Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce {Recipe}

This entry is part 4 of 31 in the series My Italian Kitchen

italian-kitchen-bannerWhen I was a little girl and we would eat out at restaurants in Italy, my favorite dish was spaghetti al pomodoro or spaghetti with tomato sauce (what Americans call ‘marinara’ *See note at the very end of this post).  Since I was not an adventurous eater, I knew this dish would be safe. But let me back up a minute. For those of you who are new around here, let me give you a little context…

My parents met in Naples, Italy when my (American) dad was stationed there in the late 1960s. (You can read about my mom’s story here. It’s pretty interesting! She was born in a bomb shelter!) They were married after about a year of dating and I was born after 10 months. Although we were a military family, most of my growing up years were spent in Italy and I only moved to the US after graduation in order to attend the University of Florida.

As a (homesick) college student, I would call my mother for recipes of my favorite dishes. My grandfather found out that I wanted to learn to cook, so he bought me a cookbook called A Napoli Si Mangia Cosi’ (In Naples One Eats Like This). It is still one of my favorite cookbooks and after decades of use, it is falling apart! (It’s no longer in print but I found a used copy on the Italian Amazon site if you want your own copy. Oh, did I mention, it’s in Italian? Yeah. Or you can just follow along as I will be sharing many recipes from this book – translated, of course.)

Many of the recipe titles are in Neapolitan. So back to the favorite recipe. In the book it is called vermicelli cu’ ‘a pummarola ‘ncoppa but I don’t like vermicelli (like angel hair pasta) so I make spaghetti al pomodoro which is the Italian translation. [Literally translated it means ‘vermicelli with the tomato on top.’] 

In Europe, cooks measure by weight not by volume so I will give you the recipe how I would make it, not as it is written in the book. A quick word about pasta brands. Barilla and De Cecco are my favorite but you can substitute any durum wheat pasta or if needed, gluten-free pasta. Dreamfields is a low-carb pasta I have started using that tastes EXACTLY like regular pasta.

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Now on to the recipe…

Spaghetti al Pomodoro


  • 1 box spaghetti
  • 6-8 large fresh tomatoes, chopped (or substitute canned tomatoes. See note below *)
  • 1/2 onion, largely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • handful of fresh basil


Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. oil in panChop the onion half into large pieces so you can remove it. (I like onion, so I cut mine smaller and leave it in the sauce.) add onions to panBrown the onions lightly in the oil. browned onionsAdd the chopped tomatoes. tomato-sauceAdd salt and allow it to cook 20-30 mins. At the last minute, right before removing from the heat, add the chopped basil leaves (I like to chiffonade them.) Here’s a quick little video that shows you how. Serve with pasta that has been cooked al dente.

*The simplicity of the recipe will allow quality products to shine. So if your only option is weak, tasteless fresh tomatoes, I prefer to use a good-quality canned tomato. It’s important to read the label. The ingredient list should list very few items – tomatoes, salt and maybe citric acid. If it lists anything else (spices, natural flavoring, garlic) then skip that one and keep looking. Usually store brands are fine but if you really want to treat yourself get Pomi’ brand. My Publix carries it if you don’t want to order it online. You can ask your store to get it for you. In my pictures you’ll see tomatoes that we can ourselves.


A variation of this recipe is Pennine Sciue’ Sciue’. [Do you remember what the –ine ending means from yesterday?] Pronounced Shway Shway. Loosely translated it means ‘Fast Fast.’ The tomatoes will be almost raw so this is really good in the summer when you have fresh, ripe tomatoes. I have not given you quantities for the cheeses as it’s up to you how cheese you like it and how many people you are cooking for.

Pennine Sciue’ Sciue’


1 box penne

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

fresh tomatoes, about 5 large (or you may substitute 2 regular cans tomatoes, see note above)

handful of basil

grated parmesan cheese, to taste

mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes


Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Add chopped tomatoes. Cook for only 5 mins. Turn off the heat and add the basil and stir. Add the cooked, well-drained penne to the pan along with the two cheeses. Mix well and serve.


*Americans call a simple tomato sauce Marinara but if you go to Italy Marinara is not the same. It is often a tomato sauce with garlic and oregano and sometimes red pepper. Marinara means “sailor style” and it is very common in the Naples area, or, because it is “sailor style” it might be a dish with seafood as in Risotto alla Marinara.

spaghetti with tomato sauce

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About Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

I'm a wife, mom, and a homeschool teacher. I'm always behind on housework and paper pile sorting. I'm fond of this crazy life but not of melted cheese. I want to follow hard after God, making each day really count. I like to run, read, cook (and eat!). Thanks for joining along on my journey!

10 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce {Recipe}

  1. I was raised on home-grown tomatoes–fresh in the summertime and home-canned the rest of the time. Consequently, I just don’t usually enjoy fresh “store bought” tomatoes. They just are not the same. Sadly, I have not had good luck raising my own tomatoes here in Idaho. I think maybe it’s just too cool for them to do well.

    I am really enjoying this series. Not just the recipes, but the stories, and the explanations.

    1. I’m with you Karla! Can you find good fresh ones at a local farmer’s market? I’m sure the season is over now… You should go visit Rachel and can with her then haul them back! My mil did that last summer. Canned in Michigan then brought all the jars back with her to FL!

  2. At our house, the best tomato is one that is super squished up almost beyond recognition. Not big raw tomato eaters over here. But a friend made bruschetta for us once, and we both really liked it. I bet you have beautiful pots and pans. What brand of cookware do you use?

    1. I do not have fancy cookware. My mil gave us a set of Revereware for our wedding and I’ve used that for YEARS. I have recently purchased some other pots to begin replacing the wedding gift. My stock pot came from Ikea. I have a Le Cruset that, like Michael Ann, came from a base thrift store , and two small sauce pans that I bought at TJ Maxx or Home Goods. I also like to use cast iron skillets. So no All Clad or anything like that!

  3. I am absolutely loving your recipes, stories and explanations. You are answering so many questions that I have about Italian cuisine! Hopefully, I can get caught up and appropriately participate in this challenge!

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