Basic: Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti

We had the pleasure to teach a dear friend who was starting to cook. We started with a basic recipe – spaghetti with tomato sauce, garlic and cheese. Your pasta should come out creamy – simple and delicious! Everyone at the table (including my lovely but picky wife) took a second serving so we took that as a success. 😉

This recipe is common all over Italy, of course. It originated however in Naples in the 1700s.


20 minutes


This recipe was prepared for 4 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cans of peeled tomatoes
  • 500g of spaghetti (bronze pulled)
  • 100g pecorino cheese
  • basil leaves (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • coarse salt for pasta pot

  1. Pour the canned tomatoes into a bowl. Pinch off and remove the hard tips of peeled tomatoes.
  1. On a medium-low flame, add a generous amount of olive oil in a pan. Start to boil a pot of water on a separate stove.
  1. Cut off the base of garlic cloves, and cut them into halves. Add to the pan and leave to cook for 1-2 minutes (still on low-medium flame) so that they release their flavours into the oil.
  1. Add tomato sauce, allow it to warm (still on low-medium flame). Add salt to taste. Stir occasionally. Remember that you will be adding cheese at the end which will add to the final dish’s saltiness.

    At this point, the sauce should remain “wet” and not thickening or drying up. There will be some bubbling of the sauce but not too much.

    If you have basil leaves, you may add them to add a layer of sweet notes.
  1. While the sauce is warming, grate the pecorino cheese. We grated about a quarter of a wedge, which filled half a medium-sized bowl.
  1. When the pot of water boils, add 2 handfuls of salt (preferably coarse salt). Add the spaghetti. Set a timer to the time indicated on the packaging minus 2 minutes. Your pasta will finish cooking in the pan with the sauce later on, so that it exudes its starch to add creaminess to the sauce.

    It may seem like a lot of salt but do not worry. You need it to season the pasta. Most of that salt is going to remain in the big pot of water.
  1. After the timer rings, use a pasta ladle to transfer your spaghetti to the pan. With a ladle, add “starchy” water (a little at a time) from the pot where the pasta was cooked in if the sauce is not “wet” enough. When you move your spatula along the side of the pan, you should see a layer of liquid over the tomato sauce.
  1. After 2 minutes, check that the sauce is “wet”. This is to make sure that there is sufficient water in the sauce to mix with the cheese.
  1. Switch the flame off and allow the pan to cool slightly for a few minutes. Add the grated pecorino cheese, distributing it over the surface of the pan.
  1. Start working the cheese into the spaghetti by stirring from the top to allow the cheese to melt, before mixing it thoroughly. Once mixed, you are ready to serve!

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Canned peel tomatoes (La Corvinia, 400g net weight per can) – Foodies Market. Alternatively, buy canned tomatoes which are made either in (SA) Salerno or (CA) Cagliari, Sardinia.
  • Pecorino cheese – Foodies Market or Cold Storage
  • Coarse salt (Morton coarse kosher salt) – Cold Storage
  • Spaghetti (Academia Barilla, 500g) – Cold Storage

See other recipes


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.