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Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce

It took me about a year to master my family's secret tomato sauce -- it took me 45 minutes to fall in love with Marcella Hazan's recipe and feel like I created something really special. And really simple.

If you've never heard of Marcella Hazan, never read her cookbooks or seen her picture, it doesn't mean she hasn't had some impact on your life. In short, Marcella Hazan taught America how to cook Italian. So if you've ever visited an Italian restaurant, slurped spaghetti or soaked up balsamic vinaigrette with Italian bread, you probably have Marcella to thank.

She was born in Italy and moved to New York with her husband, who encouraged her to immerse herself in NY culture, visit local markets, and learn to love cooking. Her hobby became her career, and six cookbooks (and a memoir) later she's one of the best known, best loved chefs in the world. She's known world wide for her attention to detail, focus on fresh ingredients and stubborn character.

Her tomato sauce, which was featured in her fourth book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, takes a common ingredient out of the Italian equation -- you will find no olive oil in this sauce. In its place you'll use butter, which will leave you wondering why you weren't using butter in your sauce all along. Seriously, this is one simple, beautiful recipe to have in your arsenal.

2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (I used a 28 oz. can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half.

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a slow simmer, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with your spoon. Add salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

This recipe makes enough sauce for one pound of pasta. It's also fabulous with sautéed vegetables, like zucchini. And this might be obvious, but don't you dare throw away that onion. Cut it up, put it on your plate, devour it.



A dear friend and mentor gave me that Marcella Hazan cook book a few years ago and it's a prized posession. I've made this sauce several times. and it's delicious! I've never really had the cojones to put in all that butter, but what I do put in gives the sauce a rich full taste, and it cuts into acid somewhat. I always include the onion in my sauce though


I just finished making this sauce and I'm not impressed. It tastes like canned tomatoes mellowed slightly with butter. And the onion imparted virtually no flavor. I will put the sauce in the fridge overnight and see if it improves with age. I was truly hoping this simple sauce would be better than it is.


I love to cook and Marcella's cookbook is one of my all time favorites. She has a number of great sauce recipes and I love making her one of smothered onions. Yummy!

Bill - did you cover the sauce when you cooked it? That or too low heat might be part of the problem. Give it one more try. It's really a rich and wonderful sauce.

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