Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

I was only recently introduced to the intuitive cooking of Marcella Hazan. Some say she is to Italian cuisine what Julia Child was to French. Some would dispute the comparison. I’m not terribly concerned either way, I just know she can cook.  This is her recipe, and a recipe that has made, and will continue to make, a very regular appearance on our dinner table.

I am far from the first to recommend this particular tomato sauce.  I saw it ages ago at Orangette, and then Smitten Kitchen (as if either of these weren’t compelling arguments enough), but what really sealed the deal was Rachel’s post. I don’t know if it was the whole 3rd-times-a-charm phenomenon or the fact that everything Rachel makes just looks so homey and right, but I made it.

And it was really, simply, good.

To quote Marcella, “No other preparation is more successful in delivering the prodigious satisfactions of Italian cooking than a competently executed sauce with tomatoes…”


Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Try to find imported San Marzano tomatoes, they do make a difference.  I easily found a can at my grocery store.

This is a leisurely preparation: a halved onion simmers languidly in tomatoes and butter for the better part of an hour. You sip a glass of wine and stir a few times throughout. Doesn’t it sound nice?

Really do make this.

1 (28 ounce) can imported San Marzano tomoatoes (Italian plum tomatoes) with their juice
5 tablepoons unsalted butter (I used clarified butter)
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste

Place the tomatoes, butter and halved onion in a sauce pan. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the fat floats free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally and gently smash any large tomato chunks with the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust with salt. Discard the onion before serving the sauce over pasta.


6 thoughts on “Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

    1. At last a normal comment, it’s so unlike you. I agree, I need to come up with some way to use the onion. I’ve thown out probably five already. You should make this for dinner one night this week and impress Ash. Adam says it reminds him of the pasta served at their Italy study abroad program.

  1. Lovely pictures, I especially like the top one.
    It is a wonderful sauce, perfect for cold grey days.
    After a comment about me throwing away the onion, I have started eating it squashed on nice bread, which is very tasty.

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