Penne Pomodoro (Easy Tomato and Basil Pasta)

Penne Pomodoro is a traditional Italian dish made with simple ingredients but packed with delicious flavors. The easy recipe comes together in about 20 minutes and is perfect for busy nights!

Penne pomodoro in a plate.

What is Penne Pomodoro?

The recipe takes its name from the pasta format, penne, and the sauce made with pomodoro (tomato). So you can say this is just a simple way to name a dish of pasta with tomato sauce.

In Italy, pasta al pomodoro is something that will be served to kids in many restaurants, but grown-ups love it too, so is not a surprise this dish is made pretty often at home too.

Almost every single nonna and mamma in Italy has their own amazing recipe for penne pomodoro. And you guessed, all of them are the best.

Penne pomodoro e basilico in a plate.

A classic Italian menu will always include an antipasto (appetizer), a primo (pasta), and a secondo, which is the main dish like polpette, beef braciole, or chicken cacciatora.

What Is Penne Pasta?

Penne is a type of pasta made in a cylinder-shaped format. Penne is the plural of Penna, which in English translate to Pen, so is not hard to guess why this pasta is named like this.

There is two types of penne pasta, one is called penne rigate because it has small ridges on the surface which are supposed to help the sauce to stick better on the pasta.

The other kind of penne is the one named penne lisce which have a smooth texture. This type of penne is the less liked by many, and the last to be picked up from the supermarket’s shelves.

Because of the cylindric format of this pasta, the sauce can get inside each piece, making it one of the favorite types for many Italians.

Close-up of uncooked penne pasta.

The ingredients

PENNE – No matter what type, penne lisce or penne rigate, mezze penne, etc. This pasta is perfect to hold up the sauce and get all flavor going on.

TOMATO SAUCE – A canned pomodoro sauce is used most of the time, remember to get one that has no seasonings on it. If you want to make your own with fresh tomatoes, go ahead!

ONIONS – Finely chopped. Onions give just the right amount of sweetness to avoid using sugar. Leave them out if you don’t like them and use a teaspoon of sugar instead to balance the acidity of tomatoes.

BASIL – Fresh basil, do not chop it with a knife, instead, tear up the leaves using your fingers. If you don’t have fresh basil on hand, use dried instead.

OIL – An excellent extra virgin olive oil should give this recipe an amazing Mediterranean flavor. You can also use regular olive oil.

SEASONINGS – Garlic, salt, and pepper to your liking. For a spicy kick, add some chili flakes too.

CHEESEParmigiano cheese is the best option here. Add it freshly grated. The other option is parmesan cheese (no, they aren’t the same), or pecorino cheese.

Ingredients for penne pomodoro with names on a concrete surface.

Now that you know what ingredients are needed, let’s make this pasta al pomodoro.

Penne Pomodoro Recipe

First, place a pot filled with water over high heat and bring it to a boil. While you wait for the water to boil, start with the pomodoro sauce.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir for about 2-3 minutes or until the onions start to brown.

Onion and garlic slightly browned in a pan.

Pour in the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook the sauce over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

Pomodoro sauce in a pan to make penne pomodoro.

Tip: If the canned tomato you’re using has some chunks, you can also use a immersion blender to make the sauce smoother.

Meanwhile, add salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta accordingly to the package instructions.

Back to the sauce, as it’s finishing with the cooking time, adjust with salt and pepper then turn off the heat. Add the basil, mix and set aside.

Tomato sauce with fresh basil in a pan.

Drain the penne pasta and add them to the pan with the pomodoro sauce. Mix thoroughly to coat well the pasta.

Penne pasta mixed with pomodoro sauce in a pan.

Add some parmigiano cheese and give it a quick mix. Serve immediately with more parmigiano cheese and fresh basil.

Close-up of penne pomodoro.

