Thursday, November 14, 2013

Easiest, Amazing-est Spaghetti Sauce...with Canned Tomatoes!

I have to pass along the world’s simplest, super-yummy dish: Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, based on a recipe by the renowned Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan.  I’m sure everyone else in the world knows her recipes, making me late to this party…but better late than never! 

The New York Times Magazine ran an appreciation of her on Sunday, accompanied by several recipes, with some mouth-watering photographs.  But this one in particular really caught my eye, since it looked suspiciously easy.  Three ingredients plus salt and spaghetti noodles?  Canned tomatoes?  I could make this without going to the grocery store?  Sign me up!

I can’t speak to the magical chemistry that is the combination of canned tomatoes and butter—I can only speak to the fact that there is, indeed, magic in this dish and that you MUST make it immediately.  You could serve this at a dinner party and everyone would rave.  You could eat the whole pan all by yourself…which is what Steve and I did.

My only caution is that quality matters here, and that you really do need the better canned tomatoes (which are worth the extra $ anyway). I used a whole can of diced San Marzano—white label with a silhouette of tomatoes.

Here’s the piece in the Magazine, and here’s the easiest version of the recipe and its link to the New York Times (with a hilarious correction at the end):


  • 2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.

2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.

3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 ~Recipe by Marcella Hazan


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.