Penne Pomodoro is easy to make and sure to satisfy everyone at the dinner table! Tender penne is covered with a homemade sauce consisted of mouthwatering ingredients like fresh garlic, fresh basil, robust tomatoes and plenty of parmesan! Skip the store-bought sauce tonight and instead make this irresistible Italian-inspired dinner.

A serving of penne pomodoro is on a white plate with a fork.

Penne Pomodoro

This is one of my favorite go-to pasta dinners to make at home. Why? Not just because it’s delicious, easy to make, and flavorful as can be… But also because it’s picky-eater approved!

There are no crazy flavors here that will push away any selective palates. Just real, authentic Italian ingredients that keep things wonderfully simple, yet bold at the same time.

The beauty of this dish is just in that – it’s simplicity. The steps to making this beautiful pasta dinner are easy enough to follow, the ingredients are flavorful, yet minimal, and the results are bound to make anyone smile.

This is a perfect dinner for those weeknights when you want something that’s hassle-free, homemade, and you know the whole family will love.

Also, is it just me, or are pasta recipes all the rage lately?! I know that pasta never actually goes out of style, but I do feel like there’s been an uptick in pasta popularity now that TikTok’s a thing.

There are so many pasta videos everywhere these days! Luckily, classic recipes like this no-frills penne pomodoro are still holding true and staying as loved as ever. You just can’t beat a classic, and this is certainly tried and true!

A white and blue dutch oven is filled with cooked penne pomodoro, topped with fresh basil.

How to Make It

Boil. Heat a large stock pot with water over medium high heat and season with 3-4 tablespoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil.

Drain and crush. Place a fine mesh sieve or strainer over a large bowl and pour the tomatoes into the sieve to drain the juice. Using your hands, slightly crush the tomatoes to release the seeds and liquid hiding inside.

Reserve. Gently shake the strainer and set aside, reserving the tomato juice.

Cook the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pot and cook until the garlic is golden on all sides, approximately 3-4 minutes.

Caramelize the tomatoes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes, stirring often, until the tomatoes become a deeper red and caramelized, approximately 5 minutes.

Thicken it. Add the reserved tomato juice and stir. Reduce the heat and continue simmering until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened, approximately 6-8 minutes. 

Cook the pasta. While the sauce is reducing, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes until the penne is al dente (firm to the bite). 

Reserve pasta water. When the pasta is done, remove one cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.

Add the basil. Stir the basil into the sauce and then add the pasta, tossing to coat.

Add pasta water. If the sauce looks dry, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and continue tossing until the liquid is absorbed. 

Make it cheesy! Sprinkle in half the cheese and toss to coat. Add the remaining pasta water until your sauce is the desired consistency, if necessary. Toss in the remaining cheese, tossing to coat.

Add butter. Stir in the butter and toss until melted.

Enjoy! Serve the pasta with more cheese, crushed red pepper flake, basil and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

A white plate that contains a serving of pasta is placed next to a full dutch oven and a small white bowl with red pepper flakes.

Is penne pomodoro spicy?

It’s only as spicy as the amount of red pepper flakes you add! This recipe calls for just half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, which will contribute to the overall flavor without making this dish as a whole spicy. However, you can increase the heat by adding more red pepper flakes as you cook, or sprinkling them on top afterwards.

What kind of tomatoes should I use?

While you could certainly use plain whole tomatoes, I’ve found that it’s SO much easier to use a can of whole peeled tomatoes! You may not know this, but canned tomatoes are actually pretty fresh and straight from the vine.

A white plate is filled with pasta pomodoro and topped with fresh basil.

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A white and blue dutch oven is filled with cooked penne pomodoro, topped with fresh basil.

Get the Recipe: Penne Pomodoro

Classic Penne Pomodoro is simple to make with just a few pantry ingredients. Tender pasta in a light Pomodoro sauce is an instant favorite for anyone who tries it.
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients

  • 1 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a knife
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8-10 basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan, we love the canned stuff here!
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Equipment

  • skillet

Instructions 

  • Heat a large stock pot with water over medium high heat and season with 3-4 tablespoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil.
  • Place a fine mesh sieve or strainer over a large bowl and pour the tomatoes into the sieve to drain the juice. Using your hands, slightly crush the tomatoes to release the seeds and liquid hiding inside.
  • Gently shake the strainer and set aside, reserving the tomato juice.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pot and cook until the garlic is golden on all sides, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  • Stir in the red pepper flakes and the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes, stirring often, until the tomatoes become a deeper red and caramelized, approximately 5 minutes.
  • Add the reserved tomato juice and stir. Reduce the heat and continue simmering until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened, approximately 6-8 minutes.
  • While the sauce is reducing, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes until the penne is al dente (firm to the bite).
  • When the pasta is done, remove one cup of the pasta water and set aside.
  • Drain the pasta.
  • Stir the basil into the sauce and then add the pasta, tossing to coat.
  • If the sauce looks dry, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and continue tossing until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Sprinkle in half the cheese and toss to coat. Add the remaining pasta water until your sauce is the desired consistency, if necessary.
  • Toss in the remaining cheese, tossing to coat.
  • Stir in the butter and toss until melted.
  • Serve the pasta with more cheese, crushed red pepper flake, basil and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

Notes

Best if served soon after cooking.
 
Calories: 378kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 391mg, Potassium: 345mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 407IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 198mg, Iron: 2mg