The simplicity of so many great Italian recipes is what makes them a family favorite. This quick, easy, & flavorful pasta alla pizzaiola is one of those delicious classic meals that you will want to make on repeat. With only 6 ingredients & 30 minutes it's a no fuss recipe to love.
This authentic pizzaiola-style pasta dish may sound basic but the flavors bring a lot of wow. My grandma made a marinara sauce similar to this. I simply swap out dried basil for dried oregano in her timeless recipe for a pizza sauce aroma.
This was inspired by my recipe for Pepperoni Spaghetti. I wanted a vegan pasta dish for those days when we didn't want meat. Both bring the best of pasta & pizza together into one yummy dish. But if you crave a comforting meatless meal, pasta served with a pizzaiola sauce is the best.
What is Pizzaiola & What Does it Mean?
Pizzaiola translates from Italian to English, meaning "in the manner of a pizza maker". Therefore, Pasta alla Pizzaiola is a recipe where the sauce is similar to that of pizza sauce. This simple & classic Italian sauce is made with traditional ingredients such as tomato, oil, garlic, and oregano.
What is pizzaiola sauce? Pizzaiola sauce is used for many dishes from the Naples region, most notably to make steak pizzaiola (carne alla pizzaiola). The savory sauce is used to flavor & tenderize thin slices of steak as it slowly cooks.
Naples is world famous for its pizza, the Neapolitan-style thin crust is heavenly. So it is natural for the sauce to make its way into other amazing dishes, including this wonderful pizzaiola pasta recipe.
Ingredients for Pasta alla Pizzaiola
For the quick & easy sauce, the traditional ingredients are needed. Like marinara, the pizza-inspired sauce has a rich tomato base and enough seasonings for a flavor boost. It starts with canned crushed tomatoes, fresh garlic, herbs, spices, & fragrant olive oil.
Like most pasta dishes, the type of pasta that pairs with the type of sauce is key. With any hearty tomato sauce, I recommend a short tube pasta with ridges (rigate). Rigatoni, penne, or ziti are great. If you do prefer a long thing pasta, go for spaghetti or angel hair.
- Pasta - Rigatoni rigate is preferred but any short-tube pasta with ridges works.
- Crushed Tomatoes - Canned crushed tomatoes in puree give the ideal consistency & texture for a sauce that will really stick to the pasta. San Marzano Tomatoes are the gold-standard & what I use typically.
- Olive Oil - Use good quality so the floral notes & light fatty richness come through.
- Garlic - Fresh cloves of garlic are important and highly recommended in this recipe.
- Oregano - Dried works fine in this for a subtle lemony herb flavor.
- Salt & Pepper - season to taste
- Red Pepper Flakes - optional for a spicy kick but highly recommended.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Why This is the Best Pizzaiola Sauce
A few common ingredients are all you need for this sauce so you are probably wondering what makes this recipe so good. What I love about Italian cooking is that it isn't complicated but by using good quality ingredients a recipe can be delicious. But add one extra easy step & a recipe can be fantastic.
That one extra step that is in my sauce is what sets it apart from the others. Like in my recipe for chickpea curry, sauteeing the herbs & spices in the pan is the game changer. Toasting the garlic and oregano brings out their flavors.
Infusing the olive oil into something amazing is my secret. Make sure you do not skip this step. The extra minute it takes makes all the difference & see how easy it is.
How to Make Pizzaiolo Pasta
Get ready to love this recipe. It takes just 30 minutes & only about 5 minutes of active prep time. Then you can pour yourself a glass of wine & just wait.
Here are the easy steps for making ...
- Infuse the olive oil
- Simmer the pizzaiola sauce
- Boil the pasta
- Combine the pasta and sauce
1 - Infuse the Olive Oil
In a medium-sized saucepot on medium heat, add the olive oil. Let it warm up for a minute while you finely chop or press the garlic cloves.
Next, add the garlic, oregano, & red pepper flakes. Stir and heat through over medium heat. Let the olive oil infuse with the spices for 3 minutes while stirring gently.
2 - Simmer the Pizzaiola Sauce
Once the olive oil is warmed through with the spices, slowly add the can of crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine.
Reduce the heat to low to simmer the sauce. Stir occasionally.
The sauce will take about 20 minutes to cook on low. While it is simmering, time to cook the pasta.
