I make this pasta sauce frequently, and some of my favorite things about it is how quick it is to make, it only requires three ingredients (tomatoes, butter, and onion), and it is delicious! This recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook.
Matthew and I received this book as a wedding gift from our friend Dave, who is now a piano tuner extraordinaire in the heart of the Midwest, in Indianapolis. His inscription reads: Wishing you many, many joyful meals together! Nothing can replace good old cookbooks that fall open to your favorite recipes, pages warped from spilled ingredients of years gone by. I often look up recipes online, but my tried and true cookbooks are like old friends; there is history there.
When you are pressed for time, and need to make something just a little extra special, I say this is the ticket. Homemade pasta sauce. I am going to tell you how to make it just the way I make it. From memory. Hehe. It’s so easy.
Get out your dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. Open a 15.5 oz can of very good tomatoes (the San Marzanos, please), and pour tomatoes and juices in the pot. Crush up the tomatoes with your hand; it’s easier and quicker that way, and you will feel rustic while doing so.
Now peel a medium yellow onion, cut it in half, and put both halves cut side down in the tomatoes. Add a chunk of unsalted butter… 5 tablespoons, but sometimes I go crazy and just throw in an entire cube.
Bring the sauce to a very slow but steady simmer. Let the sauce simmer uncovered for at least 45 minutes. I like to let it simmer for longer if possible. Stir it every now and then without breaking up the onion. You’ll notice it changing color a bit, and the butter separates a little from the tomatoes.
The nice thing about this is that you can just go about your business and do other things. As long as the sauce is at a slow simmer, nothing will burn. At your leisure, when it suits you, you can make a little tossed salad and get some pasta into boiling water, all the while knowing your sauce is simmering and doing its thing. Now, when the sauce has been simmering for at least 45 minutes, and you are ready to put your dinner together, drum roll please: … for people like me who don’t like biting into onion chunks, this is so great: remove the onions and discard. Gosh, I love this recipe. Now give it a final stir and it’s good to go. The sauce is deliciously sweet and fresh tasting, and just perfect for an easy meal with a touch of homemade love.
It is also wonderful with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Feel free to add salt and cracked pepper to taste, or throw in some fresh basil at the last minute. The simplicity of this sauce is its secret, so don’t overdo it. I add nothing, because I like the sweetness of the tomatoes, just the way they are. You might just want to dip bread into the sauce and eat it that way…Buon Appetito!
Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
(recipe from Marcella Hazan)
- 1 15.5 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, including the juices
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
- 5 Tablespoons (or a bit more) unsalted butter
Place the tomatoes in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pot and crush the tomatoes with your hands, or a wooden spoon. Add the onion halves, cut side down, and the butter. Bring to a slow simmer and let cook uncovered for 45 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally without breaking up the onion halves. Remove onion halves and discard, and give a final stir before serving. Enjoy!
Tip: I sometimes use the leftover sauce to cook frozen meatballs. I like the Trader Joe’s “Party Size Mini Meatballs”. I put the leftover sauce in a sauce pan, add frozen meatballs and stir to coat. Then cover and let simmer for about twenty to thirty minutes. The result is so so good! And again, quick and easy!