The food blogosphere has been raving about this sauce for many years, but I’m not sharing with you just because I obediently follow the recommendations of my elders. I actually expected a completely unexciting sauce–palatable enough to eat and not waste anything, but not great enough for me to want to share with you.

Obviously I was wrong. This is the tomato sauce you might especially want to eat when you’re clogged up with rich cold-weather food. It’s very simple and comforting, using just a few ingredients in one pot and a hands-off approach. The butter enriches the tomato in a smooth, subtle way, bringing forth the natural sweetness, while the slowly simmered onion encourages a gentle savoury background.

I’ve made this with own-brand chopped tomatoes, fancy imported whole Italian plum tomatoes, fancy butter and not-so fancy butter; every variation was quite delicious. I think you’ve mainly got to be patient enough to let it simmer, and don’t be afraid to taste and salt it appropriately at the end.

Recipes: Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion

Serving Size: 4, generously


  • . 800g canned whole plum tomatoes, chopped, or crushed with your hands
  • . 75g unsalted butter
  • . 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • . Salt to taste


  1. Put the tomatoes (with their juice), butter, and onion halves into a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a moderate simmer over a medium heat.
  3. Turn the heat down low so the sauce only very gently but steadily bubbles.
  4. Simmer them slowly like this, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to stir now and then, crushing large pieces of tomato against the side of the pan.
  6. The sauce is ready when the surface of the sauce has small pools and droplets of gold-red fat on top and the texture is velvety.
  7. Salt to taste.
  8. Serve, tossed with any pasta of your choice, with or without parmesan cheese.
  9. This sauce can also be cooled and stored in the fridge for a few days in advance. Reheat until piping hot before serving.

About The Author

History of Art graduate from SOAS (jointly with UCL). I cook, eat, and observe the world. Then I write about it and share it with you. This is a unilateral decision.

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