Simple Tomato Sauce

simple tomato sauceI love New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes we aim a little too high (I’ll go to the gym every day! I’ll quit smoking cold turkey January 1st! I’ll run a marathon next month!) and come thumping down to earth like Icarus by January 10th. But the idea of it, to ask ourselves how we can be better, how best to nurture ourselves, figuring out what we want out of our year ahead, is a great one. My husband, occasional sage that he is, came up with the best one yet: simplicity.

It’s not so much a resolution as a mantra, a theme for 2011, and I like it. I like it so much I’m stealing it from him outright.

Simplicity, to me anyway, means ruthlessly edited closets and garages and storage boxes. It’s less spending, less clutter, less stuff. (It might mean sweeping out your psychic clutter, too: letting go of worry or old hurts or regret or whatever it is that’s been sticking around too long.) Simplicity means doing more with less. Simplicity is unplugged evenings (more home-cooked meals, books and board games, less television and internet) and old-as-the-hills, healthy entertainments (hiking, yoga, chats with friends over coffee and cups of tea). For Matt, it’s quieting his pace, paring down his commitments, taking less on, taking more deep breaths.

So in keeping with the theme today, I thought I’d share one of the best and easiest recipes I know, a three-ingredient sauce that’s as famous for its simplicity as its robust, sun-kissed flavor. It comes from Marcella Hazan, the grande dame of Italian cooking (a cuisine and a culture with quite a bit to offer in our discussion). Hazan takes plum tomatoes, infuses their vine-ripened flavor with onion (chopped in half, thrown in the pot) and rounds out the edges of the tomatoes’ acidity with a few pats of butter. It’s flavorful, unfussy cooking at its best. Add garlic or herbs if you like, but this sauce is really so lovely just as it is, and utterly easy. Simplicity itself.

Simple Tomato Sauce
adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

  • one 28-oz can plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos (whole, peeled, chopped, with their juices)
  • 4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
  • salt, to taste

In a heavy saucepan, add the first three ingredients with a healthy pinch of salt and heat to a slow simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Cook for 45 minutes, uncovered. Adjust salt to taste. Discard onion (or nibble it alongside your dinner; it tastes delicious, too.) Serve sauce over pasta.

Note: Italian specialty markets and many upscale groceries carry Italian or California-grown San Marzano tomatoes.


About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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10 Responses to Simple Tomato Sauce

  1. This is how my mom used to make it – tomatoes and onions – that’s it! It was sooo good…I can taste it right now!

  2. Christine Lee says:

    Beautiful post Kate – I love your description of simplicity – less is more. Will definitely be adding your simple tomato sauce to the recipe repertoire.

  3. Judy Rower says:

    Cannot wait to try this as soon as I get to a big city and find the San Marzanos tomatoes. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes lately. You spice up our lives. We love your style, your wit and your culinary skills. Happy New Year!!

  4. This looks and sounds amazing! I love the fact that it is so simple. It’s tempting sometimes to want to make crazy meals with exotic ingredients, but it’s great to go back to basic and keep it simple. Thanks for sharing!

  5. thanks, all! happy new year!

  6. Claudia says:

    My go-to sauce that always works! Perfect! Simple for the New Year is always good.

  7. Jason says:

    Made the sauce last week and it was great. I added some garlic and red pepper which I add to everything. Thanks for the great easy recipe.

  8. Pingback: Eggplant Parmigiana | scarpetta dolcetto

  9. kat says:

    That’s my new go-to sauce! I made it for the first time the other night and it incredibly easy! Please check out my post on it and let me know what you think! I’m new to blogging 🙂

  10. Pingback: Chicken-Pesto Meatballs | scarpetta dolcetto

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