Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Last fall, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the legendary—and lovely—Italian chef Marcella Hazan and her family for an article I was writing for work. We spent most of the day outside, and it was perfect—the weather had just turned from hot to warm, breezy and lovely, and since the article was about Marcella's son Giuliano's newest cookbook, there was tons of delicious food on hand. One of my favorite sound bites from the entire day was Marcella saying, "I don't drink—except Jack Daniels." That is a direct quote. What an awesome lady.

Anyway, I am not Italian—I am 100 percent Irish, in fact—but I am a great lover of Italian food, both the kind that you order at restaurants and the kind you make at home. And Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce is seriously the best, simplest marinara I've ever made. Would you believe me if I told you there's only three ingredients? That's right: Three. And one of them is butter. How can that be bad?

I haven't made this sauce in awhile, for some reason—which is strange, because it keeps beautifully and you can easily freeze it—but I was reminded of it while doing some meal-planning this week. ACS is in town for the week, and one of our favorite things to do is make homemade pizza; we typically use store-bought sauce, but I think homemade sauce would make the pizza way better. I'm also making Ina Garten's fantastic spicy turkey meatballs, which are perfect with tomato sauce and pasta (maybe this homemade pasta, in fact!). So yes, this sauce is a multitasker, as well.

Would you like me to shut up and give you the recipe now? Yes? OK, I will. Here you go:

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce

1 (28-oz.) can San Marzano tomatoes
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and peeled
Salt, as needed

Combine the tomatoes (including their juices), butter, onion and a pinch of salt in a medium-sized pot over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, uncovered, at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of a pot with a wooden spoon. (I do this quite a bit because I'm not a huge fan of chunky sauces.) Taste and salt as needed. Serve with the dish of your choice and lots of grated parmesan cheese for passing, if you are so inclined (I am).

Photo via


  1. I think I'm going to make A take me to the store to grab pre-made turkey meatballs tonight so that I can whip this up! I have a race on Saturday so the next two days are carb + lean protien intake. This looks delish!

    eileen ragan | leaner by the lake

  2. A four ingredient sauce sounds PERFECT for me! I usually stay away from making my own sauce because it seems so time consuming to get it just right. This one, though, I can do.

  3. The onion/butter sauce gets more and more recognition and is clearly one of the great ones. You may or may not be aware that the proportion of tomatoes you request is 28oz, significantly greater than the 16oz Marcella likes. Having made the sauce many times, I find that it is best to put the tomatoes through a food mill and then in the pot with the onions and butter. Your cooking time is good. The sauce should be thick. Then, take the pasta from the water with tongs-still wet-and drop it into the sauce. The rich pasta water slightly rehydrates the thick sauce with perfect flavor. The sauce clings beautifully to the pasta.

  4. I found your post while browsing tweets on Marcella Hazan after her sad passing. Thanks for sharing this classic recipe and your recent memories of her.