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Mar 30, 2010 12:09 PM

Need help asap with Marcella hazan recipe -- tomato sauce

All my stuff is in storage and it's a rainy yucky day....anyone have the recipe for her basic tomato sauce? It's tomatoes and half an onion and a stick of butter.....but I can't remember how much canned tomatoes I need or how long to cook everything....anyone?? Thanks!!

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  1. A large can of tomato, a whole onion cut in half and 5T butter. 45 minutes. One of MY go-to's :)

    29 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      thanks so much! you are lifesaver!

      1. re: evjolin

        Glad to help. I remember making a 400 miles drive a few months ago to arrive home with little to make a quick dinner. That and some linguine was fine and dandy :)

      2. re: c oliver

        Butter? Really? I assume it tastes good since you say it is one of your go-to recipes. I'd be interested to know why butter. I've never run across butter in an Italian tomato sauce recipe.

        1. re: ttoommyy

          It's her recipe so I can't tell you why. But I can tell you that many, many CHs love this recipe. Karl S even serves it as soup at dinner parties.

          1. re: ttoommyy

            There are many variations on tomato sauce in Italian cooking.
            Butter is used in a lot of Northern Italian cooking, in particular.
            I have a recipe for a variation on Hazan's sauce, made with butter, shallots, tomato sauce, cognac, and thyme. It is divine.

              1. re: ChristinaMason

                This recipe came from Bon Appetit or Food and Wine, can't remember, maybe 10 years ago--easy and delicious.

                Melt 4 1/2 T. butter in skillet over moderate heat. Add 3 lg. shallots, minced, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add 3/8 c. brandy. Raise heat; cook until evaporated. Add two 28-oz. cans Italian tomatoes, chopped (I pulse them in a blender a few times) and 1 1/2 tsp.fresh thyme leaves and salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste). Simmer over low heat, 8-10 minutes.

              2. re: nomadchowwoman

                I've traveled a bit in Italy and I'm not sure I've encountered a tomato sauce made with butter. I do know that butter is used a lot in northern Italy, but they are not very big on tomato-based sauce in the north. I'd love to know the Italian origin, if there is one, of this sauce.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  No, but they do appear. I had a butter-based tomato sauce in Venice; it was served with (what I recall was) duck tortelloni or possibly ravioli. I also ate a veal cutlet served with a sauce made with butter and cream into which some chopped fresh tomato was stirred at the end, in the Sud Tirol.
                  In my travels through Italy, I was surprised at just how much tomato sauces varied from region to region although I would agree they most often seemed olive oil based. I don't know the origins of the butter-based, but I've run across a few in cookbooks over the years. One of my favorite easy recipes is for a Tuscan prosciutto and tomato sauce that is started with prosciutto and milk and finished with butter; there's no olive oil in it at all.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    Thanks for the input nomad. I can see the use of butter in the sauces you sited from Sud Tirol and Tuscany; they are not basic tomato sauces. The Marcella Hazan sauce seems to be nothing but butter, onion and tomatoes. That's what's throwing me. Just seems odd. But like I said, I'm going to try it. Thanks again for your comments.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      Try it, its really good. Just a little parsley at the end, no other herby things. I know its hard not to elaborate, but if you use decent canned tomatoes its all you need. Its our go-to for stuffed pasta. Some good cheese - the best reggiano you can find - at the end. Restraint has its benefits.

                      1. re: waver

                        I put too much of it on stuffed jumbo pasta shells. The flavor of the sauce actually overwhelmed the VERY assertive flavor of the stuffing in the shell.

                        1. re: waver

                          I did try it: see my post somewhere below. All we added was Parmigiano as we ate it. It took a lot of restraint not to add other things along the way. But I did stick to just the canned tomatoes, onion, butter and a little salt at the end.

                            1. re: cheri

                              This is what I said in my post below:
                              "While it was very good, I will continue to make my usual go-to tomato sauce: canned tomatoes, garlic, shallot, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. Simmer for 20 minutes and it's done. The Marcella Hazan sauce with butter is indeed tasty, but not what I consider an Italian tomato sauce. It tasted more like a tomato bisque soup. I'm glad I made it and will definitely keep it in my repertoire though."

