Culinary Arts

Chef Thomas Keller’s Quick Pomodoro Sauce Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 30, 2019 • 3 min read

Move over, marinara: pomodoro sauce is here for your summer pasta dinner parties. This tangy tomato sauce was made to let its ingredients shine: fresh picked basil leaves, ripe tomatoes, fragrant cloves of garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil.

Chef Thomas Keller, founder of Michelin star winning restaurants The French Laundry, Per Se, and Bouchon, learned this recipe’s box grater technique for tomatoes from Chef José Andrés. Chef Keller’s quick pomodoro sauce with fresh herbs is perfect with frozen or fresh homemade gnocchi for a beautiful and convenient meal.



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What Is Pomodoro Sauce?

Pomodoro sauce is a tomato-based pasta sauce made from a combination of fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. In Italian, pomodoro means “golden apple,” because the sauce was traditionally made with tomatoes that were slightly yellow in color, resembling the local apples.

Pomodoro vs. Marinara: What's the Difference Between Pomodoro and Marinara Sauce?

The main difference between Italy's two reigning tomato sauces is the texture. Marinara sauce is a thin, flavorful red sauce that’s simmered with herbs for anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple hours. Compared with marinara, pomodoro is more paste than sauce: seeded, diced tomatoes get cooked with garlic and olive oil into a mixture that just coats pasta. Regardless of their differences, both pomodoro and marinara make for delicious spaghetti sauces.

What Tomatoes Are Best for Pomodoro Sauce?

There's a wide variety of tomatoes out there. Some are ideal for snacking raw off the vine or in a salad, while others stand up to heat and make for a great sauce. Here are some pomodoro tomato varieties.

  • San Marzano Tomatoes: These deep red plum tomatoes grown in the Campania region are among the world’s best for sauce making. They have a sweet flavor, dense pulp, and low acidity that make them desirable for homemade tomato sauce and tomato paste. They are conveniently available canned, which will help cut down your prep time.
  • Roma Tomatoes: A plum Italian tomato with a meaty interior and very few seeds, these tomatoes boil down faster than other tomatoes. They also have more flesh and less liquid, which makes them a great choice for sauces and canning.
  • Amish Paste Tomatoes: This heirloom paste tomato from Wisconsin is similar to Roma tomatoes, but sweeter and brighter in flavor.
  • Italian Gold Tomatoes: These yellow, pear-shaped tomatoes are high in pectin, making them nice and thick for sauces.
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6 Pastas to Serve With Pomodoro Sauce

Technically, there’s no wrong choice when it comes to making pasta pomodoro, but you’ll find that certain shapes of pasta pair better with certain sauces. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide.

  1. Spaghetti: This is the classic go-to for pasta with tomato sauce. Long, thin, and cylindrical, it can hold up to almost any sauce. Learn how to make fresh spaghetti here.
  2. Linguine: Long, thin flat strips of pasta that resemble flattened spaghetti.
  3. Farfalle: Bow tie pastas contain small folds that help absorb more sauce.
  4. Gnocchi: These small, soft dumplings are perfect for pairing with rich tomato sauces. Learn Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe for potato gnocchi here.
  5. Ravioli: Squares dough filled with cheese, meat, or veggies work well with bright tomato sauces, providing a nice contrast in flavors.
  6. Gluten-Free Pasta: A healthy option for pasta, you’ll find these in almost any shape and size. Popular gluten-free pastas are made from brown rice, chickpeas, and quinoa.


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Chef Thomas Keller's Pomodoro Sauce Recipe


  • 200 grams tomato, grated
  • 10 grams garlic, grated
  • 35 grams light olive oil
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Champagne vinegar, to taste
  • Fresh homemade gnocchi


  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • 12-inch sauté pan
  • Bowl for trim
  • Box grater
  • Microplane
  • Palette knife
  • Serving bowl
  1. Cut tomatoes in half on their equator, gently squeeze out the seeds, and use the fine side of a box grater to grate seeded tomatoes into a bowl, leaving the skin behind.
  2. Heat sauté pan over high heat, add enough oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan.
  3. Once you start to see faint wisps of smoke, carefully add the gnocchi to the pan and give them a gentle shake to prevent them from sticking. Allow the gnocchi to lightly caramelize. Use the sloped edge of the sauté pan to make the gnocchi “jump,” which will help them caramelize evenly. Season with salt.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and grate in the garlic. Take the pan back to the heat to lightly sauté the garlic.
  5. Add the grated fresh tomatoes. Season with more salt as needed to taste and a bit of vinegar. Remember that the parmesan will also add saltiness when you’re finishing the pomodoro sauce so account for that when seasoning.
  6. Remove the pan from heat and top the homemade gnocchi with torn fresh basil. Spoon the gnocchi and sauce onto a serving dish, and use the microplane to finish with parmesan cheese.

Watch Chef Thomas Keller demonstrate how to make the perfect gnocchi with pomodoro sauce here.