Recipe: Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

by Cate on May 28, 2014

Cook all day flavor from a forty five minute spaghetti sauce recipe? Marcella Hazan has got us covered.


When it comes to the age old debate as to whether you top your spaghetti with sauce or gravy, honestly I don’t care what you call it. I have always thought that the kind that cooks for several hours and has meat in it is more often referred to as gravy, and the quicker versions without meat are sauce.

But in the grand scheme of world events? It doesn’t matter.

This recipe is called sauce because Marcella Hazan says so.

With Girl Scouts, soccer, and track occupying a few of our nights, I like to have under-an-hour recipes in my repertoire so we are still eating healthy and avoiding drive-thrus.

Because. Ick.

And when that doesn’t work, breakfast for dinner is always an excellent option.

When the kids asked what was for dinner the other night and I answered “spaghetti and red sauce,” I was met with a chorus of “Yesssses!” Followed by a little voice asking if she could have the noodles with just butter.

We’re in a phase. And she knows what she likes. I’m ok with that.

Just a handful of pantry ingredients simmering on the stove. Super low maintenance and mostly hands-off. Which give you just enough time to throw together a quick salad or fresh fruit, and cook the pasta.

In forty-five minutes, your dinner is done.

And truth be told, the sauce is good at the thirty minute mark too.

Nick hosed down two plates of spaghetti before coming up for air.

And then only to ask for leftovers for his lunch the next day.

I’d say that’s a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one.

This sauce is one of my frequent go-tos because it’s not heavily weighed down by adding countless herbs and spices. I mean, seriously. This is a four ingredient sauce that is all about the tomatoes.

Which is exactly as it should be.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

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


  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.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

debbie May 30, 2014 at 7:25 am

I love simple recipes that are full of flavor. Sounds like this is one. I’ll be trying this one. Thanks!
debbie recently posted..Sauerkraut Latkes


Joanne May 31, 2014 at 8:36 am

I’ve made this sauce before and it is the best!!
Joanne recently posted..Red Velvet Crumb Muffins


Suzi June 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm

This looks good…interesting easy recipe.

I have cut my “gravy” cooking time down by a huge amount myself…
I only use Muir Glen whole tomatoes now…they are so delicious and don’t require 4-5 hours.
I always always use italian sausage…just brown 2 links up..saute a good squeeze of tomato paste in the olive oil once the sausage is browned….a handful of chopped parsley…maybe 4 garlic cloves smashed…and 2 cans (28 0z) Muir Glen tomatoes…in just about an hour you have a fantastic meal that tastes like you cooked all day…..for us…the sausage is the key! The fennel in the sausage really adds the flavor like Nana used to make…recently tried the cento paste in a squueze tube(walmart..2 bucks!)…..came out the best yet.


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