15 July 2011

Marcella Hazan's Infamous Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter...a Game Changer

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
The type of outings I live for are the ones spent with foodie friends where you can whip out your camera and take photos of your food with wild abandon, where the conversation is always centered around what you are eating, the process of cooking it, the person behind it, the history of the dish, blogging, food writing, and anything else you can think about. In fewer words it is all about the food!!!

A few short weeks ago I enjoyed the company of some talented local ladies whom I met last fall at Jennifer Cockrall- Kings' Food and Wine Writers Workshop in Penticton. We spent some down time at Judy's Camp Okanagan on the sundappled porch of Wine Country Cabin 35 sipping bubbly. There were amazing desserts from a local bakery and amuse bouche "a la Frizzle" made with honey from the Big Island, her second home in Hawaii, while we unwound from a delicious lunch at Mission Hill Winery and private tour of their kitchen and gardens from executive chef Matthew Batey. You can read all about our amazing sojourn  at Roz's Site here. Dubbed by Judi "The Chicks Who Wine" our group will be out and about in the Okanagan valley enjoying all that it has to offer.

During our conversation I remembered hearing some very persuasive things about a tomato sauce with onion and butter by Marcella Hazan, the venerable Italian cookbook author whose sturdy, no-nonsense, nonna-like tone makes me confidant in the kitchen.

In its very simplicity lies the secret. It has 3 ingredients, and requires no preparation so lock your knives in the kitchen cupboards.  Add garlic or basil, mozzarella or Parmesan, if you are so inclined, but try it in it's original virginal state first. A recipe is a guideline and gives you the courage to strike out on your own. The butter makes the sauce so DON'T switch to olive oil that is my only recommendation!!

This is a show-stopping, voluptuous sauce that had us all drooling at the mere mention of its name. The sauce bubbles away and the butter separates and creates pockets of flavour. The butter bolsters the sweetness of the tomatoes and balances their acidic edges, while the halved onion simmering slowly in the sauce, lends a subtle, savoury note. The onion is meant to be discarded but my adopted imaginary nonna cooking alongside me wouldn't allow it and true to my imaginary Italian roots no ingredient shall be wasted, so, I enjoyed it's buttery mouthwatering lusciousness alongside my spaghetti. Besides I love onions!!! Like the bubbling pot of well-balanced sauce the aromas coming from the kitchen teased and tantalized and I was not disappointed!

Thank you for joining me for the 6th installment as I travel along with Mary of One Perfect Bite on an incredible culinary journey. This event is in it's infancy and already I have learned so much from the masters with little secrets and techniques.  Gourmet Live brought out a list of the 50 most influential women in food...Fifty women game changers. Some are chefs, some are food writers, and some are women who are passionate about the creative process. You could certainly add or detract women from this list, but no matter what these women have all influenced us in one way or another. Being a woman and passionate about food myself I wanted to explore and not only learn from the masters but recreate some of their dishes to better understand what has shaped and molded them into who they are today. In doing so I have learned more about myself as well. Follow us on this journey while we take an in depth exploration of these women's lives and what makes them who they are.

For 50 weeks we will experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list" coaxing and prodding their recipes into shape in our kitchens. Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty it will be an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters. My cohorts for this adventure you will find below. If you would like to join in  please contact Mary. This is an informal event and you have the flexibility to follow along when you can. She will be posting every Friday.

But who is Marcella Hazan? I am a disciple of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks. To understand Italy is to cook from her books. The recipient of two Lifetime Achievement Awards (from the James Beard Foundation in 2000, and the IACP in 2004) and a knighthood from her own country, Marcella Hazan is the author of six classic cookbooks. She lives in Longboat Key, Florida, with her husband, Victor, her lifelong collaborator and writing partner, himself an authority on Italian food and wine. For more than 25 years now Marcella Hazan has been goading, shaming and, not incidentally, inspiring her readers into preparing Italian cuisine the proper way, true to the traditional methods of the Italian kitchen.