TIP: Halfway through the simmering process, use a small spoon to taste the sauce. Season with salt or black pepper if needed.
3 -Boil the Pasta
Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.
Add the rigatoni to boiling water and turn the heat down a bit. Stir occasionally while the pasta is cooking. Cook until al dente - about 8 minutes. Turn the heat off the sauce & the pasta now.
4 - Combine the Pasta and Sauce
Once the pasta is ready, the sauce will be done as well. Now all that is needed is combining the two together into one magical meal.
Drain the pasta through a colander & then add it back to the pot it was cooked in. I like to use a pasta pot with a strainer lid, so easy!
Slowly pour or use a ladle to add the sauce to the pot with the pasta in it. Gently toss to coat all the pasta.
TO SERVE: Serve pasta alla pizzaiola in individual pasta bowls or a large pasta bowl/platter. Top with fresh parmesan, torn fresh basil leaves, or an additional drizzle of olive oil (my favorite)!
Substitutions & Variations
Here are some great recipe variations & ingredient substitutions that can be made. Add, omit, or use one of these alternatives for other delicious recipe ideas for pizzaiola pasta. These may help you enjoy this recipe even with dietary, health, or personal nutritional preferences.
- Crushed Tomatoes - instead of canned tomatoes, use fresh tomatoes without the seeds and skins then pulse in a food processor.
- Pasta - use gluten-free pasta instead of regular pasta for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Or try a different shape like bucatini, spaghetti, penne, or fusilli.
This pasta sauce is already vegan, vegetarian, meatless, gluten-free, & dairy-free.
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Storing & Reheating
Leftovers store well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I prefer storing the pasta and sauce separately but either way will work. I do not recommend freezing leftover pasta but the sauce can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 60 days.
To reheat, microwave the sauced pasta for 30-60 seconds. Or reheat pasta by dunking it into boiling water for a minute to revive it. Reheat the sauce in a saucepan on the stove for 5 minutes on low. Then drain the pasta and add the reheated sauce.
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so good and important they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them.
- Don's skip the step of sauteeing the spices and garlic in the olive oil before adding the tomatoes.
- Cook the pasta while the sauce simmers.
- Taste test the sauce midway through cooking & season as needed.
- Enjoy immediately.
This thin-skinned variety of plum tomatoes are ideal for pizza & pasta sauces. The meaty flesh has less seeds & the watery "goopy stuff". This results in a rich flavorful sauce that isn't watery & has amazing texture. Nowadays it is easy to find them in most grocery stores and the cost is often similar or just slightly more than other brands & worth the extra pennies.
Al forno means "to the oven". It is any baked dish and in this case would be baked pasta. For a vegetarian recipe try my Rigatoni al Forno recipe. Or you can add this pasta and sauce to a baking dish & bake in an oven at 350° for 20 minutes. It may dry the pasta out a bit so I recommend drizzling additional olive oil on it and/or add shredded mozzarella.
Pasta alla Pizzaiola
- 1 pound pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 28 ounces can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- fresh basil leaves optional for topping
- In a medium-sized saucepot on medium heat, add the olive oil. Let it warm up for a minute while you finely chop or press the garlic cloves.
- Add the garlic, oregano, & red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for 3 minutes. This allows the spices to toast & the oil to become infused with the flavors.
- Add the can of crushed tomatoes carefully to the oil. Bring to a simmer and then lower the heat to low. The sauce will take about 20 minutes to cook on low. While it is simmering, time to cook the pasta.
- Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.Once boiling, add the pasta to the water & stir. Turn the heat down to medium.
- While the pasta is cooking, taste-test the sauce. Add salt & pepper as needed.
- Cook the pasta until al dente - about 8 minutes. Turn the heat off the sauce & the pasta now.
- Drain the pasta through a colander & then add it back to the pot it was cooked in. Slowly pour or use a ladle to add the sauce to the pot with the pasta in it. Gently toss to coat all the pasta.
- Serve immediately in a large pasta bowl or platter. Or serve on individual pasta bowls or plates.
- Top with fresh parmesan, torn fresh basil leaves, or an additional drizzle of olive oil.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7.7g||10%|
|Saturated Fat 1.1g||6%|
|Total Carbohydrate 76.1g||28%|
|Dietary Fiber 9g||32%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
|Recipe analyzed by|