Papa’s Tomato Sauce

A signature dish of Italian cuisine and 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 from 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

This dish is a real test for those who love to prepare it at home, but also for chefs striving to preserve the secrets of their version. One secret of a delicious Italian tomato sauce lies in the time it simmers usually – 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 a nice vegan parmesan while the sauce simmers for 20-30minutes, in order to develop its full aroma.

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


  • 700g (1 can or fresh) ripe plum tomatoes
  • 350g Spaghetti
  • 3 halved garlic cloves
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big pinch of salt
  • Optional: half a cup of red wine


Summer version using fresh tomatoes:

  1. Bring salted water to the boil
  2. Cut a cross in 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 2 halved and peeled garlic cloves to a pan
  8. Pour in the tomatoes and a handful fresh basil to it and cook over medium heat
  9. Add 2 tbsp of tomato puree and 1/2 cup wine, 1 tbsp salt, and a pinch of sugar and cook on medium heat for 10mins
  10. Using the tomato water add another pinch of salt, bring to the boil again and add the spaghetti
  11. Let it simmer on medium heat until the pasta is al dente (another 10mins)
  12. Meanwhile still the tomato sauce and Press tomatoes and garlic with a fork or small wooden spoon to obtain a smooth sauce
  13. Then add the pasta into the sauce and add a bit more olive oil, mix and serve!
  14. Buon Apetitto!

Quick Spring/Autumn/Winter version using canned tomatoes:

  1. To prepare Spaghetti al pomodoro begin by preparing the sauce.
  2. Peel and cut the garlic cloves in halves and add to a pan along with the olive oil.
  3. Cut the plum in half lengthwise and squeeze to remove the seeds and water and thereby obtain a more dry and sweet sauce.
  4. Add the tomatoes as soon as the garlic begins to sizzle. Then add a generous pinch of salt (and if you’d like 1/2 cup of wine) and cook uncovered for about 10mins on medium heat
  5. Cover with a lid and cook for another 15mins over low heat, then still stir the sauce and allow to cool for 5mins
  6. Press tomatoes and garlic with a fork or small wooden spoon to obtain a smooth and homogeneous puree (you can also pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the skins)
  7. Bring a pan of salted water to boil and add the spaghetti.
  8. Meanwhile transfer the puree back into the sauce pan, bring to the boil, then put on very low heat and add the basil leaves
  9. After around 8-10mins hey should be al dente, so then pour the drained -not rinsed- spaghetti directly into the sauce and stir briefly over high heat
  10. Season with a little 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.

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

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