If you want to learn about Italian cooking, you need to start with Marcella Hazan’s collection, The Essentials of Italian Cooking. She is an Italian cook who started a cooking school in New York City in the 1960s, has written for the New York Times, is a James Beard award winning cookbook author and is beloved by many.

When I first read about Ms. Hazan’s famous tomato sauce with onion and butter on Food52, one of my favorite food blogs, I was unsure about trying it. The premise seemed too simple…I like spicy, robust sauces.

But then I saw a write-up in magazine (Saveur), so I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, simple is best.

This is the perfect sauce to throw together on a cold, winter night when you can’t find anything in the house and don’t want to go to the store. It’s also perfect in summertime at the height of fresh tomato season, when you can use flavorful, fresh tomatoes instead of canned.

I always have these ingredients on hand, and the sauce is wonderful over pasta but also over simple roasted vegetables or even a piece of roasted chicken or fish. We ate it with roasted eggplant parmesan.

ingredients for tomato sauce

Ingredients are so simple: one 28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, one onion and salt to taste.

cooking tomatoes, butter, and onion

Peel and halve the onion and place everything into a large saucepan, breaking up the tomatoes with your fingers. Throw in a pinch of kosher salt.

finished tomato sauce

Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, until your sauce looks slightly creamy from the melted butter.

tomato sauce over eggplant

Remove the onion and either toss it or save it and chop for other uses. Then taste your sauce and add salt if needed. That’s it. So simple and yet it’s delicious. We love this tomato sauce over roasted eggplant parmesan, but of course pasta would be great as well. Enjoy!

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4.80 from 5 votes

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

An easy, silky, homemade tomato sauce that works with pasta, eggplant, or chicken.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
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  • 1 28- oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes (I like Muir Glen organic)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Pinch of kosher salt


  • Break up the tomatoes with your fingers and place in a large saucepan. Add butter, onion and salt.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then turn heat down slightly, keeping a good simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove onion and serve.


Serving: 4servings, Calories: 136kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 3mg, Sugar: 1g
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 136
Keyword: marcella hazan’s tomato sauce
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Lucy standing behind a counter with a cheese board and glass of wine.

About the author

Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a home cook, writer, food and wine fanatic, and recipe developer. I’ve created and tested hundreds of recipes so that I can bring you the best tried and true favorites.

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