We’ve reached that time of year when it’s so hot the cicadas start buzzing in the trees mid-morning and become absolutely deafening by bed time, AKA MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR! I took the kids to the park this past weekend and was sitting in absolute bliss while the sun beat down, and the cicadas were rattling, and my children were all so annoyed because it was so hot… We left shortly after.
Anyway, here in the Midwest the daily cicada choir is usually a good indication that local tomatoes are ripe, ready, and begging to be turned into Spaghetti al Pomodoro. This simple, light, and fresh Italian tomato sauce recipe with pasta is like summer on a plate, and I wait on pins and needles all year long to make it.
Pomodoro sauce is the ULTIMATE fresh Italian tomato sauce!
Pasta Pomodoro Sauce
Pomodoro sauce, or salsa al pomodoro, is a tomato-based pasta sauce (pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian) that’s made from fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt, fresh garlic, and fresh basil. Are you sensing a theme here? Fresh, fresh, fresh!
Spaghetti al Pomodoro, or spaghetti pomodoro, is simply pomodoro sauce swirled with cooked spaghetti. In my case gluten free spaghetti. I prefer a corn and rice-based gluten free spaghetti like Barilla. This dish is also commonly made with angel hair or linguini pasta. Whatever you’ve got in the pantry is going to to taste heavenly when coated in this light and luscious tomato sauce.
I love how pomodoro sauce is truly unfussy and the simple ingredients are all ones I almost always have on hand – especially in the summertime.
- Fresh tomatoes: I use vine-ripened tomatoes for my fresh pomodoro sauce. It’s important that the tomatoes be very ripe (ie, this isn’t the best dish to make in December) and local if possible.
- Extra virgin olive oil: EVOO gives rich flavor to the sauce, especially after being infused with shallots and garlic.
- Shallots and Garlic: fresh shallots add a delicate onion flavor, while garlic adds an unmistakable punch of garlicky flavor.
- Fresh basil: fresh basil is torn into the sauce near the end of the cooking process so its herby flavor is still at its peak when serving.
- Sugar: just a pinch of sugar is added to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Salt and pepper: ‘nuf said.
- Butter: butter isn’t typically added to pomodoro sauce, but we personally love how it smoothes out the flavor of this fresh tomato sauce. I add it to the tomato sauce I make with canned tomatoes, too. Just a personal preference that I’d love for you to try.
- Spaghetti: You can’t have Spaghetti al Pomodoro without spaghetti! I prefer a corn/rice blend gluten free spaghetti for this dish, though you can use your favorite pasta. Angel hair or linguini is also delicious.
- Parmesan cheese: freshly grated paremsan cheese on top of each bowl of Spaghetti al Pomodoro is the cherry on top of this incredible dish!
Family Friendly Recipe
Making this pasta always reminds me of Ben’s and my vacation to the Amalfi Coast in Italy nearly 100 years ago (give or take a year or two). We stayed in the quiet, tiny town of Praiano, just down the coast from touristy Positano and on our daily walks up and down the stone stairways that got you everywhere you needed to go, we could hear and smell the residents cooking. MY GOSH, there were several times that I had to hold Ben back from knocking on a resident’s door asking to stay for dinner!
Here in the present day, we absolutely adore this dish. The last time I served it Gwen said, “I need this again and again and again!” and my boys, who generally prefer to see ground beef in their spaghetti sauce thank you very much, love love love this recipe.
Spaghetti al Pomodoro is the perfect example of simple is best. Combine a few fresh, everyday ingredients together to make this swirly, irresistable dinner tonight!
Serve it with Homemade Focaccia
How to Make Spaghetti al Pomodoro
Step 1: Prep the Tomatoes
Start the spaghetti pomodoro by peeling large, vine-ripened tomatoes. We do this by scoring the bottom of the tomatoes with an “X” then boiling them briefly to loosen the skin.
