Pomodoro Sauce

Homemade Pomodoro sauce over spaghetti noodles.

Inside: Step-by-step photos and video for making Pomodoro sauce and eight ways to use it without a recipe.

This simple pomodoro sauce uses ten everyday ingredients and is ready to eat in 20 minutes, it’s perfect for a classic pasta pomodoro, or to use in other Italian dinner recipes.

Opening a can of crushed tomatoes.

Pomodoro Sauce

You will love this simple tomato sauce recipe (a.k.a. pomodoro sauce) because it’s perfect for pasta or as a simmering sauce for Italian oven-baked meatballs, sausage and peppers, chicken parmigiana, and more.

Pomodoro, in Italian, literally means TOMATO. Ergo – pomodoro sauce is simply tomato sauce and is known as sugo di pomodoro in Italy.

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What’s the difference between marinara and pomodoro sauce?

At their core, both marinara and pomodoro sauces are simple tomato sauces, usually made with fresh or good quality canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil.

The primary difference between marinara and Pomodoro sauce is the texture. Marinara is chunkier, made with more vegetables (carrots, fennel, celery), and the sauce is thinner and looser, while Pomodoro sauce is smooth and thick.

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • It’s a quick, easy, and delicious tomato sauce that’s good on its own.
  • The thick nature of Pomodoro sauce makes it naturally clingy, so it’s perfect to toss with hot spaghetti or linguine.
  • You can jazz it up with your favorite ingredients or use it in other recipes.
  • If you have picky eaters who don’t like “vegetables,” this sauce is pureed smooth. All they’ll get is the pure tomato flavor.
  • Pomodoro sauce freezes well.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Olive Oil – Use your everyday extra virgin olive oil – it doesn’t have to be a fancy finishing one, but should be fruity and taste good.
  • Crushed Tomatoes – to make this a 20-minute sauce I recommend using good quality crushed tomatoes or whole San Marzano tomatoes in their puree for a better tasting sauce.
  • Garlic – rather than chopping the garlic, you simmer lightly crushed garlic cloves to flavor the olive oil.
  • Onion – optional, I usually use yellow onion, but you can use white or red onion as well.
  • Basil – Use a whole stem of fresh basil leaves (with 5-6 leaves attached) for the best flavor.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – for a bit of spice; you can make it as mild or spicy as you like.
  • Kosher Salt – I like Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which is less salty by volume than Morton’s.
  • Black Pepper – freshly ground will give you the best flavor.
  • Butter – to add a swirl of richness to the Pomodoro sauce.

How to make Pomodoro sauce, step-by-step

Sweat the onions and garlic in olive oil.
  1. Sweat the onions, crushed garlic cloves, and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt until the vegetables are softened, tender, and slightly translucent.
Add crushed tomatoes and basil.

2. Add crushed tomatoes, a large stem of fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and the remainder of the kosher salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Puree the sauce.

3. Puree the Pomodoro sauce in a blender or food processor (or use a stick blender).

Add butter to the sauce.

4. Swirl in a pat of butter to enrich the sauce and give it a glossy appearance.

Cooking Tips:

  • Use a Dutch oven, large pot or heavy saucepan with a lid to simmer the sauce. Be sure to have a tight-fitting lid.
  • Be careful when you lift the lid of the pot. Even simmering over low heat will cause the Pomodoro sauce to bubble and spatter furiously (see step #2 for proof). Keep the sauce covered to simmer, stirring only occasionally (so the bottom of the pot doesn’t scorch).
Homemade Pomodoro sauce with fresh basil leaves in a Dutch oven.


  • If you or one of your diners is spice averse, you can omit the crushed red pepper flakes. Conversely, if you like a little more heat, add two pinches.
  • If you have a rind of parmesan cheese, simmer it in the sauce. Remove the cheese before pureeing. The rind softens in the hot sauce and adds another layer of richness and flavor (but don’t forget to take it out before blending the ).
  • 2-4 tablespoons of red or white wine, when simmering, will enhance the flavor and thin the Pomodoro sauce slightly.
  • Adding a splash of cream (not milk or half and half, which can curdle) makes a creamy tomato sauce.
  • Add a dried herb like oregano, thyme or marjoram for more depth of flavor.

Storage and Freezing:

This all-purpose sauce is a great make-ahead pasta sauce to have on hand for whenever you need a quick and easy meal.


You can make this sauce several days ahead of time; it will keep for 5-7 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


It will keep well in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months—Defrost before reheating.


Can I use fresh tomatoes to make the pomodoro sauce?

Of course. Blanch 5 pounds of ripe tomatoes in boiling water for one minute. Remove the skins and discard. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Roughly chop or crush the tomatoes and proceed with the recipe.

Why do you puree the sauce?

