Penne Pomodoro, or pasta al pomodoro, is a very simple but outrageously delicious tomato basil pasta dish. Each flavor is highlighted spectacularly in a rich, thick red sauce. Spooned over a bed of steaming fresh penne pasta, it really goes to show that you don’t need pricey ingredients or a whole lot of time to make a delicious dish!!
When it comes to quick, inexpensive dinners, pasta always comes out on top. And knowing how to make pomodoro sauce will save you tons of time and effort in the future.
Penne pomodoro sauce has just 5 ingredients: olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan.
You can make a big batch with so few ingredients, and it’s just so easy to prepare!
Speaking of easy, I have a few more recipes I want you to try — after you taste this penne alla pomodoro, of course.
My baked ziti, tortellini alfredo, and quick 25 minute sausage pasta are super tasty and sure to satisfy!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Tomatoes – The exact variety of tomato isn’t make or break here. Any ripe, large, peeled tomato will make for a perfect penne pomodoro!
- Basil – Fresh basil tends to bruise very easily when torn or roughly chopped, which can affect its flavor.
To prevent this, cut your basil chiffonade style! Stack the leaves on top of one other, and roll them into a tight bundle.
Then, use a sharp kitchen knife to slice thinly across the roll.
It looks fancy, but it sure is easy to do!
- Parmesan – I always prefer to grate my cheese fresh off the block. You don’t get all of those preservatives that come with pre-shredded, bagged cheese.
- Penne Pasta – I specify penne here because it’s one of my favorites, but any pasta will do! Spaghetti is another common choice for pasta al pomodoro.
- Olive Oil – This is really just used to fry up the garlic, so you can swap in any healthier alternative that you like: vegetable oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil will do the trick.
Just remember the flavor will change ever so slightly!
Optional Ingredients for Penne al Pomodoro
- Add more veggies.
Don’t stop with the basil and tomatoes! There are plenty of ways to boost the health benefits of your penne pomodoro pasta — not to mention the flavor!
Some great options include steamed or sauteed zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, or even wilted baby spinach.
- Include some protein.
Italian sausage (links or ground) can be cooked and added to your penne alla pomodoro!
Ground turkey or chicken are a couple of leaner choices, and they would be incredibly tasty too.
- Use additional spices.
Some people like a spicy pomodoro sauce for penne pomodoro.
If you’re one of them, you could add some paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, or even chili powder to give it a kick.
Storing and Reheating Penne Pomodoro Pasta
This is one dish that I personally think is even tastier the next day!
If you happen to have any leftovers, just throw them in an airtight container. The sauce continues to flavor the pasta — it just gets tastier and tastier!
Penne pomodoro pasta will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
To reheat penne al pomodoro, microwave in short bursts until warm. Sprinkle some more cheese on top when you’re ready to serve!
You can also make and freeze the penne pomodoro sauce in bulk if meal prepping is your thing. Keep it in a sealed container for up to 6 months in the freezer!
Penne alla Pomodoro FAQ
This tomato pasta dish, also known as penne al pomodoro, features a simple Italian red sauce tossed with tender penne noodles.
Not at all! Pomodoro translates to “apple of gold,” referring to the golden yellow color of the tomatoes traditionally used to make the sauce.
So, pomodoro is just tomato sauce — plain and simple!
The two sauces have very similar ingredients: tomato, garlic, and a couple of our favorite Italian herbs and seasonings.
It’s their textures that are different!
Pomodoro sauce is thicker and smoother, almost creamy in texture.
On the other hand, marinara sauce is thinner and a bit runny, with chunks of tomato here and there.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Simple Italian Sauces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped or sliced chiffonade style
- 1/2 pound penne pasta
- 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute minced garlic in the olive oil for 1-2 minutes, until slightly golden and fragrant.
- Add whole tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking apart the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
- Add several basil leaves to the sauce, if you wish, and simmer together for 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is thick and broken down with just some chunks remaining.
- Remove basil leaves from the sauce.
- Use an immersion blender to break down the sauce to desired consistency, leaving some small pieces of tomato.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rapid boil and cook penne pasta to al dente (a slight bite to it). Drain pasta in a colander, but do not rinse!.
- Toss pasta with finished pomodoro sauce. Top with freshly shredded parmesan and chopped basil.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published August 2022, updated and republished August 2023
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