Sauce Essentials: Hazan’s Butter Tomato Sauce

Andy Anderson !


“Today, we are going to make a tomato sauce,” my instructor said at the Culinary Institute. “Each of you go into storage, you will need an onion, a 28oz can of tomatoes, 5 tablespoons of butter, and some salt.” I patiently waited to hear what other ingredients were needed, but none were forthcoming.

“Go,” he commanded in his impatient voice. “Shoo, and return out de suite.”

I am not exactly sure how those ingredients turned into the most luscious, comforting sauce in the world, but the only thing I can think of is that it must be magic.

So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.


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5 Min
45 Min
Stove Top



  • 28 oz
    diced tomatoes, 1 can, i prefer cento
  • 1 medium
    yellow onion
  • 5 Tbsp
    sweet butter, unsalted
  • ·
    salt, kosher variety, to taste

How to Make Sauce Essentials: Hazan’s Butter Tomato Sauce


  2. This recipe comes from the queen of la bella cucina, Marcella Hazan. I had two opportunities to meet her: Once was when she was a visiting lecturer at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, while I was attending, and the other time was a few years later at a book signing in London. She was a woman who was full of spirit, and the love of all things culinario. Sadly, she passed away in 2013; but her essence lives on in her books and recipes.
  3. The onion winds up being an undertone, and the butter creates this velvety taste. The only thing shouting in this recipe are the tomatoes… and that is how it should be.
  4. This is a European recipe, and they are using butter that has more butter fat. If at all possible use a European butter, such as: Kerrygold.
  5. This sauce is excellent for the freezer. So, make a big batch, freeze it in portion sizes, and yank it out anytime you have have a hankering for pasta and sauce.
  6. Gather your Ingredients (mise en place).
  7. Cut the ends off the onion, peel, and then slice in half at the equator.
  8. Add the tomatoes to a saucepan, and crush them up with your hands.
  9. Add the onion, and butter to the saucepan.
  10. Chef’s Note: One time I substituted duck fat for half the butter… Oh be still my beating heart.
  11. Bring the pan up to a simmer.
  12. Simmer until the sauce reduces slightly, and begins to thicken, about 45 minutes.
  13. Chef’s Note: Every 10 – 15 minutes, give the sauce a stir, and add a bit of salt, to taste. I usually wind up adding a bit more than a teaspoon of salt. But I do not add it all at once… just a bit at a time, as the sauce cooks. Salting a recipe at the end makes the dish taste salty; adding the salt as it slowly cooks, makes it taste seasoned.
  14. Chef's Note: When I say simmer that is exactly what I mean... simmer. We do not want to burn this sauce. All it needs is about 45 minutes with that butter, onion, and a few pinches of salt.
  15. Remove the onion, and discard.
  16. Chef’s Note: About that Onion… Marcella says to discard the onion; however, I have a better idea. Eat it. I call these “chef’s treats.” It has been marinating in that sauce for almost an hour, it is velvety soft yumminess. Put it to the side, and when no one is looking grab a fork, and dig in. Or puree it, and create an onion dip, or put them on a sandwich. Up to you, but do not throw that wonderful, tasty bit away. When Marcella said to discard the onion, I think she said that with a wink. It is a chef’s treat.
  18. Serve over warm pasta for an amazing taste experience.
  19. Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

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About Sauce Essentials: Hazan’s Butter Tomato Sauce

Course/Dish: Other Sauces
Main Ingredient: Vegetable
Regional Style: Italian

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