Pasta Napoletana (simply delicious!)

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This scrumptious pasta Napoletana is ready in less than 30 minutes and uses a handful of everyday ingredients. It’s juicy, full of flavor and totally delicious.

It’s also super easy, inexpensive, and you can get a weeknight family meal on the table with a few pantry staples and a little effort!

Top view of a white plate full of pasta napoletana with fresh basil.

Together with my popular ricotta pasta and spaghetti aglio e olio, this pasta napoletana has been a staple in my household for as long as I can remember.

In this easy Italian recipe the canned tomatoes are cooked in olive oil and plenty of diced onion. Sautéing onions concentrates their natural sugars and brings out their sweetness making a delicious flavor base for the tomato sauce.

Finally, pasta is tossed with the Napoletana sauce, lots of fresh basil and served with grated parmesan cheese. It’s that easy, and it tastes delicious!

And if you love pasta, you’ve come to the right place! From my quick pasta recipes ready in 15 minutes to this collections of my favorite Italian pasta recipes and one-pot pasta dishes, you will be spoilt for choice.

Let see what is pasta Napoletana!

List of the ingredients

  • Pasta (bucatini, spaghetti, penne…)
  • Canned tomatoes (I used Mutti cherry tomatoes, but any good quality canned tomatoes work fine).
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil or olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt & pepper
The ingredients to make pasta napoletana are arranged over a white background.

How to make pasta napoletana

(Note: this is a quick description with step by step photos, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)

  • Finely dice the onion.
  • Add the diced onion and the oil to the pan. I love this one, it’s non-stick perfection without harmful chemicals, and it’s super easy to clean.
Top view of a chopping board with diced onion and a white skillet with some diced onion and olive oil.
  • Saute’ the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.
  • Stir in the minced garlic until fragrant.
  • Add canned tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Top view of a white skillet full of diced onion and canned cherry tomatoes.
  • Cook the tomato sauce for 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime cook and drain the pasta.
  • Add pasta to the skillet along with fresh basil.
Top view of a skillet full of bucatini and napoletana sauce and fresh basil.
  • Toss until well combined and juicy adding a touch of cooking water.
  • Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves!
Close-up of a plate full of pasta napoletana with parmesan cheese and basil, fresh bread in the background.

Recipe notes

Pasta napoletana ingredients

PASTA: I used bucatini, but spaghetti or any other short pasta shapes work well too. Premium quality pasta, possibly trafilata al bronzo (bronze cut), is the best. My favorite brands are Garofalo and Rummo.

CANNED TOMATOES: for this recipe I used Mutti cherry tomatoes, they taste delicious and make a simple pasta sauce definitely more exciting! However, good quality whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes work just fine.

ONION: any color is fine, and feel free to use a whole large onion if you wish. Onions are packed with health benefits, just saying…

GARLIC: Use 2 or 3 garlic cloves to add more aromatic flavor.

OLIVE OILl: I used extra virgin olive oil, but any good olive oil works fine.

BASIL: it adds fresh herbal notes to the sauce, but you can use fresh parsley instead of basil if it’s what you have on hand.

PARMESAN CHEESE: fancy the vegan option? Feel free to skip the cheese, it will taste equally delicious.

Close-up of a plate full of bucatini with napoletana sauce with grated parmesan and basil leaves.

Recipe variations

Pasta napoletana tastes delicious on its own but it’s also easy to jazz up with ingredients you’re likely to have in your pantry or in your fridge:

  • Pantry ingredients: black olives, canned tuna, capers or anchovies make a lovely variation and add extra layers of flavor (See notes in the recipe card).
  • Fresh ingredients: You can use grated pecorino cheese, chopped mozzarella or some ricotta or crumbled feta instead of parmesan cheese.
A white plate full of pasta alla napoletana, bread and grated parmesan cheese in the background.

More pasta recipes featuring tomatoes:

How to whip up a delicious pasta recipes with a handful of pantry essentials such as canned tomatoes? Here you’ll find some of our favorites:

If you make this pasta napoletana, or if you have any questions, let me know! Leave a comment or rate it. I would love to hear from you! 

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Top view of a white plate full of pasta napoletana.
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Pasta Napoletana

This scrumptious pasta Napoletana is ready in less than 30 minutes and it's made with a handful of basic ingredients. Easy peasy, but so juicy, full of flavor and totally delicious.
Prep Time3 minutes
Cook Time22 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course: pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Pasta napoletana
Servings: 4
Calories: 324kcal
Author: Katia



  • 8oz (220 grams) spaghetti or bucatini (short pasta is fine too)

Napoletana Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (14oz/400 grams) tomatoes (whole, diced or cherry tomatoes)
  • ½ tsp fine salt, plus more to taste
  • tsp black pepper
  • 1 handful of basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 3 Tbsp grated parmesan, to serve



  • Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Start cooking the pasta about 5 minutes after you start making the sauce.
  • Cook pasta per packet instructions until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta.

Napoletana Sauce

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when it starts shimmering add the diced onion. Cook over medium heat until soft and translucent, it will take 5-6 minutes.
  • Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the tomatoes, salt and few twist of black pepper and give a good stir. Let it cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until it's slightly reduced. Stir occassionally, and if you use whole tomatoes break them with a back of a spoon.
  • When the sauce is ready, taste and adjust the seasoning according to your liking.
  • Add the drained pasta to the pan along with the fresh basil and toss until well combined. Add a touch of reserved starchy water to make the pasta juicer and moist.
  • Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and more torn fresh basil leaves. Freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to serve are optional. Enjoy!


ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS: you can add a handful of whole or chopped olives, canned tuna (previously drained), a few anchovies or 1 Tbsp of capers. Add one of these ingredients (or also a couple of them) when the onion is translucent. Toss them with the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the canned tomatoes according to the recipe.
STORAGE: keep pasta leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat pasta in microwave or stir fry in a skillet adding a touch of water and a drizzle of olive oil. The basil leaves will turn brown in the fridge, but refrigeration shouldn’t affect their flavor
Nutrition facts: Please note that the nutrition values are based on an online nutrition calculator.  It’s an estimate only and it should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. The nutrition value is for one serving.


Calories: 324kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 599mg | Potassium: 459mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 313IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 177mg | Iron: 2mg


  1. 5 stars
    This is a great dish for the vegetarians in my family, but I added a little twist to satisfy the carnivores by cooking Italian sausage as an add-in for them. And, I added chopped zucchini at the end of the onion & garlic cooking time. I also forgot to add the pasta water so I used broth instead (I always have broth on hand :-). Turned out amazing and everyone said it was a keeper!

    1. Super! I’m so pleased to hear that, Jean. : )
      Thank you for the lovely feedback. x

  2. Katrina Thomas says:

    5 stars
    So good! I especially enjoy it when the onions are slightly blackened!

    1. Brilliant, I’m so glad it turned out good! Thanks for sharing, Katrina. x

  3. 5 stars
    This was amazingly delicious, very easy instructions and easy to make. Thank you so much!

    1. I’m so glad to hear it turned out delicious! Thanks for sharing your feedback, Ali. : )
      Have a great weekend. x

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