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Sep 13, 2006 09:01 PM

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: Pasta and Other Starches [CoTM Sept 2006 and Nov 2013]

September 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your reviews of pasta, risotto, and other starch recipes from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Sardinian Bottarga Sauce

    It's a pasta sauce made with mullet bottarga (bottarga di muggine), which is dried mullet roe, along with butter, onions, chopped parsley, and a little grated lemon peel. I also added a little extra virgin olive oil. Bottarga has a mildly salty, sweet taste and I've been wanting to try it for a long time. About a month ago I bought an ounce of it, so this recipe was the perfect chance to try it! Marcella's recipe calls for slicing it paper thin with a peeler, and then chopping into fine, soft grains. I ended up using a Benriger mandoline also to make it a little easier. I used spaghettini as she recommended, and garnished it with parsley and shaved bottarga as she suggests in "Marcella Says" (another book). It was simple and delicious, though something I won't make often as the bottarga is expensive. It's another example of her technique with just a few key ingredients resulting in such flavor. Oh, and be sure to cook the onions down until "lightly colored" (it probably took me about 15 minutes) - the sweetness really went well with the whole dish.

    I'm not as adept with the camera as CarbLover, but here's a picture!

    10 Replies
    1. re: Rubee

      Rubee, that's beautiful. Where did you buy the bottarga? Is the bottarga hard (like parmesian cheese?) or softer? Did you use the entire oz? I am still waiting for my library cookbook to come in so I don't know the proportions.

      1. re: beetlebug

        Hi Beetlebug! I bought it at Salumeria Italiana in the North End. It was about an ounce and a quarter. The recipe calls for an ounce for two people, and I used the whole piece. It was vacuum-packed in clear plastic, came as one piece, and was about 6 inches long. You have to peel the membrane off before you use it, and yes, it's a little softer than parmesan. The picture makes it look reddish, but it was actually a dark amber color.

        I guess most people think this is a review of past recipes, but I'm really hoping more people cook and report dishes they're cooking in September!

        1. re: Rubee

          Note that Sardiniana bottarga is somewhat different from the general Italian kind. It crumbles into grains rather than flakes / shavings and has a slightly different flavor.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I thought that the only mullet roe was Sardinian. There is another roe, but it's tuna. Could you please give me more info on the general Italian kind? Thanks.

          2. re: Rubee

            Don't know what you paid for it, but I've found a wide range of prices in NYC - $22 for about 4 oz (one lobe) at Di Palo's, which is sold at Dean & DeLuca for $125 - the EXACT same thing - Sardinian bottarga(gray mullet roe).

            1. re: MMRuth

              Wow, really? And not the tuna roe? I paid $15 for 1.35 ounces. Just another reason for me to get to NYC soon. Thanks.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Repying to Rubee - definitely not the tuna. BTW - I use a microplaner to grate it.

              2. re: Rubee

                Thanks Rubee. I'll have to check it out next time I am in the NE.

            2. re: Rubee

              Rubee, that looks and sounds fabulous! If it wasn't for your description, and the monthly cookbook idea, this isn't something I would have thought to try but now I'm really tempted, especially since I work close to DiPalo's.

              This is definitely a plus to people posting about something they made in the past (especially if it is a bit unusual) although I am looking forward to cooking 'with' folks.

              1. re: llinza

                Just FYI - you might want to call Di Palo's first - when I was there a week or two ago, they said that they might run out before the next batch (this year's harvest, due in at the end of September) comes in. Not that a trip to Di Palo's is ever wasted.

            3. peas, peppers & prosciutto – I make often w/o peppers – see prosciuto cream sauce recipe, which is similar
              amatriciana – yum
              tomato sauce w/ onion & butter. A classic – comforting and easy – I return to often.
              Pink shrimp sauce w/ cream. Yum, yum, yum. Guests ask for the recipe and serve to others for their birthday. (Must be the heavy cream!) I use her son’s version.
              Butter and parmesan. Pablum for grownups. Very comforting.
              Butter and sage sauce – great w/ frozen tortellini. Quick and easier than a TV dinner.
              cream and butter sauce (Alfredo) – good, indeed
              sausages and cream – not as disgusting as it sounds
              Bolognese meat sauce – a big deal ragu. I had high hopes and was disappointed. Maybe I just don’t like ground meat.

