Pomodoro Sauce – This simple tomato sauce recipe comes together quickly and tastes DELICIOUS over pasta, chicken, zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, and more! (Gluten free, vegan, paleo & whole30 friendly!)
Spaghetti was always one of my favorite dinners growing up, which proved lucky when I went to college and had an airtight grocery budget. Even now that we have more room in our grocery budget and have 2 kids in the mix, pasta night is always a big hit. We’ve had fun experimenting with different sauces + pastas (including “pastas” like zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash) in the last few years, and pomodoro is one of my favorites. I realized I haven’t shared the recipe yet, so today’s the day to change that!
If you haven’t had it before, Pomodoro is a quick tomato sauce similar to marinara, made with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, and basil. Recipes vary (some add onion, some don’t; some use fresh tomatoes, some don’t). But it’s easy and delicious, and one of my favorite pastas to order at restaurants.
It’s always delicious and flavorful, and–it turns out–is SUPER simple to make at home. How easy? This easy…
What Is Pomodoro Sauce?
“Pomodoro” means tomato in Italian. Pomodoro sauce is a simple, light tomato sauce, frequently used on pasta in pasta al pomodoro (pasta pomodoro).
How Do You Make Pomodoro Sauce?
EASY. This Pomodoro sauce recipe is as simple as saute + simmer + serve. It’s just a handful of ingredients you probably already have on hand + a little fresh basil.
- Crushed tomatoes – When I can find them, I like using fire-roasted crushed tomatoes because I like the extra depth of flavor. Otherwise, the regular ones do the job! Can’t find crushed? Buy diced or whole canned tomatoes and pulse them in a food processor or blender until they’re mostly smooth with just a little texture left.
- Onion & garlic – A little bit of onion (or a shallot) and fresh garlic are the aromatic base of the recipe. They’re the first layer of flavor!
- Olive oil – Some good quality olive oil goes a long way in this recipe, giving it some richness and a velvety texture that’s just delightful. My favorite is this brand. (The Balanced blend is my fave!)
- Salt + pepper + red pepper flakes – After the aromatics, a little salt and pepper are the next layer of seasoning, and the red pepper flakes wake it up just a bit without making it spicy. (Like it hot? You can certainly add more red pepper flakes to make it spicy, if you want, or go for this arrabbiata sauce instead.)
- Fresh basil leaves – I LOVE fresh basil here. It adds some brightness to the sauce + some gorgeous flecks of color. I recommend not skipping it! If you don’t have access to fresh, you can try dried basil, though I find the flavor isn’t quite as bright. (I’d start with 1/2-1 tsp of dried basil in place of the fresh and add more from there, to taste)
How Does Pomodoro Compare To Other Sauces?
What’s The Difference Between Pomodoro Sauce And Marinara Sauce? Though they’re often made from similar ingredients, pomodoro sauce is quicker to make and doesn’t require a long simmering time the way marinara often does. In addition, pomodoro often has a thinner, smoother texture, where marinara can be thicker or chunkier (depending on the recipe). Marinara often contains a few extra ingredients and cooks longer.
Is Pomodoro Spicy? No, not typically. The ingredient list is mild–things like tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and basil. You can always add a touch of heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like, though that’s not typically traditional.
What’s The Difference Between Pomodoro and Arrabiata Sauce? Pomodoro is a mild, quick tomato sauce, where Arrabiata is spicy. The word “arrabiata” means “angry!”
Is Pomodoro Like Spaghetti Sauce? Pomodoro sauce is a tomato sauce that can absolutely be used on pasta. Instead of a slow simmer over hours, pomodoro is quick and easy, so it’s ready faster than some other pasta sauces.
What to Serve Pomodoro Sauce With:
This sauce is flexible and adaptable. It’s naturally gluten-free, dairy free, vegan, and paleo approved, so you have plenty of choices, based on your preferences and dietary needs. It works for all kinds of options! Here are some of my favorites…
- Pasta (Gluten Free or Not) – The natural pairing is pasta for Pasta al Pomodoro or pasta pomodoro. We’re gluten free, so we like Jovial or Tinkyada brand brown rice spaghetti with our pomodoro sauce, but spirals or fusilli are also delicious (and do a great job holding onto the sauce!). It’s also terrific with raviolis!
- Zucchini Noodles – Paleo or avoiding grains? Zoodles (zucchini noodles) are a great option! You can use a spiralizer to make zucchini “pasta” that’s delicious and has that delightful “twirl” factor of regular pasta. My friend Lisa has a great tutorial for perfect zucchini noodles.
- Spaghetti Squash – Another lower carb or grain free option is spaghetti squash. I’ve become a big spaghetti squash fan since going gluten free. It’s a nice change of pace every once in a while, and is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. Learn how to cook spaghetti squash in this great post!
- Gnocchi. Cook up some classic potato gnocchi (or the fan favorite cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe’s!) and toss it with pomodoro. Stir in some sausage, fresh basil, or spinach to round it out!
- Chicken Parmesan. You can easily create a Chicken Parmesan effect by combining your favorite grilled (or breaded, if you like) chicken with pomodoro sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. (You can even use these gluten-free crispy chicken tenders for a quick version!)
- Add Some Sausage Or Shrimp To Fill It Out. Or, you can stir in some Italian chicken sausage slices or ground Italian sausage. Even another idea is to stir in some grilled or sautéed shrimp for a shrimp pomodoro! See? Flexible.
- Pizza! If you have leftover sauce, feel free to use it for homemade pizza! Spread a thin layer of pomodoro like pizza sauce over your favorite crust. Add some toppings and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and bake at high heat til golden and bubbly.
Tips + FAQ For Pomodoro Sauce:
Can I freeze pomodoro sauce? Absolutely! Transfer it to an airtight container or freezer-safe bag, remove as much air as possible, and freeze till solid. If freezing it in a bag, I recommend laying it flat on a plate to freeze, which makes it thinner and easier to store. (It will thaw faster this way than it will if it’s in a big lump.) It re-heats like a dream!
Can I use fresh tomatoes? Yes! You can use the same amount of fresh tomatoes as canned. Since the sauce can get “seed-y” fast with fresh tomatoes, I recommend scooping out the flesh of at least some of the tomatoes (if not all).
How do I use pomodoro sauce? I recommend checking out the “What to serve with pomodoro sauce” section above for lots of ideas!
How long will it keep? Fresh (in the fridge) pomodoro sauce will keep about 1 week. In the freezer, it will keep up to 2-3 months.
What if I want it thicker or thinner? For thinner pomodoro sauce (if it’s thickened more than you like during simmering), you can add a ladleful of water, broth, or pasta cooking water to loosen it up again. For thicker sauce, let it simmer a few extra minutes and more liquid will evaporate.
Originally shared Feb 2019. Updated Feb 2022.