Papa’s Italian Tomato Sauce

A signature dish of Italian cuisine and a timeless classic. Spaghetti al pomodoro is an institution, a simple recipe but far from trivial. Subject to endless variations all aiming find the perfect balance of flavours, the right creaminess and sweetness starts with the choice of the most suitable type of tomato. In summer I make this with fresh tomatoes but the winter ones are just too bland-tasting and I prefer the ones that were canned in summer and thus had the chance to be sun-blushed.

Prep time Cook time Total Time
10 min 30 min 40 min

One secret of a delicious Italian tomato sauce lies in the time it simmers – tbh I am usually not the most patient cook and during the week don’t want to spend longer than 30 mins until my food is on the table but this really benefits from a slow, gentle cooking. Also, for the preparation of the tomato sauce you need only about 10 minutes, then you can prepare a nice salad to go with it, garlic bread, bruschetta or vegan parmesan while the sauce simmers for 20-30minutes, in order to develop its full aroma.

The recipe below is for four – to cook the pasta the rule is 1 liter of water and 10 g of salt per 100 g of pasta.


  • 700g ripe tomatoes or (4-6 fresh, if wanting to use canned tomatoes, jump to the Arrabiata recipe)
  • 3 garlic cloves (halved)
  • 1 handful fresh basil (chopped)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big pinch of salt and sugar
  • 350g spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup of red wine
  • Optional: 1 tbsp tomato puree paste


Summer version using fresh tomatoes:

  1. Bring salted water to the boil
  2. Cut a cross into the tomatoes skins (this makes them much easier to peel later on)
  3. Add 4-6 tomatoes to the boiling water
  4. Leave in there for 5 mins
  5. Take them out with a spoon and let them cool off by pouring cold water over them in your sink
  6. Peel the skin of and cut in quarters, remove the stems, take the seeds out and cut in cubes
  7. Then add 1tbsp olive oil and the garlic cloves to a pan
  8. Pour in the tomatoes and a handful fresh basil and cook on medium heat
  9. Add 1 tbsp of tomato puree and 1/3 cup wine, 1 tbsp salt, and a pinch of sugar and cook on medium heat for 10mins
  10. Use the water you boiled the tomatoes in and add another pinch of salt, bring to the boil again and add the spaghetti
  11. Meanwhile stir the tomato sauce and press tomatoes and garlic with a fork or small wooden spoon to obtain a smooth sauce
  12. Let simmer on medium heat until the pasta is al dente (-8 mins), then pour the drained -not rinsed- spaghetti directly into the sauce and stir briefly over high heat
  13. Season with a little more olive oil and pine nuts if you like and complete with a few leaves of basil and serve immediately. The rest can stay in the fridge for about 3 days.
  14. Buon Appetito!

You can easily make an Arrabiata with only some slight variations.

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