Tomato sauce tossed through pasta

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Marcella Hazan: queen of the tomato sauce

Sometimes you just want a big bowl of tomato pasta. Sometimes the craving is just so great that you won’t be satisfied otherwise so here is the simplest tomato sauce of all time: the famous tomato sauce by Marcella Hazan. This sauce requires absolutely no cooking skill at all and is the best example of how simple great cooking can be. This tomato sauce defies logic, it shouldn’t really work but somehow it does. It lacks garlic and herbs, there is no sugar and it uses tinned tomatoes, juices and all. Regardless of your cooking ability, this sauce is a must-try.

Why is it so great?

When it comes to essentials like tomato sauce, prioritising originality might not be as crucial as you’d think. Marcella Hazan’s renowned tomato sauce has garnered widespread adoration, and rightly so. Countless bloggers and food writers have lauded it, and I’m merely following suit. This sauce ranks among the finest I know, requiring only four (yes, four) ingredients.

The Process of Making the Tomato Sauce

The concept behind this tomato sauce is straightforward: Simmer a can of tomatoes with an onion and five tablespoons of butter. A touch of salt is added, and the onion is removed at the end, leaving behind a velvety tomato sauce infused with the buttery richness. Unlike sugar, which often mellows the tang of tomatoes, the butter complements them and makes an even better-flavoured sauce.

Serving Suggestions

This tomato sauce demands minimal effort; you don’t even need to chop the onion. It’s a fantastic method to whip up a meal using cupboard staples. Pair it with pasta, topped with a generous sprinkle of cheese, and you have a delicious meal ready to go. While it doesn’t replace perhaps meatier sauces due to its simplicity, it provides real satisfaction, and it is so easy. It is also great as a topping for ravioli or as a filling for lasagna.


  • 2 cups canned plum tomatoes (chopped, whole or otherwise, with their juices)
  • 1 white onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • salt to taste


  1. Put the tomatoes along with their juices, the butter and the halved onion into a pan.
  2. Add a good pinch of salt and then simmer. Cook gently for 45 minutes.
  3. Stir occasionally and mash any large chunks of tomato with your wooden spoon.
  4. Remove from the heat, taste and add more salt if needed.

Marcella says to remove and discard the onion. By discard I think she merely means to remove it from the sauce to truly appreciate the simplicity of just having the tomatoes.


Truly though, I for one never waste the onion and like to fry the onion separately with some butter to have served with steak, or smothered on a sandwich…it’s heavenly.


If you haven’t come across Marcella Hazan before, I thoroughly recommend reading this. It’s the perfect bedtime reading and is truly a book you will treasure forever.


Recipe adapted in my own words from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.”


Margie Nomura is a chef, food writer and creator and host of the incredibly popular podcast, Desert Island Dishes™.


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