real life test kitchen: marcella hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter

I pinned this recipe, for Macella Hazan’s most famous and insanely easy tomato sauce recipe, years ago but somehow never got around to making it until this past weekend. The time was ripe, in more ways the one, to pay tribute to this grand dame of Italian-American cooking. Hazan passed away a couple of weeks ago, and like many greats who fade from our memory, it took her death to remind us how influential she was. The New York Times obituary put it beautifully and simply — like many of her best recipes — saying she changed the way Americans cook. She didn’t believe in complicated things, only the purest, freshest ingredients cooked to bring out their unique flavors. Her tomato sauce with onion and butter recipe is Hazan at her best. The rest bout of unseasonably warm temperatures has yielded a bumper crop of plum tomatoes in our garden beds. I could think of no better use for them to put them in this simple sauce. Mine took a little bit longer, because I started with fresh tomatoes. But the who endeavor was done in about an hour and half, and it required so little effort, I can’t imagine why I didn’t do it sooner. This sauce is wonderfully familiar — which makes me realize that it must be used in countless restaurants all over NYC. It tastes even better the next day.


Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter


What You Need:

2 cups of canned or stewed plum tomatoes in their juices — see note below on what to do if you’re using fresh tomatoes like I did
5 tbls butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste

How to Make
1. Put the tomatoes in a large sauce pan, and add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very low flame.

2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
3. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and aalt. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta.

4. Serve with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table.

If you’re using fresh tomatoes:

1. You’ll need about 2 lbs of tomatoes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
3. Drop tomatoes in and boil for one minute.
4. Drain and cool down with cold water.
5. Peel off the skins and discard them.
6. Quarter the tomatoes and add them to a pan.
7. Add a dash of salt, and cook on a meduim-low flame for about 30 minutes. Add a splash of water or olive oil if things dry to quickly.
8. Once the tomatoes have broken down nicely, you can continue the recipe as above.

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