This post may include affiliate links; for details, see our disclosure policy.

Penne pomodoro pairs the Italian classic tomato sauce with chewy penne pasta and Parmesan cheese. A dinnertime winner!

Penne Pomodoro
Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!

Here’s a cozy, flavor-packed recipe that satisfies every time: Penne Pomodoro! This classic pairing of pomodoro sauce and short-cut pasta exemplifies the simplicity of Italian cuisine: juicy tomatoes, garlic, vegetables and herbs simmered until they meld into a pure, rich sauce. Add penne and top with Parmesan cheese, and there’s really nothing like digging into a steaming bowl. Homemade pomodoro sauce is worth it for the elegant, nuanced flavor: here’s how to do it!

Ingredients for penne pomodoro

Penne pomodoro stars the classic Italian pomodoro sauce, a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and other aromatic vegetables or herbs. Pomodoro sauce is similar to marinara, but is simmered longer and has a thicker, smoother consistency. It can be made with fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes. Pair it with penne pasta and you’ve got penne pomodoro.

The method here is simple: simmer a handful ingredients in a pot and then blend: no sauteing required! The method is inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s classic recipe for pomodoro sauce: the famous actress lived in Rome for 20 years and raised her children there. This was her favorite dish, according to her daughter. We’ve put our spin on her recipe, but the heart remains: simple ingredients, simmered for 45 minutes until the flavors blossom. Here’s what you’ll need for penne pomodoro:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Canned whole tomatoes
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Penne pasta
Penne pomodoro

Tips for making penne pomodoro

This pomodoro sauce is a bit different than the classic tomato sauce: there’s no sautéing involved! Simply chop veggies and throw them in a pot. It does require 45 minutes of simmering time, but it’s worth it for the ease and flavor in this recipe. Here’s what to know:

  • Consider making the pomodoro sauce ahead. This one’s perfect for meal prep and making ahead: it lasts for 5 days in the refrigerator or several months frozen. It takes about 1 hour to make, but it’s almost totally hands off.
  • Adjust the flavors as desired. To balance the acidity of the tomatoes, the pomodoro sauce needs just a bit of sugar and a good amount of salt (it makes a large batch). Add what’s specified in the recipe, then adjust to taste.
  • Add cheese to the sauce if you like. Add some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese to the blender for an even more flavor-packed sauce.
Penne Pomodoro

Storing the sauce and leftovers

The pomodoro sauce for penne pomodoro makes 7 cups, enough for 12 servings of pasta (3 batches of 8 ounces of pasta). The best storage option here? Freeze it! How long does homemade pomodoro sauce last?

  • Store the sauce refrigerated for up to 5 days in a sealed container.
  • Store the sauce frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost and then reheat on the stovetop prior to tossing with pasta.
  • Store leftover pasta and sauce refrigerated for up to 3 days.

How to serve it

Once you whip up this penne pomodoro recipe, it makes a tasty dinner or lunch paired with a crisp salad or sauteed veggie. Here are a few ideas for pairing with it:

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Penne Pomodoro

More pasta recipes

Love pasta? Here are a few tasty pasta recipes you might enjoy:

This penne pomodoro recipe is…

Vegetarian. The sauce is also vegan and dairy-free when served without Parmesan cheese (consider a purchased or homemade vegan Parmesan).

Save this recipe!
Get this sent to your inbox, plus get new recipes from us every week!
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Penne Pomodoro

Penne Pomodoro

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x


Penne pomodoro pairs the Italian classic tomato sauce with chewy penne pasta and Parmesan cheese. A dinnertime winner!



For the sauce (makes 7 cups; make in advance as desired)

  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 2 28-ounce cans high quality peeled whole tomatoes
  • 1 large handful basil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • Fresh ground black pepper

For the pasta (makes 4 modest servings)

  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • Finely chopped parsley, for garnish


  1. Place the minced onion, garlic, celery, carrots, whole canned tomatoes, basil, olive oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large saucepan. Simmer for 45 minutes with a lid ajar, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove from the heat and rest 5 minutes. Discard the basil leaves. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the sugar and several grinds black pepper. Blend until smooth (or pulse for a chunkier texture). Taste and add more salt as desired (we typically add another ½ teaspoon or more).
  3. Meanwhile, start a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the penne and boil until al dente (check a few minutes before the package instructions indicate). Drain and return to the pot.
  4. Stir in 2 cups pomodoro sauce, then add more to taste if desired. Top generously with grated Parmesan or grated Pecorino cheese before serving (or, stir it into the warm sauce). If desired top with finely chopped parsley. Enjoy immediately or stores refrigerated up to 3 days.
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment

  1. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!