Spaghetti al Pomodoro (Tomato Basil Pasta)

Spaghetti al Pomodoro is one of the signature pasta dishes of Italian cuisine.

Spaghetti is by far the favorite pasta of Italians. While the sauce made with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and basil encapsulates the basic flavors, aromas and colors of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.

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It’s a pasta recipe suitable for any convivial occasion. Spaghetti al pomodoro is perfect for both lunch and dinner, for everyday meals or dinners with friends.

Although spaghetti with tomato sauce is very easy to make, it’s not an ordinary recipe. There are a few tricks that make this traditional dish of Italian home cooking a true masterpiece with a unique taste.

First of all, the ingredients must be of high quality. If you have time and the season is right, it’s worth making the tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes that are ripe red enough. Anyway, a good tomato passata or peeled tomatoes will do.

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The oil should also be of high quality and extra virgin.

I decided to use canned peeled tomatoes, which are always available. Of course, you should buy high quality peeled tomatoes, such as San Marzano tomatoes.

It’s very common in Italy to sprinkle grated Parmigiano Reggiano on spaghetti al pomodoro. However, many people prefer to enjoy this dish on its own to better appreciate the flavor of the tomato. It’s all a matter of taste and habit.

Along with other famous simple pasta recipes that use tomato as an ingredient and little else, such as Penne all’arrabbiata and Pasta all’Amatriciana, you can consider Spaghetti al Pomodoro a staple of Italian cuisine.

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Ingredients

  • Prep Time: 10 Min
  • Cook Time: 50 Min
  • Servings: 4


spaghetti al pomodoro ingredients

Kitchen Tools and Equipment

To make spaghetti with tomato sauce, you’ll need a set of kitchen tools that will help ensure your spaghetti al pomodoro is perfectly cooked and flavorful.

  • Frying pan with lid: Essential for cooking and simmering the tomato sauce, and also useful for seasoning the spaghetti after cooking.
  • Food Mill: A versatile tool for pureeing tomato sauce to achieve the desired consistency and texture.
  • Wooden Spoon: Ideal for stirring the sauce. A wooden spoon is gentle on cookware and effective at mixing ingredients without scratching the surface of your pot.
  • Pot for cooking pasta: A large pot is necessary for cooking spaghetti, as it provides enough space for the pasta to cook evenly without sticking together.
  • Slotted spaghetti spoon: Perfect for draining spaghetti after it’s cooked. The slots allow water to drain while holding the pasta securely.

Spaghetti al Pomodoro Recipe: Instructions

The Tomato Sauce

spaghetti al pomodoro recipe step 1

Step 1) – For spaghetti with tomato sauce (spaghetti al pomodoro), start with the sauce.

Sauté 2 cloves of garlic in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes on a high heat. Then add 800 g (1 3/4 pounds) of peeled tomatoes.

NOTE ON GARLIC: If you don’t want the garlic flavor to be too intense, you can use only one clove. You can even cut it in half and remove the core. On the contrary, if you want a stronger garlic flavor, you can chop it.

spaghetti al pomodoro recipe step 2

Step 2) – Season with salt, cover and cook on a low heat for 30-35 minutes. The sauce should simmer gently. Stir occasionally.

spaghetti al pomodoro recipe step 3

Step 3) – After this time, remove the garlic. Place in a food mill and puree.

CONSISTENCY: Food mills usually have 3 stainless steel grinding discs for preparing foods of fine, medium and coarse textures. I chose the disc with the larger holes for a coarser texture.

spaghetti al pomodoro recipe step 4b

Step 4) – Return the tomato sauce to the frying pan and reduce the heat to very low. Add the basil leaves. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.

PLEASE NOTE: The extra cooking will thicken the sauce a bit more, allowing the excess liquid to evaporate.

Cooking the Pasta

spaghetti al pomodoro recipe step 5

Step 5) – Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 350 g (3/4 pound) of spaghetti al dente. Follow the directions on the package for cooking time. Generally, 6 to 10 minutes is enough for al dente cooking, depending on the thickness of the pasta. Drain the spaghetti using a slotted spoon.

PLEASE NOTE: Use 1 liter (4.2 cups) of water for every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of pasta. The water should be salted to 1%, which is 10 grams (1/2 tablespoon) of coarse salt.

spaghetti al pomodoro recipe step 6

Step 6) – Add the pasta directly to the saucepan. Stir for a few moments, then serve the spaghetti al pomodoro immediately while hot. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and some grated Parmigiano, if desired.

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Storage

Spaghetti al Pomodoro should be eaten immediately after preparation.

If they are left over, they can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 day. You can reheat them in the microwave or in a frying pan with a drizzle of oil.

Make the Tomato Sauce Ahead

If you like, you can prepare the tomato sauce a little ahead of time. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Cover with foil or in an airtight container. Or you can freeze the tomato sauce and use it within 2 months.

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Spaghetti al Pomodoro: Some Tips and Variations

The Soffritto

If you don’t like garlic, you can use chopped onion or shallots. Many people use both onion and garlic.

