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

  1. Pingback: A Food Hug: Tomato Soup « A Little Yumminess

  2. Eric

    I made this last night and added 2 cloves of sliced garlic out of habit. The Butter and onion flavor is remarkable together. This is a very unique and simple recipe that should be passed down. Thank you so much for this wonderful sauce.


  3. John

    My teenage son thought this tasted like Spaghettios. I thought it had an inner tube taste, definitely unpleasant. I made it like the recipe, but won’t make it again.

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  5. PC

    I love this recipe! I have been using it for a few years now and it is so easy to just add ingredients as you please to build different sauces. Perfect for those empty fridge moments…and it’s so delicious! You are so lucky you had a chance to meet Marcella, sounds like it was a great experience! πŸ™‚

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  7. kelly

    Amazingly delicious! Such a simple dish, yet… YUM! We used the last of our garden-grown tomatoes and this was the perfect way to enjoy them. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  12. Tracey

    Just made this with the exception of the addition of one garlic clove. Also, I couldn’t bear to have that braised onion covered in tomato go to waste so I zipped it in my food processor and added it back to the sauce. Should I do that again, I won’t add the whole onion. Aside from that, this was delicious and I’m so glad to end the search of the perfect sauce.

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  14. Raisa Berriz`

    This is my go to recipe for a simple but delicious tomato sauce. I’ve been making it for yeats. The simplicity of the ingredients speak for themselves! I don’t see where anyone would feel it taste like spaghettios or inner tube. Then again I don’t eat inner tube very often!
    This recipe is fabulous and easy! Love it!

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  16. Teresa

    We made this tonight and it was amazing. I don’t know if we can ever go back to store-bought sauce.

  17. mia

    I was looking for a good tomato sauce recipe and found your site.
    I used fresh plum tomatoes and didn’t like the color while I was cooking it and was not sure about the taste either. So I packed it for lunch just to check, IT IS VERY GOOD! I have guests tomorrow and that’s why I was looking for the recipe in the first place. And I took it for lunch so that I can taste it and was pretty convinced that I was going to make another sauce using herbs. But this is very GOOD! Thank you for the recipe!

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  19. Margaret

    I like this with oregano, basil, a little cumin, cayenne pepper and garlic, served with a fried egg. Seems to get better after a day in the fridge, but that could just be hunger.

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  21. JulieD

    Jaden, this sauce turned out awesome. I sliced up the onions and had them in the sauce with the spaghetti. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

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  23. Elna

    Yummy! I added garlic to the sauce, as I can’t imagine it without, and also chopped and left then onion in.
    Either way I’m sure it is delicious, as tomatoes and butter are a marriage made in heaven!
    I served it with whole wheat pasta, sprinkled with chopped fresh basil from my garden, toasted pine nuts and parmesan….. and red wine, of course!

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  25. barbara giacometti, Sunday at the Giacometti's

    I am a huge Marcella Hazan fan. Have never come across this simple recipe. I have always cut up the onion and sauteed first. Love the idea. Can’t wait to try this method~just came across your blog.. check me out on facebook too.. Sunday at the Giacometti’s. I am a traditional, classic, italian cook. I am so jealous you have had dinner with such Icons! lucky you!!

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  27. Pingback: a very easy tomato sauce recipe. « foodie in progress

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  30. Donna

    My Grand Mother made a dish very similar, which consisted macaroni,tomatoes,onions and bacon fat. Very much like a soup, and the more onion the better!

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  36. Brenda

    I have been making this recipe for years with our fresh garden tomatoes. We love this sauce! I put a few jars in the freezer to use during the winter when there are no fresh tomatoes.

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  41. Wes

    I used to make this years ago and always loved it even though it has all that butter. I now live in Mexico where a kilo of awesome ripe Roma tomatoes costs me about 40 cents. We slow roast a kilo about once a week and use it for our pasta dishes. A clove of garlic and a slice of fresh habanero won’t hurt either. Can’t wait to try this recipe again…maybe tomorrow!

  42. Pingback: Marcella Hazan’s Genius Tomato Sauce | Salt and Serenity

  43. Amanda

    Just found your recipe. I love the concept, but is there any way to make this sauce without all of the salt? I have family that can’t have all of the salt, and they e been looking for an easy tomato sauce that isn’t filled with salt and preservatives. Anyone have any suggestions?


  44. Betsy C

    @Amanda: This recipe is so, so flexible and only calls for salt to taste. Just cook your pasta in unsalted water and use unsalted butter. Salt to taste or diet requirements. Easy.

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