Total Time: 20 minutes

Spaghetti ca pummarola dish can be the culinary symbol of Naples. Great competitor would be pizza.

Pummarola in Neapolitan dialect means simply “tomato”.

So we can conclude that at the beginning the spaghetti were dressed with just pummarola ‘n coppa – tomato on top. It must have been even raw tomato chopped or reduced to a purée.

Spaghetti and pummarola seem to be made for each other. If I can make an example they go together like coffee and milk.

Of course together with the quality of the Neapolitan pasta, quality tomatoes should be San Marzano, or pomodorini del piennolo grown on the slopes of Vesuvius.

It’s amazing how tomato originally from America has developed so well in the Mediterranean, especially around Naples. It seems it found its natural home there.

Pummarola eventually developed into a sauce. Even in Naples there is no agreement on the ingredients besides tomato. What it’s certain, because of the quality of the two: pasta and tomato. Hard for anyone to go wrong.

Spaghetti ca pummarola ‘n coppa  only would be an inviting dish.

Another thing everybody can agrees on is that pummarola is a simple sauce, quick and easy, based and relying on the goodness and quality of the ingredients.

Basil too is a must as it marries ideally with the tomato and it acts like the finishing touch of the masterpiece. In fact, to enhance and retain the delicate aroma, it makes its presence at the end of the cooking of the sauce.

There have been cries like: “Give me liberty…”, “Give me money…”Give me love…” I think for the Neapolitans it would be: “Give me spaghetti c’a pummarola”.  Exaggerating?


Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 8 San Marzano tomatoes  chopped
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pecorino
  • salt



Use a large deep pan where you’ll finish the spaghetti. Put oil in the pan, garlic slightly crushed at low heat. Brown garlic lightly, then remove.

Add onion and cook until soft of a golden color.

Stir in chopped tomatoes, peeled and without seeds with their juice, add salt, raise the heat until it recovers and continue cooking for about 10=15 minutes at low heat.

At the end of cooking, turn heat off, add the basil tearing by hand and stir.

When spaghetti are approaching al dente, drain them as they will finish cooking combined with the pummarola. Turn the heat on again on the pan with the sauce, pour the spaghetti into pan and mix well for a minute or so to blend adding water from pasta if needed.

Add pecorino, turn heat off and serve at once your superb spaghetti ca’ pummarola.


Note: skip the onions if you like. You could reserve some leaves of basil at the end as you toss the spaghetti in the pan, or to decorate dishes.

More pasta recipes from Italy’s regions

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