Marcella's Famous Butter Tomato Sauce

Have you ever wondered why you rarely see a tomato sauce recipe here?

Stop wondering. I don't make tomato sauce.
It's not my favorite.

I'm a Cacio e Pepe or Aglio Olio kind of gal.

Give me butter and black pepper on pasta and I am more than happy.

I would rather have pasta w/ a fresh pesto made w/ herbs from my garden, or a pasta with cauliflower, raisins & anchovies.

A Sunday gravy or sausage ragu is another story, bring on the pork, neck bones and ribs. But I never make a marinara sauce.

As I have gotten older, I find that tomato sauce bothers me. It gives me a bit of heartburn or indigestion, if you know what I mean.

I have been reading about the late Marcella Hazan's Butter Tomato Sauce forever, and once again, I am one of the few people who had not tried it yet.

Well, I have been born again.

This is the most delicious, and certainly the easiest tomato sauce I have ever made.

You don't have to start your sauce early on a Sunday, or cancel your plans because you have a sauce/sugo on the stove.

This takes all of 45 minutes, and it is scary addictive.

No cheese needed (don't you dare), because the sauce is pretty rich.

Just a nice bottle of Chianti or Barbaresco and you are ready to go.

If you can memorize these 3 ingredients, then you don't have to print out the recipe.

~ 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
~ 5 tbsp of unsalted butter
~ 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut in half

This recipe makes enough for l lb. of pasta (preferably penne or spaghetti......I used bucatini because I had it), enough for 4 people, with a salad.

Marcella Hazan's Famous Tomato Sauce:

Lay the onion halves, the butter and the tomatoes in a 3 quart saucepan.

Turn on the flame and cook at a low heat for 40 minutes just a simmer, stirring only a few times to break up the tomatoes.

Your kitchen will smell like you are baking (from the butter) and Sunday sauce (from the tomatoes).

When the sauce is finished (it will be nice and thick), remove and discard the onions.
Throw in a pinch of salt at the end to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon).

Cook your pasta as per directions.
Drain and add to the sauce in the pot.

Stir to coat and serve w/ a nice arugula salad and enjoy.

Let me know what you think.

This is SO GOOD.


Natalia said…
Sounds simple enough & looks delicious from your photos. I've only made tomato sauce from our home grown tomatoes & that only lasts a few weeks, because you can't really freeze tomato sauce. Never though of adding butter to tomato sauce - I bet this makes it really creamy!
Anonymous said…
I know the world on Food52 has been stark raving mad for this, but when I made it for our crew down on LBI last summer it got a BIG thumbs down. We're all used to my mom's sauce with lots of olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs & meatballs/pork. I wasn't a fan myself - the over unctuous mouth feel from ALL THAT BUTTER was definitely not what I'm wanting in my sauce. I was making dinner for 12 and the amount of butter needed for my vat o'sauce was bordering on the obscene. FYI - I'm not a fan of any creamy pasta dishes, i.e. al fredo, vodka, so it might just be my palate.
I have to admit, I never made it either because I'm a garlic, olive oil and fresh basil fan, so I don't know... But your last photo makes me want to slurp it up!
Stacey Snacks said…
I promise, it's delicious, however, it is a richer sauce, not thin at all, but it's certainly not pink like a vodka sauce or alfredo sauce (both of those sauces make me GAG).

Natalia, of course you can freeze tomato sauce! It's the easiest and best thing to freeze!
Gerri said…
I made this sauce a few months back, and we loved it. I served it on penne and my kids lapped it up!

It's my new easy weeknight sauce.

I have cut down the butter to 4 tbsp.
How can Marcella Hazan be wrong????
Gerri said…
I made this sauce a few months back, and we loved it. I served it on penne and my kids lapped it up!

It's my new easy weeknight sauce.

I have cut down the butter to 4 tbsp.
How can Marcella Hazan be wrong????
Anonymous said…
Not sure how anyone can mess this up or not like it, but it's very rich from the butter.
I cut down the butter also to 4 tbsp the second time I made it.
It's also my go to sauce now. So easy and delish!
Ciao Chow Linda said…
Well, I've never made it either, but I've made so many of Marcella's recipes and loved them, so I have no reason to think I wouldn't love this. Besides, I DO love vodka sauce with that cream. Diet be damned.
Pam said…
You know anything with a stick of butter in it must be delicious! It looks amazing Stacey!
Susan..... said…
It's the house sauce at Scarpettas and I also never tried this until last week. While it is simple good, for me it would be a good base to keep in the freezer for when I don't have time to make a full sauce. Defrost and add a few additional flavorings or meat scraps. It's also good sauce to make in the crock pot.
I am glad I didn't run my post this week.
Jennifer said…
I always put a tablespoon of butter in my sauce, so not sure what's so unusual about it. It makes it rich and cuts down on the acidity of the tomatoes.
5 tbsp is not that much, the sauce looks fantastic in my book!
Anonymous said…
Ok, I made this tonight with the 5 tablespoons of butta like you and Marcella say.

It was AMAZING! Rich, thick and delicious! My boyfriend lapped it up and asked for seconds.

Thank you for always making me look like a GREAT cook!

Lori Butler
stacey! I loved this....well, a lot. I isn't Sunday is just a pure tomato flavor. that's what struck me and kept me going back for another plate. simple, clean, fast and pure. I'll make this over and over again during my busy summer. I did think about...well, what about some garlic, some cheese or some pesto. You know, guild the Lilly. But the pure tomato flavor won....many thanks's politically incorrect I hear to shop a Walmart....they are the only store withib 100 miles of my location that has san mar tomatoes...yes1
Unknown said…
I also came late to the party and finally made it a few months ago... We LOVED it! So rich and luxurious. Definitely a once in a while treat.
Elizabeth said…
I smiled when I saw this post. This is one of my favorite pasta sauces. I discovered it a few years ago when I was on an all-things-Italian binge. What a revelation that an awesome sauce can come out of so few ingredients.
Anonymous said…
I have been a big fan of Marcella since getting one of her first cookbooks, "The Classic Italian Cookbook". I like to add a stem of fresh basil to the sauce. Additionally, the recipes in the book are followed with suggestions for complimentary dishes,i.e., what goes with what.
Terrah said…
I'm with you Stacey: I do like tomato sauce but since it's so hard on my belly anymore, I'm much more into oil and butter pasta sauces.

However, I will give this a shot. Someone mentioned that the butter cuts down the acidity, so that's an incentive. Besides, this is crazy quick and easy. Perfect for a weeknight meal!
Linda said…
My husband complains when my pasta is what he calls "soupy" so when I wanted a pasta side last night for my veal picatta I tried this recipe. It was a huge hit. I think the main reason, besides that good tasting sauce, was the fact that I stood by the pasta as it boiled tasting it every minute until it was perfectly cooked. I almost always make it too soft. It's so nice when a dish comes out good for company.
ann said…
I am excited that I don't have to break up the san marzano tomatoes with my hands, that bothers me...i'm def making this, my kids will love it! SO happy I found your blog!