Dress up your pasta, chicken parmesan, lasagna, and more with this easy pomodoro sauce recipe! As one of the most simple homemade pasta sauces, it comes together in one pot using seven ingredients and has layers of crowd-pleasing flavors.
A fabulous sauce can transform even the blandest food into something quite magical.
Whenever we crave a big bowl of pasta and want to keep things simple, nothing beats my mom’s famous Italian-style pomodoro sauce.
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What is pomodoro sauce?
Pomodoro (meaning “tomato” in Italian) sauce is a classic Italian tomato sauce made with minimal ingredients, like tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. It has a much smoother consistency than other tomato-based sauces (like Sugo) and well-balanced flavors, making it a great choice to serve with all kinds of Italian recipes.
Why this recipe works
Italian tomato sauce isn’t much easier than my mom’s famous homemade pomodoro sauce. Made with 7 simple, pantry-staple ingredients, it’s ready to pour over your favorite pasta noodles, in a lasagna, or on homemade pizza in about 45 minutes. The flavors are well-balanced, savory, and completely divine!
- It’s the easiest pasta sauce! Unlike bolognese or arrabbiata, this pomodoro recipe is made with basic ingredients and doesn’t need to simmer for hours.
- A 7-ingredient recipe. If you have a can of tomatoes, dried herbs, and aromatics, then you can make pomodoro sauce from scratch. You can play with the flavors, too! Feel free to add a pinch of red pepper flakes (mom’s favorite!) for heat or mix up the herbs as much as you like.
- It is very versatile. You can keep the sauce in the fridge and pull it out anytime you need a flavorful topping on your favorite pasta dishes. Or, to take the meal up a notch, use this versatile sauce on chicken parmesan, seafood pasta, meatballs, and so much more.
- It has the best texture. Nothing is worse than thin or watery sauces, but this one is thick and rich.
The pantry-staple ingredients make this easy pasta sauce so special and why we make it so often at home. These are the ingredients you need:
- Extra virgin olive oil – To saute the onion and garlic.
- Onion – Sauteed onion gives the sauce a savory baseline of flavor.
- Garlic – Use freshly minced cloves for the best flavor.
- Canned tomatoes – Or you can puree fresh tomatoes yourself. During the summer months when flavorful tomatoes are in season, we actually prefer to use the fresh kind. If choosing the canned variety, always go for san marzano tomatoes which have a natural sweetness to them.
- Sugar – Sugar is very important for balancing the acidity of the tomatoes, as well as the savory aromatics. Try not to skip it!
- Salt and pepper – To help round out all of the flavors.
- Italian seasoning – Feel free to make your own Italian seasoning blend or keep this recipe simple with a store-bought mix.
- Penne pasta – For serving. If you don’t have penne, use any long or short-cut pasta you already have at home.
How to make pomodoro sauce
Even if you’ve never made your Italian pasta sauce before, you can master this pomodoro recipe (this was the first recipe I ever made when I moved out of home)! The ingredients are simmered together in one pot before being blended into a smooth red sauce. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1 – Saute the aromatics
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant.
Step 2 – Simmer the sauce
Pour the canned tomatoes into the skillet and bring the mixture up to a boil. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat to a simmer.
Step 3 – Add the seasonings, then puree
Stir the seasonings and sugar in with the sauce after 30 minutes. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, then puree the sauce with an immersion or regular blender until smooth.
Step 4 – Serve with pasta (pasta pomodoro!)
Cook the pasta while making the sauce and reserve some of the pasta water. Add the cooked pasta into the skillet with the sauce and thin out the consistency using the pasta water. Simmer for a few minutes, then serve with fresh basil leaves.
Pomodoro sauce VS Marinara sauce
The main differences between the two are found in the consistency and ingredients. Both are tomato-based sauces that can be served with lasagna, meatball subs, and pasta bakes, but the marinara sauce is chunkier than the ultra-smooth pomodoro.
The pomodoro ingredients are quite basic, almost always containing aromatics and some Italian spices. Marinara is similar but can sometimes have onion, oregano, and other flavor-enhancing ingredients added.
- Use good quality olive oil: The quality of your olive oil can make a big difference in the taste of your pomodoro sauce. Choose a high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Add a pinch of red pepper flakes: A touch of spice will add a touch of heat to your pomodoro sauce without overwhelming the other flavors.
- Use fresh herbs: Fresh basil is a classic herb in Italian tomato sauce, but you can also experiment with other fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, or parsley.
- Finish with a pat of butter: Adding a small pat of butter at the end of cooking will give your pomodoro sauce a rich, silky texture and a luxurious finish.
For a simple dish, serve the pomodoro sauce with any kind of pasta noodles topped with herbs and parmesan cheese. Otherwise, you can use it in any pasta bake recipe, in eggplant rollatini, on homemade pizza (a substitute for pizza sauce), or on chicken parmesan. In other words, whenever an Italian recipe calls for a tomato-based sauce, you can turn to pomodoro!
Oh, and because this sauce is super flavorful and rich, it also makes a fabulous dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks.
- To store: The leftover cooked sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- To freeze: It also freezes well for up to 3 months. I recommend freezing the sauce in ice cube trays or silicone molds for easy-to-thaw individual portions.
- To reheat: Either thaw the frozen sauce ahead of time or reheat it from frozen in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Yes, you can add meat to the pomodoro sauce if you like. Some popular choices include ground beef, Italian sausage, and shredded chicken.
As there is no dairy or eggs in the sauce, this dish is suitable for vegans.
You can use different types of tomatoes to make this sauce, including San Marzano, Roma, and heirloom tomatoes. Other kinds will work, but are naturally less sweet and juicy.
More homemade pasta sauces to try
Pomodoro Sauce Recipe
- Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the salt, pepper, sugar, and Italian seasoning and stir for a further minute or two. Using a hand or stick mixer, blend the sauce until completely smooth.
- Cook the pasta as per the package instructions. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, along with the pasta water, and simmer for 5 minutes.
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