              63 Replies
              1. re: NYchowcook

                Bolognese--I've made the Bolognese sauce several times and was a bit disappointed as well. Now, I skip the step about simmering the meat in milk first before the tomatoes and wine are added. I think the purpose of the milk is to tenderize the meat but I find that it makes the meat too soft and mushy for my tastes. I prefer my Bolognese with a firmer, meatier texture so I skip the milk.

                1. re: mielimato

                  The point is to gently cook the meat in a less acidic liquid. I cannot recall Marcella's precise ragu, but I know I did a combination of her's and Lynne Rosseto Kaspar's more classic approach, which I've posted before and produces a better result -- tomato is only added at the very end. The milk first approach then does make a significant difference.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    I would never skip the milk, it is the essence of Bolognese cooking. I have been making this for ages and now have adapted it to make my own. I have posted that recipe on this board. Never got nushy meat?

                    1. re: faijay

                      I agree that a ragu without the milk is not Bolognese. The dairy is more important than the tomato, which is only a condiment in the building of the ragu.

                    2. re: Karl S

                      The milk does alter the consistency of the meat and makes it very soft, which can be good or bad depending on your tastes. But I am still opened to trying different Bolognese recipes with milk. What are Kaspar's and your own variations on Marcella's recipe?

                      1. re: mielimato

                        Kaspar's is based on the "official" recipe of the city of Bologna, IIRC.

                        Marcella's is her own magisterial approach.

                        Mine is explained in the link:


                        I would suggest that the point is the tenderness of the meat so that one does not recognize that it is ground meat as such; the texture should be quite different than a ground-beef American chili con carne, as it were. This is a sauce for pasta: pasta is the star, the sauce is the supporting player. The meat in the sauce must have dissolved to a point where it glazes the pasta; it's not supposed to be like chili con carni e paste.

                    3. re: mielimato

                      I've been using Marcella's recipes for years and I should point out that the Bolognese sauce in Essentials of Italian Cooking is not the same one she first published in Classic Italian Cooking. I've tried both several times and the earlier version is far superior.

                    4. re: NYchowcook

                      I would love a paraphrased version of the butter and sage sauce, although there are many versions online I don't know what might make Marcella's stand out.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        4-5 tablespoons high-quality butter
                        6-8 whole fresh sage leaves
                        1 pound pasta (she recommends homemade pasta such as fettucini, stuffed tortelli, or potato gnocchi)

                        Heat butter over medium heat until the foam subsides. Her tip for this recipe is that it's very important that the color becomes a deep gold (but not brown), for the sage to optimally flavor the sauce. Add sage, turning once for just a few seconds. Add sauce to drained pasta, toss, and serve with grated Parmesan.

                        1. re: Rubee

                          Thank you very much. For some reason I have been intimidated by the brown butter thing for too long! So simple, with sage from my garden. Served with purchased mushroom, goat cheese and squash ravioli. Did not realize the sage would break apart when tossed with the pasta. Delicious, although a small appetizer serving is probably best.

                      2. re: NYchowcook

                        The ragu recipe from the original "Classic" can't be beat.

                        The radically revised recipe in "Essentials" is weird. It has about five times as much carrot and onion and consequently comes out way too sweet.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I made the bolognese sauce from Essentials a long time ago and was disappointed as well. I remember it being too sweet and not as deeply meaty in flavor as I would have liked.

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            I, too, had been disappointed with the bolognese sauce in Essentials. I tried the one from Classic last night - it was excellent!!! I hadn't compared the recipes before. I will from now on. Thank you, all.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            I find this interesting... could you paraphrase the original amount of carrots? The bolognese recipe in Essentials is one of my favorites, but I've noticed that the quality of each individual ingredient is crucial to how it turns out overall. That is, you can really taste the difference if you use better quality meat, milk, San Marzano canned tomatoes, etc. I've noticed the carrots a little more than I would like to the past couple of times I've made this recipe, so I find this post very enlightening!

