Romantic Dinner for Two: Italian Pasta Pomodoro Recipe

February 13, 2024
Finished pasta pomodoro on a black plate on a marble counter top.
Finished pasta pomodoro on a black plate on a marble counter top with bread plate in the back.

Romantic Dinners for Two aren’t just for Valentine’s Day.

It’s Valentine’s Day and what better way to give a big middle finger to the corporate fake-ass “love” holiday than by actually making a dish with love? Nothing says romantic dinner for two like pasta, specifically spaghetti or your favorite pasta type. We’ve all seen Lady and the Tramp, right? This pasta pomodoro stuff dreams are made of. Pomodoro sauce is a simple tomato sauce with a fuck ton of fresh garlic, onions, and fresh basil leaves. You can also keep this dish vegetarian by leaving out the cheese. Simple ingredients that you probably already have lying around. This delicious pasta recipe is sure to please in the kitchen before you move to the bedroom. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll roll to the bedroom from eating too much pasta. Sexy.

Ingredients for pasta pomodoro in glass bowls on a wood cutting board.

Use your favorite pasta shape!

Even if this is a main course recipe you don’t have to save it for a special occasion. You can make this recipe on busy weeknights or even for a dinner party. This is the beauty of Italian cooking; more often than not it’s very simple and easy. You just need a little know-how. Here are some tips and tricks. 

First, you don’t need to use penne pasta. While penne pomodoro recipes are all over it doesn’t mean that’s the only pasta shape you can use! Most people will call it “penne pomodoro” and I’m 100% convinced that’s just because it rolls off the tongue better than “pasta pomodoro”. Use whatever pasta you want, but I generally prefer spaghetti or linguine for this dish.

Fresh pasta in a plastic container.

Tips for your pasta pomodoro

Next tip. Try to use fresh pasta if you can. You don’t need to make it yourself (although that’s easy too) but if you have at least one Italian market near you, I guarantee they sell fresh pasta. Now here’s the most important thing. Fresh pasta cooks in a fraction of the time as dried pasta. Normally you’d cook your pasta to package instructions. For fresh pasta, you’re looking at 3 – 5 minutes depending on what kind. The hardest part of any delicious pasta recipe is cooking the pasta al dente.

Cut cherry tomatoes being added to a skillet with red onion and garlic.

Fresh herbs will make this sing!

Use fresh herbs. Fresh basil. Fresh parsley to garnish. Fresh garlic. And fresh tomatoes. You can use canned tomatoes for this recipe, but fresh ones are better. Which tomato you use is entirely up to you, but I would recommend either San Marzano, Roma, or cherry tomatoes. There will be a big difference in cooking method depending on what you choose. This recipe uses cherry tomatoes. Also, do not use tomato paste in this traditional Italian dish. Save that for your marinara sauce or your creamy pasta dishes.

Fresh pasta being pulled out of boiling water.

Save your pasta water for the Pomodoro sauce!

DO use pasta water. That is critical for this dish. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t a sauce in the traditional Italian cuisine sense. It’s more just a combination of cooked tomatoes, onions, garlic, and some herbs. You do not need any special skills to make this pasta dish.

Lastly, I prefer pecorino romano cheese on this dish. Most people will always go to parmesan cheese, but I prefer pecorino or grana padano in most situations. I also really love to add a side of garlic bread when serving!

Pasta water being poured into a skillet with the pasta pomodoro sauce.

Here is what you’ll need!

Fresh cooked pasta being added to the pomodoro sauce in a skillet

Trust the process!

  1. Salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil over medium heat
  2. In a large deep skillet, add your olive oil and heat over medium heat
  3. Add in your onions and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until they start to get translucent. Here is where you can add a couple pinches of salt and pepper  
  4. To the skillet add in your garlic and cook for another 3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  5. Put your cherry tomatoes in a large bowl and coat with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and stir
  6. Add the tomatoes to the skillet with more salt and pepper.
  7. Stir to combine all ingredients in the pan and reduce heat to medium-low
  8. Let the sauce cook for about 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You should see the juices from the tomatoes start to seep out
  9. As the tomatoes get softer and the juices are coming out, gently smash them with the back of your wooden spoon. They don’t need to be turned to paste, just gently smushed. This will give you a smoother sauce 

Add the finishing touches!

  1. When you have about 10 minutes left on your sauce, drop the pasta in the boiling water (or about 5 minutes if you’re using fresh pasta)  
  2. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, strain, and reserve about a cup and a half of pasta water. 
  3. Add about one cup of the pasta water and stir in to combine
  4. Put the cooked pasta to the large skillet with your sauce
  5. Toss or stir to combine over the heat.
  6. Add the basil and parsley and continue to toss.
  7. If you want a thinner sauce add some extra pasta water until you reach your desired consistency.

Delicious Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner

See, an easy pasta recipe that anyone will enjoy and will check your box when you are looking for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner! For the best flavor top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and red pepper flakes. Pair with a decadent dessert that will be sure to be a romantic meal your significant other won’t soon forget. Once you are done having your fill you can put any leftovers in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Finished pasta pomodoro on a black plate on a marble counter top.

Tools We Used!

If you love this recipe you will also love our Sunday Sauce Recipe!

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Close up Finished pasta pomodoro on a black plate on a marble counter top.

Romantic Dinner for Two: Italian Pasta Pomodoro Recipe


  • Author: A Couple Bites
  • Total Time: 40 minutes

Description

This simple dish will have your significant other crying tears of happiness! 


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 810 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 1012 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 pound fresh pasta of your choosing
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Red Pepper Flakes to top, optional
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Salt a large pot of water and bring it to a boil.
  2. In a large deep skillet, add your olive oil and heat over medium heat.
  3. Add in your onions and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until they start to become translucent.
  4. Add in your garlic and cook for another 3 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  5.  Put your cherry tomatoes into a large bowl and coat them with a drizzle of live oil, salt, and pepper. Stir
  6. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and season again with salt and pepper.
  7. Stir to combine all the ingredients in the pan and reduce heat to medium-low.
  8. Let the sauce cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You should see the juices from the tomatoes start to seep out.
  9. As the tomatoes get softer and the juices come out, gently smash them with the back of your wooden spoon. They don’t need to be turned into a paste, just gently smushed. This will give you a smoother sauce. 
  10. When you have about 10 minutes left on your sauce, drop the pasta carefully in the boiling water. (or 5 minutes for fresh pasta)
  11. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, strain and reserve about a cup and a half of pasta water.
  12. Add one cup of the pasta water to your sauce and stir to combine.
  13. Add the cooked pasta to the large skillet with your sauce.
  14. Toss or stir to combine.
  15. Remove from the heat and add your basil. Toss or stir again. 
  16. Add more pasta water if needed to reach your desired sauce consistency. 
  17. Put your pasta on a plate. Top with cheese and red pepper flakes and serve! 
  • Prep Time: 10 mintues
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
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We’re Matt and Melissa, and this is our food blog, though it may not be the food blog you are expecting. We are here to take you on a culinary adventure through our kitchen, our passions, our stories, and our liquor cabinet. Residing in Monmouth County, NJ (the best county in NJ) we love to cook and create in our kitchen. But we know we’re not the real experts and the only thing more fun than tasting our own creations are tasting others’. When we’re not cooking for you, we’re around town sampling all that New Jersey’s culinary scene has to offer. Let take A Couple Bites!

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