                              Now that it's been about a week since I made it, I'm not sure I'll make it anytime again soon. I just don't find myself thinking back on it much and saying, "I can't wait to have that sauce again." My parnter feels pretty much the same.

                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                I think life would be so boring if we all liked the same thing. But at least we've determined that in parts of Italy it's definitely considered an Italian tomato sauce.

                2. re: ttoommyy

                  I just pulled out her "Essentials..." and on page 235 she discusses matching pasta and sauce. She writes:

                  "The exceptional firmness, the compact body, the grainier texture of factory-made pasta makes it the first choice when a sauce is based on olive oil."

                  Further down she states:

                  "Many tomato sauces, particularly when made with butter, work better with thicker spaghetti, in some case with the holow strands known as bucatini or perciateli."

                  She also wrote about fresh, homemade pasta:

                  "Most olive oil sauces obliterate its fine texture, making it slick...."

                  Just a few things from someone who certainly has STRONG opinions :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Thanks for posting. I've traveled a lot in Italy and I'm not sure I've encountered a tomato sauce made with butter, but then maybe I have and just did not know it. Is the taste of the butter very pronounced? I'm intrigued; I think I need to try this at home.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      the taste of butter is not pronounced. it just accentuates the tomato flavor, and creates a really lush richness.

                      1. re: rose water

                        Thanks rose water. I guess I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around a tomato sauce that has a "lush richness" to it. I don't equate that quality with an Italian tomato sauce. The addition of butter to a sauce makes me immediately think of French cooking. I'll have to try if for myself. Thanks again.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          yes, definitely try it. whether or not it conforms to your expectations of what italian food should be, it is completely worth eating.

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            Try thinking smooth and mellow instead, maybe. It's really good, not so radically different that you forget you're eating Italian--but maybe that's the pasta!

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              Or intensely tomato-y. I can even (horrors!) use the cheapest brand of tomatoes and it's just lovely. I'd been making and liking Batali's basic tomato sauce unti I tried this. I've not made it since. This is so doggone easy, it shouldn't be so doggone good.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Just any brand or can you say which ones? I know I did something wrong.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  I know that I frequently use TJs whole canned tomatoes. I know they're great but I just can't bite the bullet and buy San Marzano. I don't know how you could have done something wrong. Like what?

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    I think the recip is pretty simple. I'm curious to know what went wrong. Sometimes the simplest recipes can be the most finicky.

                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      Maybe not - I made it a while back, based on all the CH raves, and thought it was horrible. And yes, I used San Marzano tomatoes (LaValle), preparing ti exactly as the recipe directs. Definitely not my idea of sauce. As I recall, I added a lot of other stuff so as to disguise it in a very large pot of soup.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            I always follow this to a tee but if the tomatoes happen to be a little too tart I add half a cup of white wine, it's a great fix! And I only use this with spaghetti or bucatini. The long strands really coat well with the sauce.

                      2. I was stumped on what to do for making the sauce as I write (whew! so hard!) It's tasting great @ the half-way point!! Got some good aged peccorino to grate on top and maybe a little chopped parsley? Thanx for the reminder abt. this quick and tasty sauce.

                        1. Here is a link to the recipe on Smitten Kitchen. It's a good one. The key is to avoid extraneous seasoning. Save the basil, oregano and parmesan for something else.


                          1. Well, I made this sauce today as I said I would in my previous posts. While it was very good, I will continue to make my usual go-to tomato sauce: canned tomatoes, garlic, shallot, olive oil, salt, pepper and basil. Simmer for 20 minutes and it's done. The Marcella hazan sauce with butter is indeed tasty, but not what I consider an Italian tomato sauce. It tasted more like a tomato bisque soup. I'm glad I made it and will definitely keep it in my repertoire though.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              I think it's important to have exceptions to every rule. Also do you differentiate between a tomato sauce (something that is the basis for a pasta sauce) and a pasta sauce? With your additions of garlic, shallot, pepper and basil, that seems more like a pasta sauce.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Very good point. But I guess growing up Italian, tomato sauce and pasta sauce are synonymous, at least in my family. I will definitely make this tomato suace again, though. Thanks for your input; without it, I may never have tried it!