                              1. re: redwood2bay

                                The original is two tablespoons each onion, carrot, and celery. That's similar to every other traditional ragu recipe I've seen.

                            1. re: NYchowcook

                              After tomato picking yesterday, I made the simple recipe for tomato sauce w/ onion and butter using the food mill method. The recipe was so easy, and the result was pure poetry! I'm so accustomed to oil-based tomato sauces that the silky sweetness imparted by the butter and stewed onion was a delightful change. I can see why people love this recipe so much...

                              I used 1 lb. of Barilla spaghetti and tore some basil to finish. Had Grana Padano instead of Parmigiano Reggiano, but I prefer the latter. I did add cracked black pepper at the end to offset the sweetness. The sauce was light and subtle, almost bland at first. But the character really came through after a few bites, and husband described its subtlety as non-fatiguing. Nice opener to a main course (although we ate it as the main).

                              I'm hesitant to alter this recipe too much, but just curious if anyone has added a garlic clove or other seasonings to infuse the sauce?

                              I should have taken a few photos of the cooking process, but here's a photo of the final dish:

                              1. re: Carb Lover

                                Garlic or other discernable seasonings would ruin the balance, in my opinion, and I love garlic. The most that should be done is to puree some of the onion with the sauce. If one absolutely needed to try a variation, one might consider adding a peeled shallot to the simmer and then removing.

                                I usually serve this as a soup, rather than as a sauce, btw.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Mmmmm...I could totally see this working as a soup. Thanks for that tip. I'm inclined to agree w/ you on the garlic, but I'm very curious and like to experiment w/ recipes. I think I'll throw in one small clove of garlic next time (and maybe a few basil leaves) and fish out before serving...

                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                    Instead of basil, try a couple of sprigs of fresh marjoram. Basil (especially a lot of American-grown basil) often has strong methol-ish overtones. I think this sauce is best treated as something quite different than the typical marinara-style (olive oil, garlic, et cet.) sauce base we Americans think of as the generic foundation for tomato-based sauces. After all, how many mini-variations on tomatoes, garlic and basil do we need for sauce? It just seems odd to try to take this unique sauce and transform it back into something more familiar. It has a lot more fat, and it has dairy and fruit (both onion and tomato) sugars, et cet. For true experimentation, I think it would be better complemented by subtler companions, like shallot or even leek instead of garlic, and more subtle fresh herbs (marjoram, savory, e.g.) than basil; I'd even probably try sage (again fresh) before basil, experimenting with adding early vs late to see which produces a better result. The herbal presence should be in the background, not the foreground, and serve to counterpoint the main harmony.

                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                      Your points are well taken, Karl. I agree that I shouldn't morph this unique sauce into something it wasn't meant to be; however, I continue to be curious about the flavor of gently infused garlic (one whole clove, not cut cloves that have been sauteed and remain in the final product). Marjoram is a better idea than basil...

                                      While I enjoyed the sauce as is, recipes such as this inspire me to build upon this method to honor it, not to reject it.

                                  2. re: Carb Lover

                                    Tomato sauce w/onion and butter.
                                    I wanted to try this very simple sauce and see for myself if something with such few ingredients and such a simple cooking method really could be as good as Carb Lover and others have said. You were all right! I wasn't able to use all fresh tomatoes, so I used a combo of canned Italian plums and a few fresh plum tomatoes from my garden. I don't have a food mill, so I quickly whirled them in the food processor and put them in the saute pan. Added the butter (only about 4 T.), the onion cut in half, a pinch of salt, and a very small pinch of sugar, since I thought the canned tomatoes were a bit more asidic than I'd like. Simmered uncovered for 45 min. Tossed angle hair pasta with sauce, grated pecorino,( which I prefer over Reggiano,) 1 more T. of butter,fresh ground pepper and garnished with shaved pecorino. Simply devine. Deep, wonderful flavor and something that can be made with everything I have on hand in my pantry. I'm anxious to pass this simple, deligthful sauce recipe on to my daughters since it's certainly easy enough for them to add to their menus.