Useful Notes And Tips

  • The quality of canned tomatoes you use for this recipe will reflect the flavor. Try to use a brand that you know and like.
  • You can use whole canned San Marzano tomatoes and then blend them in a food processor to make the sauce.
  • Place the water as the first thing when making this recipe, the sauce comes together in just over 10 minutes, enough time to cook your pasta and have it ready to add to the sauce right away.
  • You can also reserve and use some pasta water to add to the sauce if needed.
  • If you don’t have penne pasta, you still can make this recipe. Just use any pasta format you have available. Rigatoni is a good substitute.
  • Other fresh herbs (or dried) that go perfectly with penne pomodoro pasta are oregano, parsley, or thyme.
  • Add some veggies for a change. Zucchini, eggplants, or mushrooms are perfect.

Wine To Pair With

Even a humble recipe like this in Italy is served with a glass of paired wine. Here are some recommendations:

  • Fiano di Avellino
  • Biferno Bianco Gironia 2017
  • Frascati Superiore Secco

How To Store And Reheat

Even though this penne pomodoro recipe comes together in so little time, you can still make the sauce ahead and even freeze it for those busy weeknights. Here’s how:

  • Fridge: Up to 4 days stored in a glass container.
  • Freezer: Place the sauce in bags and label them with the name and date of preparation, they will last for up to 3 months.
  • Leftovers: Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. We don’t recommend freezing.
  • Reheat: For reheating leftovers (already cooked pasta) place them in a pan and add a splash of water to loosen up the sauce, then heat up for a couple of minutes.

Watch How To Make It

Did you enjoy this traditional Italian recipe? Please, don’t forget to rate it and leave us a comment below.

Penne pomodoro recipe.

Penne Pomodoro

This penne pomodoro pasta is tasty, bright, and so easy to make. Enjoy it for a hassle-free dinner pairing with a glass of wine.
PREP 5 minutes
COOK 15 minutes
TOTAL 20 minutes
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 2
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 7 oz penne pasta
  • 1 ¾ cups plain tomato sauce
  • cup onion (chopped)
  • fresh basil leaves (as much as you want)
  • 2 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes or until the onions start to brown.
  • Pour in the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper.
  • Mix well and bring the sauce to a simmer. Allow cooking for 10 minutes mixing from time to time.
  • Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta as per instructions in the package.
  • As the pomodoro sauce is finishing the cooking, adjust the seasonings, add basil and mix quickly, then turn off the heat.
  • Drain the penne pasta and add them to the pan with the sauce.
  • Add more basil leaves if you want, a good sprinkle of parmigiano, and mix well to coat.
  • Serve immediately.

NOTES

  • If possible, try to use the best quality of canned tomatoes you can find.
  • Use whole canned San Marzano tomatoes if you want, just blend them first or crush them in the pan with a potato masher.
  • The sauce comes together in just over 10 minutes, enough time to cook your pasta and have it ready to add to the sauce right away.
  • You can also reserve and use some pasta water to add to the sauce if needed.
  • If you don’t have penne pasta, you still can make this recipe. Just use any pasta format you have available. Rigatoni is a good substitute.
  • Other fresh herbs (or dried) that go perfectly with this pasta recipe are oregano, parsley, and thyme.
  • You can add some vegetables like zucchini, eggplants, or mushrooms.
Nutrition
Calories: 585kcal | Carbohydrates: 88g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Sodium: 3349mg | Potassium: 898mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 929IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4mg
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3 Comments

  1. Hi. Thank you for posting the recipe for the Uchepo’s. My aunt Cuca whom past away (is from Tepames, Michoacan) four months ago use to make them for us. They were the best I ever had and I wish she would have taught my mother so that I could have learned. I will try your recipe.
    I did learn how to make her Mexican rice pudding which is so delicious.
    Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome. Sorry for your lost, I hope you can make uchepos at home so they will remind you about your aunt.

  2. 5 stars
    I truly loved this penne pomodoro recipe. It was easy for sure! I was on a trip to Italy 3 years ago and fell in love with this amazing dish, is delicious even if it is so simple. I tried many times to replicate it at home but with not success, until I learned the name and could easily find authentic recipes. I gave your recipe a chance and I wasn’t disappointed, really, thank you to making it this easy!