                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                  Coming late into this thread: This particular Hazan sauce is one of her most legendary.

                                  People used only to heavily seasoned Italian-American tomato gravies, or ragus, or salsa crudas, are going to be surprised by its delicacy and subtlety. Americans in particular tend to gravitate increasingly to BIGGER! BOLDER! flavors due to a general coarsening of our palates, so this sauce is very contrary to that gravitational pull. (Therefore, strongly resist the urge to add herbs or garlic. I have sometimes added a few grinds of red pepper flakes when tomatoes need a bit of a brighter note - tomatoes do vary in quality season to season - but I am keeping that a secret from Marcella, lest she visit her wrath upon those who do not stick precisely to her instructions; Marcella is a demanding nonna, not the loosey-goosey kind, and we can be grateful for that. Her recipe itself, btw, notes that she's witnessed guests eat by spoon from the pot; hence my idea of also using it as a thick lovely soup - and I normally hate tomato soup.)

                                  When I make this with fresh tomatoes, I only use meaty San Marzano plum tomatoes, which have relatively little liquid; using tomatoes with more moisture makes for a more diluted sauce that is not as sublime. When I make this with preserved tomatoes, I now skip canned tomatoes entirely and go directly to POMI strained tomatoes in the box (no ingredients other than tomatoes, and perfectly milled).

                              2. re: ttoommyy

                                This kind of sauce is indeed italian. I learned to make a sauce like this when i lived in Rome many many years ago. I rented a room for a while from a crazy italian woman (i think she was from parma) and she made a sauce that was butter, onion, and passato (strained tomatoes). It was delicious and i adopted it and then i found the hazan recipe years later.

                              3. Pardon me, but... holy crap, this sauce is good. It's been on my list of things to make for a while, but I finally got to it tonight. Ridiculous how these 3 ingredients (4, I suppose, with salt) comes together as more than the sum of its parts. Serve it tossed with bucatini and ate it as is. I'm usually one to put a ton of freshly grated parmigianno reggiano on my pasta, but this sauce was just perfect without it. Marcella is a goddess.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  Welcome to a large and happy group. And I adore the fact that I ALWAYS have the ingredients on hand.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    It may be a rather dangerous recipe to have in my arsenal! I think my butter intake is about to go up significantly.

                                    Oh, and I, of course, meant "more than the SUM of its parts". Thank goodness for the edit function. One should not post after a meal of pasta and a couple of glasses of wine!

                                    1. re: TorontoJo

                                      I think I read somewhere that if you cook butter with onion and tomatoes, it eliminates the fat! I'm sure I MUST have read that somewhere. And, hey, what's 5T of butter among friends?!?

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I'm so glad you learned that "fact" about butter! I'll remember that (and I won't bother to verify -- it just sounds correct-- Thanks!)

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Who says I was sharing amongst friends? I ate the entire batch of sauce in two sittings. Oops.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            I just read this blog -- "Steamy Kitchen" -- this lady had lunch with Marcella and Victor in Fla. and later went to their condo and cooked them a Chinese meal (egg rolls and pork fried rice).

                                            It's an interesting account of their lives now -- Victor is 87, Marcella 81.


                                            1. re: walker

                                              Due to being on Facebook for Sam and other things, she became one of my "Friends." I immediately sent her a message and got a lovely one inreturn, thanking for my kind words and saying that she was going to reread them last Thursday on her 84th birthday. Quite a lady. Thanks forsharing that link.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Have you read her book: Amarcord? I really enjoyed it. In it, she says Victor refuses to eat poultry -- he seems to eat just about everything else!!! She'd wait for him to go away on business in order to enjoy her roasted chicken.