                                    1. re: jackie de

                                      Thanks for reporting back; I'm glad that you liked it.

                                      I've been wanting to make the spinach and ricotta gnocchi as well as crespelle w/ spinach and prosciutto, but spinach isn't so hot right now. For those who have made those recipes, what other green might be suitable? Maybe mache? I have no idea...I could just wait til this spinach thing blows over and I can get my hands on some.

                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                        I tried making gnocchi once at home, using (I think) the Marcella recipe. I have the feeling I may have used a melange of different recipes, and I'll openly admit, that may have been my problem. Regardless, I would have to say that my gnocchi were spectacularly average (at best). I now understand why it's so remarkable when gnocchi are as light as a cloud. This isn't really a comment on a Marcella recipe (apologies), but more a bit of a warning that I think gnocchi are really difficult to do well.

                                        1. re: Smokey

                                          I'm planning a long, long report on my potato gnocchi. I have to cook up the remainder of my batch which will be my third attempt at getting this right. Third time is a charm, right? I now also see why good gnocchi is so highly rated.

                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                            Oooh, I look forward to your report! Maybe I'll try that recipe since it doesn't have spinach. The place where I work makes great, feather light gnocchi and it does NOT include egg. I'll be curious to hear about your path to gnocchi enlightenment.

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              Lack of egg is the key to light gnocchi.

                                        2. re: Carb Lover

                                          That recipe for spinach and ricotta gnocchi is one of the
                                          few places where frozen spinach gives an identical result.
                                          Thawed frozen may actually be better; I'm guessing it's because
                                          of the consistent moisture content. The freshness of the
                                          ricotta is much more important to the silkiness and lightness
                                          of the final result.
                                          in the

                                          1. re: condiment

                                            Spinach (swiss chard) and Ricotta Gnocchi

                                            I've made these a few times over the years, but this was the first time I used swiss chard in place of the spinach. We thought they were just as good as the spinach version. Here's a picture before they were cooked. Served them with her tomato cream sauce. Lovely!

                                        3. re: jackie de

                                          Garden tomato version - I made this again in late November, starting with 4 C. quartered garden tomatoes gifted from a friend. These tennis-ball sized tomatoes were not ripe when picked from her vines before frost arrived, and carefully ripened (turned daily) on her kitchen countertop. Because they were impossible to peel without creating mush, I first microwaved the lightly-salted quartered tomatoes for 10 minutes, covered, on a plate. The skins then lifted off easily and I put the rest, including seeds and gel, in a saucepan with the 5 T butter and cut onion to simmer 45 minutes.

                                          The result was a flavorful concentrated sauce. I served it over Garden Delights rotini pasta, as a side for roasted chicken and cubed butternut squash.

                                          If starting with fresh late-season tomatoes, consider using the pre-cooking (by microwaving 10 minutes) technique to improve flavor results.

                                        4. re: Carb Lover

                                          Nov 2013 report - Tomato, butter and onion sauce

                                          In a word - delicious.
                                          As well it should be with 5 T. butter!

                                          I used the online recipe

                                          I used canned diced Red Gold tomatoes, unsalted butter, a single pinch of salt, and one onion halved. I simmered 55 minutes since the onion still looked uncooked af 45 min. I used a potato masher to break up the larger chunks of tomato before the last 10 minutes of simmering.

                                          What do you do with the onion halves after removing them from the sauce? Discard? Use in another dish? I plan to include it in some beef stew.

                                          1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                            I made the tomato-onion-butter sauce tonight as well - so incredibly delicious. I served it on cavatappi and it was one of the best pasta meals I've had in years. I plan to save the onion and maybe take out the innards, mix with sausage and stuff the outer layers with the mixture, then roast.

