The Rowdy Chowgirl
A simple tomato sauce with a fresh, smooth taste.

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce is, simply put, the best sauce ever.

I don’t know why I am so slow on the uptake sometimes.

Take Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce. I have read rave reviews of this sauce for years, eons maybe…seen all sorts of variations on it, each promising The. Best. Sauce. Ever. And still, I hadn’t tried it. What could be so special about such a simple sauce, anyway? It has exactly three and a half ingredients, for Pete’s sake! And besides, I was quite comfortable with the marinara that Michael makes. It’s classic, delicious, and I don’t have to make it. Enough said.

I was reading Spoon Fed by Kim Severson, a memoir of her career as a food writer, with stories about cooks that have been significant in her life. And there it was again, Marcella Hazan’s sauce.

At about the same time, I received a jar of home canned tomatoes from a friend. I may be slow sometimes, but even I could hear opportunity knocking, loud and clear.

This sauce really is as good as everyone promises, possibly even better. Of course, how can any recipe with nearly a stick of butter in it go wrong? The sauce is fresh and tomatoey (if that is a word), but the butter smooths off all of the edges into something much richer than any ordinary sauce. We dropped meatballs into it, but it would be just as good without any meat, served over spaghetti with a dusting of Parmesan (or straight out of the pot in big spoonfuls!).

Using top quality tomatoes is truly non-negotiable in this recipe. If you have home-grown, home-canned ones, use them. If not, look for San Marzano plum tomatoes at the store.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
(adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)

28-ounce can of good quality whole plum tomatoes (home canned or San Marzano, ideally)
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium yellow onion, halved and peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt

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

Christina Masters blogs at The Rowdy Chowgirl.

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