite, best-ever easy recipe for authentic homemade pomodoro sauce. Serve with fresh pasta or dried, gnocchi and as a base for different Italian-style dishes (chicken parmesan, sautéed veggies, soups etc). This recipe makes approximately 1 quart of spaghetti sauce, which is sufficient for 1 lb of pasta.


For the Pomodoro Sauce

  • 3 lb. (1.36 kg) fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) finely minced shallots or onions
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 68 fresh basil leaves 
  • Salt

To Serve with Pasta

  • 1 lb. (450 g) dried penne or spaghetti (or fresh homemade pasta)
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves

Notes & Tips

  • For fresh tomatoes: Choose San Marzano plum tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, even Beefsteak tomatoes from the farm stand. Cherry tomatoes work too, but since they’re smaller and you’re working with multiples, they take more time to blanch and peel. Either way: look for dark red, super sweet, fresh tomatoes. Your sauce will thank you.
  • If using canned tomatoes: substitute 42 oz/1.2 kg (1 1/2 large cans) whole, peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes. I like Cento brand.
  • Onions are optional in pomodoro sauce. However, most times, I skip the onions, use shallots, and omit the garlic altogether. Why? I use this sauce as a base for many Italian-style dishes. Some of these dishes do not require garlic. So when needed, I just add a smashed garlic clove or two, to my base sauce while it re-heats. The flavor infuses beautifully. PS: shallots remind me of onions and garlic combined, so it’s a perfect balanced blend.
  • Remember, fresh tomatoes can be blanched ahead and chilled/frozen until ready to use. This is extremely helpful when making large batches of sauce (and you don’t have time to do it all in one day).
  • Try Butter. I love, love, love butter in my pomodoro sauce, which is not authentic, but a nod to Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce recipe with onions and butter. It’s divine.


Note: If using fresh tomatoes, you’ll need to blanch them first to remove the tough skins (see below). If using canned tomatoes, skip the blanching step and jump straight to cooking. You’ll need to chop them into small pieces first, and add to the pan with their juice.

To Blanch Tomatoes:

Boil a large pot of water. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato (the skin will peel off easier). Blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon; do not drain the pot of water. Run the tomatoes under cold water to stop the cooking process. Remove the skins with your hands- they should slip right off. Next, slice the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds (I do this over a bowl). Dice the tomatoes into small pieces. At this point, the blanched, chopped tomatoes can be stored in the fridge up to 4 days or frozen up to 3 months.

Tip: Save the blanching water to cook the pasta (or save it to water your plants or garden if not using right away). 

To Cook Pomodoro Sauce:

In a large 12-inch (30 cm) skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions or shallots (if using) until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the smashed garlic clove; cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes to the pan. Season with salt. Give it a quick stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes depending on variety (the juicier the tomatoes the longer it will take to cook). Towards the end of cooking, tear the fresh basil leaves into small pieces and stir into the sauce.

To finish, remove the garlic clove. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender or regular blender to create a semi-rustic or smooth texture. Or, don’t puree at all- your choice. Your sauce. Taste and correct with more salt, if needed.

To Serve with Pasta:

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, have your pomodoro sauce simmering and ready to go in a 12-inch pan (the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce). When the pasta is aldente, use tongs or a small strainer to transfer it into the pan. Add the butter if using, and stir well. Shave some parmesan cheese over the pasta; toss to coat. Simmer and toss for 30 seconds. Transfer your delicious pasta al pomodoro to a large serving bowl and garnish with fresh basil on top. Enjoy!

Keywords: Pomodoro sauce, tomato sauce, easy, authentic, Italian, recipe, pasta, fresh pasta, fresh tomatoes, San Marzano