Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter . . .

         It’s a sauce that’s ridiculously simple to prepare and astonishingly delicious to eat.  It’s the sweetness of the butter, the tartness of the tomatoes, and that little pinch of salt that makes the recipe so winning. And with Parmesan cheese grated on top, you can do no better for an easy weeknight meal. In fact, I urge you all to find someone in your life who doesn’t cook and to send them this recipe. Chances are, if they take the trouble to make it, they’ll be a cooking convert. Credit Marcella.


        If you haven’t already, read Kim Severson’s very thorough account of Marcella Hazan’s life; then read Ruth Reichl’s lovely reminiscence. Mostly, though, you should make this tomato sauce. In your kitchen, at your stove, with just a can of tomatoes and a little more than half a stick of butter, you can bring Marcella back to life. The recipes we leave behind are powerful things.



2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes (blanched, peeled, and chopped)
or–much easier–
2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes (I used a 28 ounce can of San Marzano), cut up, with their juice
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
1 pound pasta (spaghetti, penne, rigatoni)
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table


  1. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing any large piece of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4