Culinary Arts

How to Make Quick and Easy Pomodoro Sauce: Chef Thomas Keller's Gnocchi With Pomodoro Recipe

Written by MasterClass

May 14, 2019 • 4 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.

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What Is Pomodoro Sauce?

Pomodoro is a tomato-based pasta sauce made from a combination of fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. Pomodoro means “golden apple,” because the sauce was traditionally made with tomatoes that were slightly yellow in color, resembling the local apples. To make pomodoro sauce, buy crushed canned tomatoes or blitz fresh tomatoes in a food processor.

What's the Difference Between Pomodoro and Marinara Sauce?

The main difference between Italy's two reigning tomato sauces—pomodoro and marinara—is the texture. Marinara is a runny, flavorful red sauce that gets simmered with herbs for anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple hours. Compared with marinara, pomodoro is hardly a sauce: seeded, diced tomatoes get cooked with garlic and olive oil into a mixture that just coats pasta. They both make for delicious spaghetti sauces.

What Tomatoes Are Best for Pomodoro Sauce?

There's a broad spectrum of tomatoes out there; some are great for snacking off the vine or used raw in salad, and some are better suited to stand up to heat and make for a great sauce.

  • San Marzano Tomatoes: 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: An heirloom paste tomato from Wisconsin similar to Roma tomatoes, but are sweeter and brighter in flavor.
  • Italian Gold Tomatoes: Yellow, pear-shaped tomatoes that are high in pectin, making them nice and thick for sauces.

6 Pastas to Serve With Pomodoro Sauce

Technically, there isn’t a 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.

  • 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.
  • Linguine: Long, thin flat strips of pasta that resemble flattened spaghetti.
  • Farfalle: Bow tie pastas contain small folds that help hold more sauce.
  • Gnocchi: These small, soft dumplings are perfect for pairing with rich tomato sauces. Learn Chef Thomas Keller’s recipe for potato gnocchi here.
  • Ravioli: Squared pieces of dough filled with cheese, meat, or veggies work well with bright tomato sauces, providing a nice contrast in flavors.
  • 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.
Thomas Keller's gnocchi pomodoro on plate

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7 Different Ways to Use Pomodoro Sauce: Recipe Ideas

Once pomodoro sauce is made, you can cut down on prep time and use it for a variety of your favorite dinner recipes including pastas, pizza, pot roasts, and meat loaf. A big batch can be made ahead, cooled, and stored in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

  1. Creamy Tomato Soup. Sauté 1 chopped onion in 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add 3 ½ cups pomodoro sauce and 1 ½ cups chicken stock. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes to let flavors combine. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Eggs in Purgatory. Try simmering a cup of pomodoro sauce in a small skillet and gently crack in two eggs. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the egg whites set. Finish with fresh chopped herbs and red pepper flakes.
  3. Mussels Pomodoro. Sauté sliced garlic in olive oil in a skillet. Add a pinch of red chili flakes, ½ cup dry white wine, 2 cups pomodoro sauce, and 2 pounds cleaned mussels. Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.
  4. Turkey Meatballs. Combine 1 pound ground turkey meat with ½ cup bread crumbs, ½ cup grated parmesan, ½ cup milk, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning. Form into meatballs and bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Serve with pomodoro sauce.
  5. Shrimp Cocktail. Mix ½ cup of pomodoro sauce with 1 teaspoon fresh horseradish, season with hot sauce and salt, to taste. Serve with blanched shrimp.
  6. Bloody Marys. Combine 5 ounces vodka, 1 cup pomodoro sauce, ½ cup water, the juice from 3 limes, and 1 tablespoon horseradish in a pitcher. Season to taste with Worcestershire, celery salt, and hot sauce. Learn how Chef Wolfgang Puck makes a Bloody Mary here.
  7. Gnocchi Pomodoro. For Chef Keller, pomodoro with fresh-frozen gnocchi is a beautiful meal of convenience. Chef Keller makes his pomodoro with a unique box grater technique for tomatoes that he learned from Chef José Andrés. Find Chef Keller’s gnocchi with pomodoro recipe here.