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Penne Pomodoro in white and black striped bowl with basil

Penne Pomodoro

  • Author: Gianna Nebbia
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Tomato Sauce
  • Method: Sauce Making
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 1 lb of Penne Pasta or other short pasta shape
  • 4 cloves of garlic; 3 sliced and 1 whole to be grated
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 chiles de arbol, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 6 basil leaves, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or more to taste)


  1. Start the sauce. Heat a sauté pan or saucepan with olive oil over medium heat and add the sliced garlic and chiles de arbol, if using. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until garlic is soft but not burnt. The second you see the garlic starting to become golden, add the tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes until it starts to stick to the pan. (see note 1)
  2. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, bring the pomodoro sauce to a boil then reduce it to a simmer. Cover, slightly vented, and simmer for 30 minutes, waiting until the 10 minute mark to break up the tomatoes with a potato masher or spatula. (see note 2)
  3. In the meantime, boil a pot of water for the pasta. Salt the water once it comes to a boil. (use enough salt so you can just taste it) Try to time the pasta so that it finishes cooking at the same time as the sauce. You'll need to use the box instructions to help with timing, but most penne cooks in about 8-12 minutes. 
  4. 5 minutes before the sauce is done simmering (the 25 minute mark), add the salt and 1 more small clove of garlic by grating it directly into the sauce. Then add the butter and stir until fully incorporated. (see note 3) 
  5. When the pasta and sauce are both done cooking, use a Spider to transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce, along with a splash of pasta water. (about 1/4 cup) Top with fresh basil and more red pepper flakes if desired. (note 4)


  1. Don't let the garlic burn. You will taste burnt garlic in the sauce if it does. However, the tomato paste can burn a little. This flavor is desirable. 
  2. Give the tomatoes 10 minutes of simmering to soften before you mash them up. This will make mashing them easier. 
  3. Butter is not entirely necessary for taste purposes, but certainly helps emulsify the sauce, making it more cohesive and glossy. If you keep a vegan diet, leave it out and stir in a little extra olive oil for a similar glossy texture. 
  4. The basil should top the Penne al Pomodoro at the end because heat completely dimities Basil's flavor. Using it as a topping will help maintain its bright fresh flavor.

Keywords: Penne Pomodoro, Penne al Pomodoro

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