                                            1. re: biondanonima

                                              I'm pretty sure it's Karl S who serves it as a soup with a cheese souffle for dinner parties :)

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Yes, I have so served. At least for luncheons.

                                              2. re: biondanonima

                                                Found this recipe in the Times magazine yesterday and immediately wanted to make it. Had other dinner plans, but this will be made soon. Now if only the person holding onto the copy of Essentials would return it to the library ...

                                              3. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                Tomato, Butter, and Onion Sauce; On-Line Recipe

                                                Like Midwesterner, we used canned diced tomatoes, in our case the Pomi brand; 5 T unsalted butter; 1 onion halved; and 1/4 t salt. The sauce simmered for 45 minutes per the instructions. We served it with Rigatoni.

                                                I really don't have too much to add except to say G didn't like it at all. He still prefers "our sauce" to all others. This one was too bland for him. I was glad we tried it though. It's a very serviceable sauce with a pleasantly rich tomato flavor.

                                                As I type this I'm remembering the De Cecco rigatoni took forever to get to the al dente stage for some reason, so perhaps the sauce did simmer for more a little more than the 45 minutes I stated above. No matter, though, I liked it well enough but it probably won't be made too often. As the simmering sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls is I see it in the future.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  I'm going to add my review of the Tomato, Butter and Onion sauce here because I'm afraid much like Mr. G we were not enamored of this sauce. There were things I liked about it - it smelled nice. It wasn't a bad sauce, but all I could think of was canned cream of tomato soup from the 70s. Lulu said it was so boring that she had to keep adding cheese, and then left it uneaten. Husband (who pretty much *always* goes for seconds on pasta) finished it without a word about the food (both of them are usually good about thanking me and saying how they liked dinner). I probably liked it more than they did, but I still wasn't a fan. Just kind of ok. This may have something to do with preferring olive oil, or sauces without tomato or ... I dunno. It was easy, just not to our tastes. (hovering with hands over head to avoid things being thrown at me)

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONIOIN AND BUTTER – p. 152

                                                    This sauce gets a lot of love from Ms Hazan’s fans and I have to admit, I’d never made it before. That said, I had some freshly made gnudi and this sauce came to mind so I thought I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, like LlM I can’t count mr bc and I among those who rave about this. We both found it very bland when it was finished simmering. So much so I decided to puree the onion right into it. That served to thicken the sauce a bit more but really just heightened the onion flavour. It may have been the colour of the sauce that threw me off…I totally agree that it looked like canned cream of tomato soup and it seemed to taste similar too. It was ok but we won’t be rushing to make it again.

                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                    I've never made this sauce, but my educated guess would be that rigatoni wouldn't make it shine. I'd serve it on gnocchi or tagliatelle or ravioli di ricotta -- something delicate. Rigatoni are too big and heavy (as you discovered cooking them) for what is clearly a delicate sauce. I've never used Pomì, but they must have been more flavorful than most fresh. You don't mention cheese, but I would guess this sauce could take quite a bit of parmigiano-reggiano, which would take care of the blandness complaint.

                                                    1. re: mbfant

                                                      Thank you very much for your expert input and suggestions for this enigma of a sauce MBFant. I appreciate it and am grateful for it. I don't remember why we chose rigatoni as the pasta but I was probably concentrating on the sauce and not the macaroni. I suppose it's only fair that we remake the recipe using your recommendations. Our usual freshly grated cheese is pecorino romano so that could have been the cheese we used. For the remake we'll use parmigiano-reggiano.

                                                      As for Pomi, it's billed as an authentic Italian passata using only garden fresh tomatoes. Nothing else is added. To my palate it tastes freshly picked. Another plus is that it's packaged in a tetra-pak.

                                                      1. re: mbfant

                                                        Tomato, Butter, and Onion Sauce; On-Line Recipe

                                                        Taking all of MBFant's recommendations and suggestions we revisited this enigmatic sauce and this time was a vastly superior experience. We both absolutely loved it. Used 2 cups Pomi diced tomatoes, 5 T unsalted butter, 1 yellow onion sliced in half, and about 1/2 t salt. The sauce simmered for the full 45 minutes uncovered. This time we cooked fresh ravioli di ricotta. What a difference! The recipe makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, we cooked 22 ounces. The ratio of sauce to ravioli, as far as I'm concerned , was perfect. Quanto basta.

                                                        The sauce was a beautiful deep red. The flavor was of sweet ripe tomatoes. The texture was smooth and velvety. The ravioli were creamy with a lovely mild cheese interior, slightly chewy pasta wrap - just the way I like it. We let it simmer in the sauce for several seconds before plating. Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano was over top each serving.

                                                        We just couldn't stop eating it. Definitely will keep the recipe handy for future use. Many thanks to Ms Fant for her expert advice as usual.

                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                            Gio, I'm tickled that my "theoretical" analysis worked in practice. Thanks for reporting back. Have you tried the Umido di cipolla in "Sauces & Shapes"? I wonder how close it is to Marcella's. They both must come from the same neck of the woods, which is to say Emilia. At least ours does.

                                                            1. re: mbfant

                                                              Well, considering your recent pasta and sauce research and recipe testing, plus your experience I'd say your "theoretical" analysis was more like informed decision making. You were correct in every instance. I haven't tried your Umido di cipolla but just added it to my menu date book. I'll re-read it this afternoon and try to fit it into our menu plans as soon as possible. Thanks for the tip.


                                                            2. re: Gio

                                                              Hmmm now I must rethink recook resauce.

                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                I'm always curious about the recommended 1 (to 1.5) lb pasta for this recipe: Is it 1 lb of fresh pasta or 1 lb dried (which I assumed). I'm not sure how much 1lb dried pasta weighs after it's cooked, but it always seems like a whole lot of pasta. But I'm just realizing that maybe Hazan meant a pound of cooked pasta . . . For me, ravioli would need less sauce anyway.
                                                                At any rate, that sounds delicious!

                                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                  It makes 2 cups. Typical Italian sauce to pasta ratio would be 1/2 cup sauce for 4 ounces pasta measured by dry weight before cooking. Because pasta is the star, and the sauce is the condiment. Many Americans are accustomed to reversing the Italian preference, of course, so YMMV.

                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    Thanks for clearing that up for me. I find that the thicker the pasta, the more sauce I use. I think when I made this sauce, we used almost all of it in one meal--for about 1/2 lb boxed dried pasta--which is heavy-handed I know. But for good fresh pasta, I don't want as much sauce. I bought some gnocchi from one of the Farmer's Market vendor, and I think I'm going to sauce it with this.

                                                            3. re: Gio

                                                              Gio, by "our sauce" you mean tomato/garlic/basil/salt, yes? I can't stop using just those ingredients for mine -- will be looking today for the last tomatoes of the summer at a couple groceries to make some more for my freezer.
                                                              I tried the butter onion recipe a few years ago and couldn't figure out why the excitement..

                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                Yes Blue Room... the ingredients you listed plus about 1/3 of a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes make our sauce. We've been using fresh garden tomatoes all Summer too but now we'll change to Pomi.

                                                            4. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                              This recipe goes by the unassuming name of "Tomato Sauce III" in my Classic Italian Cookbook. And since it was the forerunner to the revised version in Essentials, it calls for 1/4 pound of butter (and a pinch of sugar). I debated for a moment but ultimately threw caution to the wind and put the entire stick into the pan with the tomatoes and onion. The result was a super-velvety, creamy sauce with just those small bits of mashed tomatoes, and the subtle sweetness of onion. I didn't add the sugar but wouldn't have been opposed to it had the tomatoes tasted too acidic, but (all!) the butter mellowed them beautifully.

                                                              It was delicious over plain boxed pasta, but I can see where it would be excellent for gnocchi (as Marcella suggests in the notes) as its richness could easily compliment a more substantial dish, pasta or otherwise. And, Karl S, what a great idea to serve it as a soup! It has the perfect consistency for it.

                                                              1. re: lesliej

                                                                I was just reading through these reviews as I plan to make this sauce tonight to serve atop some left over (frozen) gnudi. I was interested to read about this version of the recipe because I recently read an article in Saveur by Marcella's son Giuliano. The version you cite above is the one he refer's to as the family favourite. Here's a link for anyone interested:


                                                                1. re: lesliej

                                                                  Made this today using the recipe from "Classic" (proportioning everything to my 13 oz. tetra pack of tomatoes). Put us in the like it camp. Served it over fresh ricotta cavatielli, that had been made with a very good local milk, and the combination sent us into the the love it camp.

                                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                                    Fresh ricotta cavatielli with this sauce sounds absolutely delicious.

                                                                2. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                                  Tomato, Butter and Onion Sauce

                                                                  I have posted about this sauce on CH many times, but for some reason have never posted a review here. Put me in the category of those who love it. I have made it many times, probably more than any other sauce in my repertoire. One of my favorite things about it is the ease of preparation -- basically no chopping, no stirring. I always make it with a box of Pomi chopped tomatoes and usually cut the butter back to 4 tbsp. IMO this sauce takes at least 45 minutes and sometimes a bit longer for the onion to soften adequately and the flavors to come together. If it feels a little flat at 45 min, more salt is often the answer. I usually prefer to serve it with spaghetti (but since my little ones can't handle long noodles, I now substitute fusilli, which works reasonably well). My other favorite use for this sauce is to accompany ravioli (the big ones with herbed ricotta filling, freshly made from a good Italian deli). I can imagine that cavatelli or gnocchi would work very well also. And of course don't forget the parmigiano reggiano at serving time.

                                                                  I also like the tomato/garlic/basil sauce that blue room describes (the one from My Calabria is my favorite), and I usually make this version in summer or when I need a quick sauce.

                                                                  But Marcella's sauce is my go-to. It freezes/thaws well so when I make it, I often do a double batch with two boxes of pomi and one stick of butter. I don't double the onion.

                                                                3. re: Carb Lover

                                                                  It is as good as everyone says! This will be my new go to tomato sauce.
                                                                  I made this sauce on Halloween night (cheated by a day). It is hard to believe that so much flavor can come from such a simple sauce. I resisted the urge to toss in a squished garlic clove and I'm glad I did.
                                                                  I did have some meatballs that I'd made a few months ago in the freezer. I baked them and tossed them on the top, this made the fam very happy.

                                                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                    Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter (Essentials, p. 152)

                                                                    As many time as I've read about how great this sauce is, I had never made it. I have a butter-based tomato sauce requiring slightly more work in my repertoire that I've used for years as an alternative to my usual simple, OO-based marinara. Last night as I was trying to come up w/a quick dinner, I thought I'd finally give this a one a go.

                                                                    And I'll nod in agreement: simple and delicious.

                                                                    I used good canned tomatoes. I do wish I'd doubled the recipe as 2 cups made a very small amount of sauce (and would never sauce MH's suggested 1 lb-1½ lbs pasta in this house). It would have been nice to have some leftover to stick in the freezer for an even quicker meal on another night.

                                                                    We ate this over penne rigate, with freshly grated parmigiano, and some grilled Italian sausage and balsamic-glazed brussels sprouts on the side--very satisfying meal.

                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                      My (Italian) grandmother always wants more "gravy."

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        I've got used to the Italian-style saucing now. Makes for a much lighter dish too. I also noticed that in restaurants, couples often shared a pasta course so we started doing that too, so we could have a secondo.

                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                          It makes no sense that Grandma wants more "gravy" - and yet, every single time. You can count on that, and on the fact that she will insist on being moved to a different table from the one she is initially sat at in a restaurant. Love her to pieces, so predictable.

                                                                          I totally get sharing the pasta if you want a secondo (or getting a half portion).

                                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                                            We do the half portion everywhere! So many places will do this even it it isn't listed on the menu. Especially if they saddle themselves with Primi and Secondi sections of a menu.

