tomato sauce with onion and butter

tomato sauce with onion and butter with pasta

I first came across this tomato sauce on Smitten Kitchen’s website. I tried it out when I was living in Montreal but wasn’t really convinced it was THAT good. Recently, I bought two very large cans (106oz each) of Italian canned tomatoes. They were on sale at an Italian supermarket and I jumped on them (not literally of course). The hubs and I were going to get the smaller cans but decided on the larger ones seeing that we would save more money.

This is my first time buying Italian canned tomatoes. Some bloggers have done comparisons between American canned tomatoes and the Italian ones and have said that there is a difference. I decided that this was “the time” to do the test.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a difference because the Italian tomatoes I bought were the “cheaper” brand. The large cans consisted mainly of tomato puree and had very few plum tomatoes. The tomatoes, tasted out from the can, were watery. They did however, in my opinion,  have a more “tomato-ey” flavor.

When cooked with the onion and butter, I had to reduce the sauce quite considerably. The sauce was quite nice, eventually. I will though use better tomatoes the next time I make this. It is a very simple tomato sauce and I can envision making this sauce for my children (in the future). I am plotting to freeze a couple of portions of this sauce since I tripled the recipe.

This recipe has been raved about by many popular food bloggers and is from Marcella Hazan’s book “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”.

I made a triple and a half recipe, but the recipe posted below is great for 4 servings of pasta.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

(from Marcella Hazan’s book, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”; taken from Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 2-4, depending on how saucy you would like your pasta


  • 28 ounces (800 grams) whole peeled tomatoes from a can
  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • Salt to taste


  1. Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Bring the sauce to a boil then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Do not cover the pot when simmering, you want the sauce to reduce.
  3. When sauce is done, discard the onion, or keep it if you like onions in your sauce, and season with salt to taste.
  4. Serve with pasta of choice (I like to use penne), with or without grated Parmesan cheese.

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