Carefully add the scored tomatoes to a large pot of water that’s boiling then boil for 30 seconds.
Transfer the tomatoes to a colander to drain then, once they’re cool enough to handle, peel away the skins and discard. Easy!
Chop the peeled tomatoes then transfer – seeds, juices, and all – to a bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Start the Sauce
Heat a large skillet with high sides, or a medium-size Dutch Oven, over medium heat then add extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, add chopped shallots then saute until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add pressed or minced fresh garlic cloves then saute until its extremely fragrant but not browned, another 30 seconds.
Step 3: Simmer the Sauce
Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan with a pinch of sugar then simmer for 30 minutes, smashing the tomatoes against the bottom and sides of the pan every so often to smooth the sauce out, and turning the heat down to medium-low heat if necessary to reduce splatters.
When the sauce has 5 minutes left to cook, add fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces, plus butter, salt, and freshly cracked pepper.
Step 4: Boil the Spaghetti
Meanwhile, when the sauce has 15 minutes or so left to cook, bring the pot of water you used to boil the tomatoes in back up to a boil and season generously with salt. Add spaghetti noodles then you have two options:
- Cook the pasta until it’s al dente, drain, then scoop onto plates and serve the pomodoro sauce on top. OR,
- Cook the pasta until it’s just shy of al dente then transfer it to the sauce pot with tongs to finish cooking directly in the sauce. Add splashes of pasta cooking water if needed to cook the pasta all the way through.
I prefer method #2 because even gluten free pasta will reheat well when it finishes cooking in the pasta sauce itself!
That’s all she wrote! I’m telling you, make this once, and you’ll be planting tomatoes next summer JUST so you can make it on demand. SO fresh, SO light, SO darn delicious. I hope you love every last bite of Spaghetti al Pomodoro – enjoy!
More Easy Italian Dinner Ideas
- Chicken Meatballs
- Gluten Free Lasagna
- Gluten Free Meatballs
- Pink Sauce Pasta
- Spaghetti al Pomodoro
- Pasta Fresca
- Gluten Free Focaccia
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Spaghetti al Pomodoro
Spaghetti al Pomodoro is the perfect recipe to highlight juicy, ripe summer tomatoes. This simple, summer pasta dish is fresh and light!
- 2-1/2lb very ripe vine-ripened tomatoes (~4 large tomatoes)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- pinch of sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- 12oz gluten free spaghetti
- freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Score the bottom of the tomatoes with a shallow “X” then carefully add to the pot and boil for 30 seconds. Remove tomatoes to a colander then place a lid on top of the pot and turn heat down to low to keep warm.
- Once tomatoes aren’t hot to the touch, peel away and discard the skins. Chop tomatoes then add – juices, seeds and all – to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet with high sides or medium-sized Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots then saute under tender, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic then saute until very fragrant but not browned, 30 seconds.
- Add chopped tomatoes and sugar then stir to combine and simmer until sauce reaches desired consistency, 25-30 minutes, smashing tomatoes against the sides and bottom of the skillet with a spatula every so often and turning the heat down if necessary to reduce splattering.
- During the last 5 minutes of the cooking process, tear in fresh basil leaves and add butter, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine then taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.
- When the sauce has 15 minutes left to cook, bring the pot of water back to a boil then add 1 Tablespoon salt. Add spaghetti then cook until al dente and drain. Scoop cooked pasta into bowls then top with desired amount of pomodoro sauce and parmesan cheese, if using. OR:
- If you’d prefer to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce (vs draining it and serving the sauce on top) use tongs to transfer the pasta when it’s just shy of al dente into the sauce then stir and cook until al dente. You may need to add a splash of pasta cooking water if necessary to cook the pasta all the way through.
- Please note that gluten free pasta is generally sold in 12oz containers, while traditional pasta is sold in 16oz containers. That said, if you’re using regular pasta, you’ll want to only use 3/4 of the 16oz container.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin