Penne Pomodoro is my go to pasta dish when life gets hectic. This easy tomato basil pasta recipe features a simple homemade tomato sauce with fresh basil leaves tossed over penne pasta. Best of all, it comes together in about 20 minutes, just like my Baked Tortellini Alfredo, Ravioli Carbonara and Casarecce with Pesto.
Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian and pomodoro sauce is just a simple tomato basil sauce. The sauce cooks quickly so the natural flavors of the sweet tomatoes really shine in this easy pasta recipe. As with many classic Italian dishes, this simple tomato sauce comes together with only a handful of ingredients. Tomatoes, basil and pecorino romano cheese, blend naturally to create a delicious sauce.
You will find that this pomodoro sauce is thick, chunky and perfect for serving over penne pasta or any other hearty pasta shape. What I love about penne is that they are substantial enough to stand up to the chunky tomatoes and their ridges are perfect for holding this classic tomato sauce.
Ingredients you need to make this Penne al Pomodoro recipe
Since we will only use a few simple ingredients, you will want to make sure they are of the best quality
- Canned Crushed and Whole Plum Tomatoes – I like to use both crushed and whole tomatoes so that I get a thick chunky sauce without having to cook it for a long time. I like the quality and taste of Cento and Tutto Rosso canned tomatoes so I always have them in my pantry, but you can use your favorite brand. I love to use Fire Roasted Tomatoes in this sauce to give it a sweet and smoky flavor.
- Fresh Basil Leaves – Fresh herbs are going to provide the sweetest brightest flavor to the sauce. If you need to substitute dried basil I recommend using about 2 teaspoons.
- Pecorino Romano Cheese – This is my favorite cheese! It adds just the right amount of sharp salty flavor to the dish. Make sure to have extra for sprinkling on top of the pasta. You can substitute parmesan cheese if you like.
- Onion – Diced
- Garlic – Minced
- Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
How to make the best Penne Pomodoro recipe
- In a large bowl, combine the crushed and whole Roma tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes by hand leaving some chunky.
- While you cook the pasta, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil just until tender. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a slow boil. Then let it cook and boil very slowly over low heat.
- Cook the pasta to al dente and drain it. Remove the sauce from the heat and add toss the cooked pasta in the sauce.
- Stir in the pecorino romano cheese and serve with more cheese at the table.
Use fresh ingredients of good quality for the absolute best result.
Start cooking the sauce when you put the pasta water on. This gives the sauce a few more minutes to cook and thicken.
Don’t forget to generously salt the pasta water. This is what flavors the pasta.
To avoid mushy pasta, cook the pasta in boiling water just until it is a bit toothy or “al dente”. The pasta will continue to cook a bit when you add it to the hot sauce.
This sauce can easily be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Variations to this tomato basil pasta recipe
- This simple tomato pasta recipe can be made using any number of pasta shapes. Rotini, Paccheri, Cavatelli or Garganelli are all great options for holding thick sauces.
- If you like a spicy sauce, add red pepper flakes to the onion and garlic. This turns this simple pomodoro sauce into Arrabiata sauce.
- You can also make this sauce using fresh tomatoes. You will have to blanch, peel, seed and crush the tomatoes before adding them to the garlic and onion.
- Adding strips of grilled chicken breast or shrimp to the pasta is a great way to add a protein and make this a one dish dinner.
Penne pomodoro is an easy Italian dinner recipe and it is a great option for a main course. Serve it with a crisp salad and crusty bread or focaccia for a busy weeknight dinner the whole family will agree is perfect. This classic Italian dish is also a delicious side dish for chicken, steak or pork.
More Italian pasta recipes
If you would like to try some other traditional Italian pasta recipes you might like Caprese Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella which uses tortellini. In Liguria, Italy Trenette al Pesto is a beloved classic recipe and in southern areas Pasta Rustica is also very common.
For a less traditional but still delicious pasta dish you may want to try Creamy Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta.
I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Penne Pomodoro or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below. I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!
- 1 lb Penne pasta
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- ⅓ cup Onion diced
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 28 oz Crushed Tomatoes canned
- 28 oz Whole plum tomatoes crushed by hand
- ¼ cup Basil fresh, chopped
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ¼ tsp Black pepper ground
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and a generous amount of salt to the water and stir.
- While the pasta water comes to the boil, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion until it is just tender. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute, taking care not to burn it.
- Pour the crushed tomatoes and the plum tomatoes into the skillet and add the basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook over low heat, allowing it to boil slowly until the pasta is cooked.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the skillet with the sauce. Toss it in the sauce and remove the skillet from the heat. Add the pecorino Romano cheese and stir until well combined. Serve the pasta with additional cheese.