Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter


"This is the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistibly sweet tomato taste," says cookbook author Marcella Hazan in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. "I have known people to skip the pasta and eat the sauce directly out of the pot with a spoon." 

Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter Recipe
Photo: Photo and Styling by Julia Gartland
Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
55 mins
6 servings


  • 2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and roughly chopped (or 2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice)

  • 5 tablespoons butter

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta, cooked

  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving


  1. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan. Add the butter, onion, and salt. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust for salt. Discard the onion, then toss the sauce with pasta. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Make Ahead

The finished sauce may be frozen. Make sure to remove and discard the onion before freezing.


Recommended pasta: This is an unsurpassed sauce for Potato Gnocchi, but it is also delicious with spaghetti, penne, or rigatoni.

Reprinted with permission from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Copyright 1992 by Marcella Hazan. Published by Knopf.

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