The Tomatoes

As for the type of tomatoes to use, it depends a lot on taste and seasonality.
In summer – and if you’re not in a hurry – it’s ideal to use tomatoes that are fresh and fully ripe, with an intense flavor and unique aroma.

The best qualities for salsa are San Marzano and Piccadilly, but ripe cherry tomatoes are also fine. Salad tomatoes with many seeds and watery parts are not suitable.

You can use the same amount of passata for a velvety sauce, or chopped tomatoes for a more rustic result. Or peeled tomatoes – canned or homemade -as in this recipe.

The Herbs

It’s not necessary to add herbs to tomato sauce. The flavor of the tomato with the garlic and some excellent extra virgin olive oil makes the sauce already excellent.

  • BASIL: If you like fresh basil, it’s a classic and really good combination, as I suggested.
  • OREGANO: Alternatively, you can use oregano. You will get a flavor very similar to marinara sauce.
  • OLIVES AND CAPERS: There are a thousand variations you can make on this basic recipe. For example, just add a few olives or capers.
  • CHILI PEPPER: Or add some hot chili peppers or anchovies in oil to have a different dish quickly and easily every time.

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The Parmigiano Reggiano

For many Italians, putting grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on a plate of pasta is almost a ritual, an ingrained and widespread habit.

Grated Parmigiano is never missing from our tables. It’s part of the normal table preparation. Just like bread and water.

Especially with pasta with tomato sauce, a very simple dish, the addition of grated Parmigiano is almost the norm.

Of course, this is a matter of personal taste and is not part of the basic recipe.

Another way to make a spaghetti al pomodoro dish special is to add a little burrata or stracciatella di burrata. The burrata melts on top of the spaghetti and blends all the flavors. This addition makes a simple dish of Italian home cooking, a gourmet dish often served in starred restaurants. A true delicacy!

The Spaghetti

As for spaghetti, they must be of excellent quality. It’s best to use rough, bronze-drawn spaghetti that absorbs the sauce better.

Spaghetti comes in different diameters. For this recipe, medium-size spaghetti will do, cooked al dente in 9-10 minutes. But you can also use finer spaghetti (spaghettini), which cook more quickly, or larger “spaghettoni”, or even spaghetti “alla chitarra” with a square section, depending on your taste.

The important thing is that they are cooked al dente. Rather than risk them being overcooked, it’s better to take them out of the water a minute before the time indicated on the package. If they seem too tough, cook them in the pan with the tomato sauce for a couple of minutes. They will gain more flavor and color.

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spaghetti al pomodoro tomato basil pasta
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YOU CAN FIND THE FULL RECIPE WITH PHOTOS, TIPS AND VARIATIONS ABOVE!

Spaghetti al Pomodoro Recipe
Spaghetti al Pomodoro is one of the signature pasta dishes of Italian cuisine.
Spaghetti is by far the favorite pasta of Italians. While the sauce made with tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and basil encapsulates the basic flavors, aromas and colors of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Course pasta
Cuisine Italian
Keyword spaghetti al pomodoro, tomato basil pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Calories 451kcal
Ingredients
  • 350 g spaghetti ¾ pound
  • 40 g olive oil 3 tablespoons, extra virgin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 800 g tomato 1 ¾ pounds, fresh pulp or canned San Marzano tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • 5 basil leaves fresh
Instructions
The Tomato Sauce
  • Sauté 2 cloves of garlic in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes on a high heat. Then add 800 g (1 3/4 pounds) of peeled tomatoes.
  • Season with salt, cover and cook on a low heat for 30-35 minutes. The sauce should simmer gently. Stir occasionally.
  • After this time, remove the garlic. Place in a food mill and puree.
  • Return the tomato sauce to the frying pan and reduce the heat to very low. Add the basil leaves. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Cooking the Pasta
  • Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 350 g (3/4 pound) of spaghetti al dente. Follow the directions on the package for cooking time. Generally, 6 to 10 minutes is enough for al dente cooking, depending on the thickness of the pasta. Drain the spaghetti using a slotted spoon.
  • Add the pasta directly to the saucepan. Stir for a few moments, then serve the spaghetti al pomodoro immediately while hot. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and some grated Parmigiano, if desired.
Notes
NOTE ON GARLIC: If you don't want the garlic flavor to be too intense, you can use only one clove. You can even cut it in half and remove the core. On the contrary, if you want a stronger garlic flavor, you can chop it.
CONSISTENCY: Food mills usually have 3 stainless steel grinding discs for preparing foods of fine, medium and coarse textures. I chose the disc with the larger holes for a coarser texture.
EXTRA COOKING: The extra cooking of the sauce will thicken the sauce a bit more, allowing the excess liquid to evaporate.
COOKING PASTA: Use 1 liter (4.2 cups) of water for every 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of pasta. The water should be salted to 1%, which is 10 grams (1/2 tablespoon) of coarse salt.
Nutrition
Calories: 451kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Sodium: 16mg | Potassium: 677mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1693IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 2mg
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