"There is that volume, the one streaked with pepperonata sauce, its pages mangled and steamed into perpetual ripples from everyday use until it's almost twice as thick as it was on the day you first opened it. Most cooks have a book like this, a faithful friend that has carried them through everything from dinner parties to seduction suppers to pasta meals whipped up for solitary delectation at the end of a long day. These books are our Virgils, our Obi-Wan Kenobis of the kitchen. They teach us, gradually, to trust ourselves with a skillet and maybe even a potato ricer. They've made cooks out of us, and we celebrate them here." - Salon
As you read this I am packing for a holiday. Going back to my own roots in Southern Ontario tomorrow forces me to look ahead and reflect on these creative women. I want to thank Mary for taking us on this journey which has opened my eyes to not only the importance of these women in our lives but to reflect on what we have learned from each by sheer osmosis. There will be a few scheduled posts over the next week and I'll be sure to relate my adventures when I return. Au revoir!!!!

What did I learn this time around: Add a good quantity of butter to your tomato pasta sauce for a mellow, well balanced flavour!!!! I have made it 3 times this month for it's simplicy and depth of flavour. That is high accolades my friends.

What are my friends up to:

Mary of One Perfect Bite - Cold Herb-Flavored Marinated Green Beans
Joanne of Eats Well With Others - Pasta with Zucchini, Basil and Parmesan Sauce
Claudia of A Seasonal Cook in Turkey - Panzanella
Susan of The Spice Garden -
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed - Cucumber, Radish and Orange Salad.
Heather of Girlichef - Layered Crespelle with Tomato, Prosciutto, and Mozzarella
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney -Roasted Chicken with Pancetta and Herbs
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living - away this week
April of Abbys Sweets - away this week
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud - Ricotta Gnocchi with Simple Tomato Sauce
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me -Semifreddo di Cioccolato
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen - Clam Soup
Linda - There and Back AgainCream and Butter Pasta 

**Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter**
recipe adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find them), tomatoes roughly chopped with their juices
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
salt to taste
(optional add garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese)

1. Heat a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add a pinch or two of salt. Turn the heat to low to keep a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.

2.  Discard the onion (or devour it on the side). Serve over cooked pasta.

I used salted butter and also heavily salt the boiling pasta water, so I didn’t add any additional salt to the sauce. Taste and adjust with more salt if needed to suit your tastes.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. This sauce sounds fantastic Val. Anything with butter always tastes better and how interesting that she uses butter instead of olive oil, being Italian. Also interesting that she and Victor live in the Florida Keys.

    Hope you have a wonderful trip and also a very happy birthday.

  2. What a wonderful recipe you've chosen to feature today. I really enjoyed today's post, Val. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

  3. Val~ you know I spent 16 months beina a 'Pomodori', cooking our way through Marcella Hazan's cookbook. She is a delightful lady... but she is absolute in her recipes. She would take you to task on that olive oil.
    Women who wine sound like my kind of group!
    A friday's favorite for sure :-)

  4. Mmmhhh, surely delicious! I love to use butter instead of olive oil in my Italian food (they do that in the north of Italy...).




    OH NO all caps..sorry!

  6. Val--I felt the same way about Marcella's tomato sauce. I couldn't believe that such simple ingredients could yield such a tasty sauce. I also couldn't bring myself to just toss the whole onion. It was so, so tasty!

  7. Val, everytime I see this recipe, I'm so intrigued. So few ingredients and everyone absolutely raves about it. I have to try it! Enjoy your holiday in my neck of the woods and is it your birthday? Well then happy birthday!!!

  8. Thanks guys, if I had one wish for my birthday it would be to have dinner cooked by Marcella Hazan and share a kitchen together.

  9. I like your post! I love when people really do post special articles! That one that come from your hurt, not because you should, because you wanted!

