If you're a pasta lover looking for a quick and easy weeknight dinner, then this Pasta Napoletana is the perfect recipe! Made with simple ingredients and ready in under 30 minutes - it's vegan friendly too!
Sometimes, the simplest dishes stand out the most. And this Pasta Napoletana is a perfect example. Made with simple, fresh ingredients this vegan-friendly dish makes a great weeknight dinner or starter for a special lunch!
And it's full of flavour too from fresh tomatoes and basil, garlic, and chilli flakes! The sauce goes well with any type of dry pasta, so you don't need to worry on what's available. Sprinkle with some Pecorino Romano cheese (or vegan cheese) and you're ready to go!
What is Pasta Napoletana?
Pasta Napoletana, also known as Pasta al pomodoro is a simple Italian pasta dish made with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and other fresh herbs.
It is a light meatless, tomato sauce-based dish that has its origins in Naples, Italy. The sauce is also known as "marinara sauce" outside of Italy.
Ingredients and Variations
Pasta Napoletana requires a few basic pantry ingredients, fresh tomatoes and herbs, and one very important secret ingredient.
Pasta - You can use any dry pasta of your choice. For this recipe, I used spaghetti. Thinner type pasta (such as spaghetti or bucatini) usually go well with tomato-based sauce.
Tomatoes - This recipe calls for fresh tomatoes - I highly suggest using cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or plum tomatoes (the smaller type) for this pasta sauce.
This Neapolitan Pasta recipe is a great way to use up extra cherry tomatoes when in season.
Tomatoes need to be halved. Do not remove seeds if using cherry tomatoes.
Fresh Basil - An important ingredient in Neapolitan pasta that gives this dish its unique taste. You will need fresh basil leaves for the sauce and some extra ones for serving.
Garlic - Minced garlic cloves give this pasta added flavour!
Chilli Flakes - Optional, for a mild spicy kick.
Pasta Water - This is what makes this sauce thick, rich, and creamy. Make sure to reserve one cup of pasta water before draining your pasta!
Cheese - Freshly grated cheese for serving. For a non-vegan version, I highly recommend Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.
For a vegan-friendly version, use freshly-grated vegan cheese.
How to Make Pasta Napoletana
Step 1: Cook the pasta
Cook pasta according to package instructions in a pot of salted boiling water.
Cook 1 minute less than package instructions for al-dente.
Don't forget to reserve one cup of pasta water before draining.
You can also cook the pasta while the sauce is simmering.
Step 2: Make the sauce
Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
Add the minced garlic and cook on medium-high heat until fragrant (around 30 seconds). Add chilli flakes if using.
Add the halved cherry tomatoes, sliced side facing down and cook for around 4-5 minutes, or until tomatoes are softened and start to release their juice.
Using a wooden spoon, lightly "smash" the tomatoes to release more juice.
Add a handful of fresh basil leaves.
Then, add 1 to 2 ladelfuls of reserved pasta water and simmer on medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Serve
Transfer cooked pasta into skilled with sauce and toss to coat evenly.
Transfer to serving plates. Top with fresh basil leaves and freshly-grated cheese and serve warm!
Tips for the Best Napoletana Sauce
- Make sure to reserve pasta water before draining your pasta! Thanks to its high starch content, this special ingredient gives the sauce some liquid, whilst keeping it thick and creamy.
- For a smoother sauce, blend it using a stick blender or a stand blender until smooth.
Make it Vegan
For a vegan-friendly version, sprinkle this pasta with vegan cheese.
All other ingredients in this recipe are plant-based and contain no animal products.
How to Serve It
Serve this pasta as a light lunch or dinner on busy weekdays.
Pasta Napoletana makes the perfect light pasta starter to a bigger lunch or dinner on weekends or special occasions.
Making Ahead and Storing
Napoletana pasta sauce can be made ahead, cooled, and stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Alternatively, the sauce freezes well for up to 2 months. When reheating, you may need to add a few tablespoonfuls of water to thin it.
Whilst the unique flavors of this sauce are derived from fresh tomatoes, you can certainly used canned tomatoes if fresh ones are not available.
Substitute 400g of fresh tomatoes with one can of chopped cherry tomatoes (or polpa) and follow the same recipe.
Traditional Neapolitan pasta or pasta al pomodoro is made with a light, meatless sauce.
However, you can certainly add cooked meat to the sauce (such as minced beef, bacon, pancetta, or sausage).
Other Pasta Recipes You May Like
- 320 g spaghetti or dry pasta of choice
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ tsp. dried chilli flakes optional
- 400 g cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. fresh basil + extra to serve
- freshly grated pecorino cheese or parmesan cheese or vegan cheese
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions until al-dente. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute until fragrant, around 30 seconds. If using, add dried chilli flakes.
- Add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced side facing down, and saute for 4-5 minutes or softened and until tomatoes start to release juice. Use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes to release more juice. Add 5-6 leaves of fresh basil.
- Add 1-2 ladlefuls of reserved pasta water and simmer sauce for 10-12 minutes or until sauce starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add cooked pasta to skilled and toss to coat well with sauce.
- Transfer to serving plates, top with fresh basil and freshly-grated pecorino cheese and serve warm.