Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Have you ever stumbled upon a recipe that is so straightforward yet so revolutionary that it changes the way you think about an entire dish? Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is just that—a culinary gem that transforms basic ingredients into a masterpiece of flavor. With just tomatoes, butter, and onions, this sauce invites you to discover the magic of Italian cooking in its purest form. Why not explore how this simple recipe can elevate your pasta nights?

Discovering Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

The Legacy of Marcella Hazan

Marcella Hazan, often referred to as the godmother of Italian cuisine in America, brought the essence of Italian cooking to home kitchens across the world. Her recipes emphasize the importance of quality ingredients and culinary simplicity, a philosophy clearly embodied in her famous tomato sauce.

Why This Sauce Stands Out

In a world where complexity is often equated with sophistication, Hazan’s tomato sauce breaks the mold. It’s proof that sometimes, less truly is more. This sauce relies on the flavors of its few components, each chosen for their quality and contribution to the final taste.

Ingredients You Need

The Simple List

  • 28 ounces (800 grams) of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)
  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) of unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste

Choosing the Right Tomatoes

The choice of tomatoes is crucial. San Marzano tomatoes are preferred for their sweet flavor and low acidity, making them ideal for creating a balanced sauce.

Preparing the Sauce

Step-by-Step Cooking Process

Getting Started

  1. Combine Ingredients: In a saucepan, combine the whole tomatoes, butter, onion halves, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Simmer: Let the mixture simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Occasional Stirring: While simmering, stir occasionally and crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.

Finishing Touches

  1. Remove the Onion: After cooking, remove and discard the onion.
  2. Season to Taste: Adjust the salt and blend the sauce to your desired consistency.

Tips for Perfecting the Sauce

Cooking Tips

  • Low and Slow: A gentle simmer helps blend the flavors harmoniously without scorching the sauce.
  • Fresh vs. Canned Tomatoes: If using fresh tomatoes, choose ripe, flavorful varieties and consider peeling them for a smoother texture.

Storage and Usage

  • Storing the Sauce: This sauce can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to three months.
  • Versatile Uses: While perfect for pasta, it’s also great as a base for stews, pizza, and more.

Pairing with Pasta

Best Pasta Choices

Choose thicker, heartier pasta like spaghetti or linguine that can hold up to the weight and texture of the sauce. The simplicity of the sauce allows the quality of your pasta to shine through.

The Beauty of Simplicity

Philosophy in Cooking

Marcella Hazan’s approach reminds us that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. This sauce is a testament to the power of simplicity in the kitchen—where less can indeed be more.


Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is not just a recipe; it’s a lesson in culinary minimalism. By focusing on the quality of a few ingredients, Hazan has created a versatile and beloved sauce that stands the test of time. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, this sauce promises to bring a taste of Italy into your home with minimal effort and maximum flavor.


1. Can I add garlic to this sauce?

While not part of the original recipe, you can add garlic for extra flavor. Add minced garlic during the last 10 minutes of simmering to keep its flavor vibrant.

2. What if I only have salted butter?

You can use salted butter; just be mindful to adjust the additional salt you add to avoid an overly salty sauce.

3. Can I use this sauce for a meat-based dish?

Absolutely! It makes a great base for meatballs or as a simmering sauce for chicken or pork.

4. How can I make this sauce creamier?

For a richer, creamier texture, stir in some heavy cream or crème fraîche at the end of cooking.

5. Is this sauce suitable for canning?

This sauce can be canned using proper sterilization and canning techniques. Ensure acidity levels are suitable for safe preservation.

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