  10. Well, I am completely and totally sold...this sounds amazing and I must make it pronto!! You wrote up such a wonderful Marcella post...makes me want to pull out her books and start cooking again. So what is this talk of a birthday? Is it yours? Well, if so...happy, happy birthday to you :D (sorry, my memory isn't what it used to be)

  11. Fantastic post...I'm so glad we did that lunch and visit. We shall make it a regular event:) Hope you are getting some beach days in. We went to the beach yesterday regardless of the crazy wind and rain squalls. It was kind of nice. Had the place to ourselves:)

  12. great tribute and probably one of marcella's best and most accessible recipes - on my summer to cook list now!

  13. This sounds like my kind of camp!

  14. I am a Marcella Hazan devotee. This is a sauce that I haven't done but it will be on our table soon. I love hearing about your outings with food friends.


  15. I first saw this recipe on Jaden's site when Marcella herself showed her how to cook it for lunch. Often the simple, quality ingredients are all that's needed.

  16. I admit that although I have Italian heritage and love Italian cooking, I really haven't ventured into Hazan's cookbooks. I have heard of this recipe, but haven't cooked it yet. I did make my own variation of her meat sauce once. Totally worth the effort it took to make it. I think it's time to try a little butter in my tomato sauce!

  17. so ridiculously jealous, it hurts!!!!...

  18. I've heard really good things about this sauce also, but tragically haven't made it yet! It's great how something so simple can be so tasty!

  19. Um yeah. I love tomato sauces from true Italians, and I love the tone Marcella takes in her book. As if she is saying: Let me show you what is right.
    This looks great, thanks for sharing!

  20. Val, this sounds like a game changer indeed!

  21. Oh yummy! I love Marcella.. she is so sweet too!

  22. I have yet to add butter to tomato sauce but I was certainly drooling as you explained what it did to the sauce. I will try it!

    Enjoy the rest of your birthday and have a great holiday.

  23. Sounds really fun Vall!! huggs gloria

  24. This does sound luscious! I can't wait to try it.

    Have a wonderful holiday!

  25. Sounds like a very fun event. Did I see a Happy Birthday somewhere here? HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  26. I agree, there is no outing like those taken upon with fellow foodies! That sauce does sound wonderful, glad you enjoyed yourself so much :)

  27. Oh my, all of those ingredients sound wonderful! The photo is just beautiful too, I love that blue plate :)

  28. Oh, this is my perfect event as well! And I will definitely try this sauce! I don't have any of her cookbooks but have two by her son, Giuliano, and the recipes are simple and fabulous! I have plans to visit them this summer and would love to meet the great Marcella! But first I should pick up one of her magical cookbooks.

  29. Fabulous, informative post, Val. And I loved reading Roz's blog. What a great idea...Chicks Who Wine! Such fun.
    And Marcella's tomato sauce is perfect. Simple, elegant and quick. Thanks for all the details, I really didn't know much about her.

  30. Great posting and very informative too.

  31. That is one good looking sauce Val! Delicious! I have look for her cookbooks, I keep hearing such wonderful things about Marcella Hazen!

  32. I made this sauce recently Val and was quite impressed with it's ease and taste. I too ate the onions as I couldn't bring myself to discard them!

  33. I've learned so much already, reading these posts in this series that you're doing with Mary. I've heard of Marcella Hazan, but have never tried any of her recipes. This sauce looks wonderfully simple! :)

  34. What a great way to change up standard tomato sauce! I am going to try it soon!

  35. As many times as I've read about the famous recipe, I've never tried it. Thanks for the gentle reminder. My tomatoes are still green but this is the first thing I'm ging to do! (Wish I could join the chicks!)

  36. there really are few things more satisfying than a good, basic tomato sauce. this sounds like one of those recipes that'll get used and used and used until a cook can't make it to the kitchen anymore!

  37. Happy Belated Birthday wishes, Val. Like you, I grew up (in terms of my cooking years) with Marcella Hazaan and have never been disappointed with her recipes!

  38. this is as simple as my tomato sauce is (except that i use oil instead of butter, of course!)


Welcome to my home. Thank you for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your support, comments, suggestions,and daily encouragement.


This blog uses comment moderation therefore SPAMMERS, SELF-PROMOTERS and ADVERTISERS will be deleted.