                                                                            If there is a large group and we want to try different pastas we have even ordered three different full size and many places will plate them for you as a "sampler" instead of the crass plate passing.

                                                                          2. re: greedygirl

                                                                            Well, I use less sauce than I used to but still find I need more than I'd get if I used MH's proportions--especially when using boxed pasta like penne rigate (which seems kind of heavy to me--an ethereal hand-made pasta is another story).

                                                                            I can also easily share a pasta portion, love the places that offer "half sizes."

                                                                  2. Polenta by the “no-stirring” method (requires some stirring). Turns out fine.

                                                                    1. I have lots of favorite Marcella recipes (most from Marcella Cucina), but tonight I made a new sauce from Essentials: Tomato Sauce with Olive Oil and Chopped Vegetables, Variation with Marjoram and Two Cheeses.

                                                                      The unusual thing about this recipe is that you simmer the tomato, celery, carrot and onion together for 30 minutes with no oil or butter (it doesn't seem like a good idea, but Marcella is never wrong!). Then you add lots of oil and continue to cook for 15 minutes. I was pressed for time, so total cooking time was only about 35 minutes. I think the flavors would've mingled better if I'd had longer. But the cheese and marjoram version is definitely promising. Very savory and filling--nice for chilly early fall.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: natasha

                                                                        i make this recipe a lot. its excellent, i usually follow the guidelines and the sauce is fresh, vibrant. adding great olive oil after 35 minutes is the key here.

                                                                      2. Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil: I make it all the time when basil is in season. Not sauteeing the garlic gives it a haunting depth.

                                                                        Cauliflower Sauce with Garlic, Oil, and Chili Pepper: This is such a great recipe. My father-in-law, a sworn cauliflower hater, gobbled it up without realizing what he was eating. When I sent the recipe to his wife, who shares his e-mail account, I titled it "Pasta with Ingredient" so he wouldn't catch on, and now that's what we all call this dish. If you cut the thick main stem out of the cauliflower before tossing it into the pan in step #5, you only have to parboil the cauliflower for ten minutes or so, and it'll still cover a pound of pasta.

                                                                        No-stir polenta: yes indeedy.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: heidipie

                                                                          I made the tomato sauce w/ garlic and basil (p. 156) tonight, and it was great! I really like all of her simple variations on tomato sauce. Her sauces so far have really proven that less is more...

                                                                          Scene: Husband comes home starving at 7pm. We almost decide to go out, but 25 lbs. of tomatoes are staring at us. Husband is inspired to try another Marcella sauce, and by 10 til 8 we are sitting at the table w/ fork and glass of chianti in hand.

                                                                          Here's a link to Marcella's recipe online:
                                                                          It looks like the exact recipe except it omits the option of processing your own fresh tomatoes through a food mill after simmering for 10 min., which is what we did.

                                                                          Here we are running the tomatoes through the mill:

                                                                          Here's the sauce simmering after we add the 5 cloves of finely chopped garlic and seasonings:

                                                                          I would have ideally used spaghetti, but I'm trying to use up odds and ends in my pantry so opted for chiocciole, a cute snail-shaped pasta. Please forgive me, Marcella.

                                                                          Photo of finished product in pot here:

                                                                          Photo of my serving:

                                                                          Overall, this sauce was simply delicious. Can't go wrong if you have fresh ripe tomatoes. The garlic did really mellow in flavor, but there was no doubt that it was there. I only used one third bunch of basil since my bunch was pretty big w/ large leaves.

                                                                          Conclusion: Husband was full and happy, and now we have 22 lbs. of tomatoes staring at us.

                                                                          1. re: heidipie

                                                                            Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil:

                                                                            It takes guts to make a sauce this simple, but it's so good. It's really easy to throw together quickly on a weeknight.

                                                                            The only caveat with this is the ingredients have to be at their peak (as Marcella reminds you over and over again throughout the book). Here in Canada in November, the farmers' markets are done and the basil at the supermarket has not been perfectly fresh, and the recipe suffers a little for it.