The Classics- Tomato Sauce


Once month I do an informal “cooking lesson” with my girlfriends. They come over and we make a simple dinner together, they ask me tons of cooking questions as we go and then they leave with the recipe. This BASIC tomato sauce recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, is by far the most useful they have learned. Mary said she finally feels confident in her kitchen with this dish under her belt!

San Marzano tomato tins

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan

Yield: Enough sauce for about 1 pound of pasta, or 4 servings

One 28-oz. can whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices (preferably imported San Marzano tomatoes)

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half

dash of red chili flakes (optional)

Salt, to taste

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan. Add a big pinch or two of salt and the chili flakes if desired. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very low simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.

Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.  If you like smooth sauce then run it through your blender before serving. This recipe has worked well using cubed or crushed plum tomatoes if that’s all you have on hand.


This recipe will break your $8 jarred tomato sauce habit. It is the answer to “what should I make for dinner without having to go to the store for groceries?” It elevates simple spaghetti noodles to dinner party status. It is fantastic over grilled chicken, sauteed with turkey meat and then stuffed into bell peppers or to used to jazz up steamed vegetables.

Better pictures and more eloquent description of this fantastic sauce seen here and here.

I hope this inspires you to make more dinners at home as it did for my girlfriends, Bon Appetit!

5 Comments on The Classics- Tomato Sauce

  1. Alissa
    July 28, 2010 at 10:13 am (13 years ago)

    So Delicious!

  2. Sandra Sanchez
    July 28, 2010 at 11:00 am (13 years ago)

    Fantastic! Thanks!

  3. Mary
    July 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm (13 years ago)

    This is the most amazingly easy recipe. I make a huge batch once a week and literally live off of it!

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