Pomodoro sauce is supposed to be smooth and thick. The easiest way to break down the sautéed onions and simmered garlic cloves is to use a blender, stick blender, or food processor.

What’s the butter for?

This trick came from Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce; adding butter adds richness, softens the acidity of the tomatoes and gives the Pomodoro sauce a luxurious sheen.
I use less butter (2 tablespoons instead of Marcella’s 4) to finish my Pomodoro sauce.

What to do with homemade pomodoro sauce

Most cooks take the basic constructs of Pomodoro sauce and embellish it with their twists—a glug of wine, a splash of cream, maybe some crushed fennel seed, but it’s so versatile, you can use yhis classic Italian tomato sauce as a base sauce for many dishes.

  • Add a little Pomodoro sauce to cooked spaghetti or other pasta and toss well to coat. Transfer the pasta to a plate and top with more marinara, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
  • Adding a splash of wine or pasta water to the pomodoro sauce will give a thinner, saucier consistency, so depending on what you’re using it for, you can control how thick or thin your sauce is.
  • Use Pomodoro sauce as a simmering sauce with a splash of wine or broth for homemade meatballs or sautéed Italian sausage links. Cook the meatballs or sausages in a heavy pot, then add ladles of the sauce directly to the meat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. You can add a little wine or broth to make it saucier.
  • Simmer mussels and garlic in white wine until the mussels open, then add a few ladles of the simple tomato sauce for mussels “marinara” (serve with or without pasta and crusty Italian bread).
  • Dress cooked potato gnocchi with Pomodoro sauce and add a little of the gnocchi cooking water to thin it out a bit.
  • Use it as pizza sauce for your favorite homemade pizza.
  • Spoon over crispy chicken cutlets for chicken parmesan and top with a round of fresh mozzarella and basil.
  • Add it to leftover pulled pork with a glug of wine and serve over pappardelle with chopped fresh herbs.

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pomodoro sauce with fresh basil leaves.
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4.15 from 14 votes

Easy Pomodoro Sauce

Homemade pomodoro sauce is a quick and easy pasta topper or perfect blank canvas for your favorite meatballs or Italian sausages. Great with pasta or to spoon over meatball subs.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 56 ounces crushed tomatoes for convenience, I use 2 28-oz cans.
  • 3 large garlic cloves crushed
  • ⅛-¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes Depending on how spicy you like it
  • 1 stem fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter



  • Place 3 large garlic cloves on a cutting board and rest the flat side of a wide knife over one clove at a time. Whack the side of the knife with your fist to crush the clove so that it breaks open but remains in one piece. Do the same with the remaining cloves. Remove the garlic skins and discard.


  • Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a heavy pot or Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add 1 small onion, the crushed garlic and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Sweat the vegetables until softened and translucent but not browned.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add 56 ounces crushed tomatoes to the hot oil. The oil and tomatoes will splatter (an apron would be advisable).
  • Add the ⅛-¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 stem fresh basil leaves, the remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. Place the lid on the pot and simmer the sauce for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and use the tongs to fish out the basil and discard.


  • Use a stick blender to blend the onions and garlic into the sauce for a smooth puree, or, conversely, working in batches, transfer the tomatoes to a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  • (NOTE) Don’t add all the sauce to the blender or food processor at once. The volume is too much and it can escape and burn you. Work in batches to puree.
  • Once the sauce is smooth and the onions and garlic have been pureed, Stir in 2 tablespoons butter to finish the pomodoro sauce. Serve over pasta or for use in other recipes.


YouTube video


Calories: 166.86kcal | Carbohydrates: 21.01g | Protein: 4.63g | Fat: 9.23g | Saturated Fat: 3.16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.94g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4.51g | Trans Fat: 0.15g | Cholesterol: 10.03mg | Sodium: 768.39mg | Potassium: 803.08mg | Fiber: 5.32g | Sugar: 12.16g | Vitamin A: 707.93IU | Vitamin C: 25.71mg | Calcium: 97.94mg | Iron: 3.55mg

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  1. Chuck Henry says:

    5 stars
    We loved it. So easy. So simple even I can make it.

  2. 5 stars
    This was great! I did not put it in the food processor and they chopped up the fried garlic and added it to the pasta sauce and let it simmer for a minute it was delicious!

    1. Rachel Karteus says:

      5 stars
      I made this tonight for dinner. I put meat balls in it. My whole family loved it? Did not change a thing to the sauce. So simple and delicious! Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    This sauce rocked. My Sunday pasta. Meal for my crew at work loved it

    1. Thanks for letting me know, John! I’m so glad the crew enjoyed it!

  4. Betty Burdick says:

    5 stars
    Love the simplicity of this recipe….very similar to what I use in my homemade lasagna! Look forward to trying this sauce soon. I’m doing a lot of substituting lately so definitely see a quick pasta meal in the very near future!