< class="entry-title">Fresh Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

This is the sauce the converted my formerly red sauce phobic middle child. With only 4 ingredients – tomatoes, butter, onion, and salt – what’s not to love?


Fresh Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

A plea from me, a confessed tomato junkie: Please, please use only local, in-season tomatoes for this sauce – no grocery store tomato imposters. With only 4 ingredients, and tomatoes being the main one, it really does matter. Grow your own or visit your local farmers’ market during July through September. During the rest of the year, use a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes in place of the fresh ones.

And from Marcella Hazan: “This is the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistibly sweet tomato taste. I have known people to skip the pasta and eat the sauce directly out of the pot with a spoon.”

Note: We double the recipe below for one pound of pasta. What can we say – we’re saucy!

  • 2 pounds fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (such as roma or San Marzano)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

To blanch the tomatoes, cut a small x in the end opposite the stem.


Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water just until you see the skin start coming off (it will take less than one minute). Remove the tomatoes and plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off, remove the cores, and cut them up into coarse pieces.


Put the prepared tomatoes into a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato.


Stir from time to time, mash any large piece of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Remove the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. (But don’t throw it away – enjoy the sweet, soft onion deliciousness!)

Serve with pasta of your choice and plenty of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Hazan suggests potato gnocchi, rigatoni, penne, or spaghetti. (As you can see, we like rigatoni and double the sauce recipe for one pound of it.)


Note: May be frozen. Remove the onion before freezing. After thawing, simmer for 10 minutes before tossing with pasta.

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