Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

marcella hazan tomato sauce

I recently had the pleasure of meeting, cooking and dining with Marcella and Victor Hazan at their home in Florida.

At 87 years old, Marcella Hazan is a legend in the culinary world, having influenced millions of Americans on the art of Italian cooking.

Of all recipes, I think this is simple Tomato Sauce is what she’s most famous for.

Read my post and see photos of my visit with Marcella and Victor Hazan.

Marcella’s Tomato Sauce: 3 ingredients

Four, if you count the pasta as well.

1 whole onion, one 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes (from San Marzano if you can find them), 5 tablespoons of butter and pasta of your choice. I used salted butter, which let me omit the added salt to the sauce (and I also salt my boiling pasta water too)

Place the butter, onion and tomatoes (I’ve roughly chopped the tomatoes first) into a pot and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

Until it looks like this, where droplets of fat float freely from the tomato:

Remove the onion and discard if you must (but secretly, I enjoyed it with a little salt and pepper)

This is what tomato sauce is all about!

Serve over pasta.

Victor and Marcella sent me home with a gift of custom made Italian sausage by Paul Bertolli:

And so we grilled them outside…but a little boy was impatient and couldn’t wait for me to finish my photoshoot.

After I scolded him for grabbing the sausage with his hands before dinner was served, I turned around to get the other plates dished up.

And caught him….

in the act…

of super-fast slurping…hoping not to get caught…

look at that slurptastic action!

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter Recipe

recipe adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

I used salted butter and also heavily salted the boiling pasta water, so I didn’t add any additional salt to the sauce. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed.

One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find), tomatoes roughly chopped with their juices
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved

Heat a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low to keep a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Discard the onion. Serve over cooked pasta.

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Comments 123

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    Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
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  3. Margaret

    But. It’s. Too. Simple! Must. Resist. Urge. Too “Zazz up”. littl eold Italian ladies can’t be wrong, right? I wish there were more comments on this so I could see what people have to say. It sure looks delish! And I would totally eat the onion myself, too! (heck, I might just chop it up and throw it back into the sauce. Why not?)

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  5. Raj

    Is there a substitute for butter In this dish? I am a person who avoids butter and all of that as much as possible.

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  7. Caralyn haglund

    Tried this today. It just tasted like hot canned tomatoes. Added some black pepper and Italian seasonings. That perked it up some. I then added about two teaspoons of sugar. It still wasn’t quite right. I decided to go ahead and use it for dinner. I added more onion chopped and red, orange and yellow peppers. I cut up a round steak into cubes and put that in. Let it simmer for two and a half hours. Then I added some homemade noidles, just a few. My husband and I thought the outcome was delish! I definitely will not be making the basic tomato sauce recipe again. It just lacked any kind of flavor other than canned tomatoes.

  8. Pingback: Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

  9. Steve heiser

    I have to say the best part of this recipe are the onions they were really good with butter and salt and pepper but the rest was tasteless the sauce was tasteless to thin no body the tomatoes were really good but the sauce lacked meat even though it had the meatballs I’m sorry but 1 to 5 I would give it a 2 -thanks steve


    I have made something similar to this recipe for years, I add tomato juice 24 oz and then a heaping tablespoon of cheese whiz then about 150 grams of cheddar old or sharp, spices salt, pepper, garlic, basil (all to taste). This is all added to the butter tomato sauce. we find it very tasty.

  11. Caroline

    I absolutely love it. There first batch was so so. Tomatoes were too pale. Then I used little Rosa tomatoes. That worked well. I added a bit of sugar. BUT then I went and baked this sauce. That’s when it shone. Fabulous.

  12. Cara-Ann

    Divine!! Could barely stop tasting it long enough for it to cook! Hubby commented that it might need herbs while it was cooking, but after pairing it with sausages (russions) he licked the plate! Yum yum.

  13. Karen Ransil

    I’ve made Marcella’s tomato butter sauce many times and the outcome has always been good. In Northern Italy they use butter, in Southern Italy they use olive oil. Olive trees are plentiful in the South. Both regions make great sauces, but are different.

  14. Helen

    Many years ago, when I was little, my family went on vacation to Cape Cod. My mom had a beautiful little seashell on the perfume tray on her dresser, and she found one at the beach. I, too, could hear the ocean and I looked forward to bringing it home with me. When we got back to the house at which we were staying, I left it outside on top of the garbage can lid. In the morning, I went to check on it, only to discover a crab half sticking out of it.

    I spent the entire drive home wondering how that crab had followed us all the way from the beach to get back in that shell!

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