Italian Word of the Day: Pomodoro (tomato)

The humble tomato forms the basis of nearly all Italian cuisine. It is used to make tomato sauce for pasta and lasagne, is a key ingredient in most pizzas, and is a popular addition to many Mediterranean salads.

the italian word pomodoro

If you thought that the Italian word for tomato would sound like the English or the Spanish tomate, think again: the word is actually pomodoro (masculine, plural: pomodori)! It literally means “apple of gold” (pomo d’oro) in Italian, a reference to the colour of the tomato before it becomes fully ripe.

IPA: /po.moˈdɔ.ro/

To talk about a small tomato, you can add the diminutive suffix -ino to the end of pomodoro to make the word pomodorino (small tomato).

Tomatoes and tomato sauce

There are many varieties of tomato, some of the most popular being:

  • pomodoro cuore di bue = beefsteak tomato
  • pomodoro ciliegino = cherry tomato
  • pomodoro San Marzano = a variety of plum tomato
  • pomodoro perino = plum tomato
  • pomodoro Roma = Roman tomato
  • pomodoro secco = sun-dried tomato
  • costoluto = ribbed tomato
  • pomodoro datterino = grape tomato

Various food products are also made of tomatoes including:

  • passata di pomodoro = tomato purée
  • salsa di pomodoro = tomato sauce
  • succo di pomodoro = tomato juice
  • zuppa di pomodoro = tomato soup

And the list of dishes you can create with tomatoes is seemingly endless!

  • pasta al pomodoro = tomato pasta
  • pappa al pomodoro = a thick Tuscan bread soup
  • gnocchi al pomodoro = tomato gnocchi
  • risotto al pomodoro = tomato risotto
  • focaccia al pomodoro = tomato focaccia

When I’ve been out running on a cold day and I come back home with a red nose and rosy cheeks, my husband will often say to me:

Sei rossa come un pomodoro!

You’re as red as a tomato!

Finally, we have the pomodoro di mare (lit. tomato of the sea) which is part of the family of sea anemones.

Il pomodoro di mare (actinia equina)
Photo: Fabrizio P. Fonte (CC BY-SA 3.0)


One of the most famous pizzeria chains in Italy is called Rossopomodoro (Red Tomato). Founded in Naples by three former professional rugby players, it boasts approximately 70 outlets in Italy, in addition to numerous other locations around the world including the USA, UK, France, Germany, Iceland, Malta, Turkey, Denmark, Portugal, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Below you can see me enjoying a pizza at the Rossopomodoro at Milano Malpensa Airport!

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