Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is a simple and delicious 3 ingredient sauce everyone must know. A friend turned me onto her sauce recently and I’ve turned to it over my trusty jarred alternatives time and time again.
The sheer idea of making tomato sauce from scratch sounds like a time-consuming and stressful endeavor. What if I told you you could prepare a delicious tomato sauce with 3 basic ingredients (plus salt) and less than 10 minutes of active effort?
Marcella Hazan’s famous, yet foolproof sauce is made with canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, butter, onion, and a pinch of salt. The process consists of gently simmering everything together for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are broken down and the sauce has thickened. The onion is typically discarded and the sauce can be served ‘as is’ or blended for a smoother texture.
I always keep my pantry stocked with canned tomatoes so I can make this sauce on a whim. I highly suggest you do the same!
Recipe Notes & Considerations
Hazan’s original published recipe does not feature any herbs or spices other than salt. I like to add a pinch of salt to taste and will occasionally add a single garlic clove. If you love garlic, it adds delicious garlic flavor that can be blended along with the tomatoes.
Depending on your sensitivity to acidity, you may be tempted to add a pinch of sugar. I will occasionally add a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar if the sauce tastes too tart. I would highly encourage you to try the sauce before adding any sugar and always do so very sparingly. A little goes a long way in terms of balance. It’s not about sweetness.
San Marzano Versus Plum Tomatoes
You can use San Marzano or generic Plum tomatoes for this sauce. San Marzano tomatoes are a type of Plum tomato with thick tomato flesh, fewer seeds, and low water content. I’ve found the canned contents of San Marzano tomatoes to be thicker and richer than generic canned Plum tomatoes.
Look for certified Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes or Tuttorosso Peeled Plum Italian Style Tomatoes. In a side-by-side tasting, I noticed the plum tomatoes rendered a considerably thinner sauce that requires extended simmering to achieve similar consistency. San Marzano tomatoes presented a richer red color whereas plum tomatoes gave the sauce a more orange hue. While both tasted good, we preferred the San Marzano tomato sauce thanks to its richer taste.
As mentioned, this sauce can be served as a rustic crushed tomato texture or blended into a more cohesive mixture like marinara (non-blended vs blended pictured left to right). An immersion blender is perfect for the task and won’t totally aerate or pulverize the sauce. Blending the sauce will also help to thicken it, especially if using Plum tomatoes.
The onion in the recipe can be removed or left in the sauce. The onion should be cut into two halves so it can be easily removed if desired. Some prefer to leave the onion in for extra flavor and that’s totally fine as well. I would be hesitant to blend the onion in with the rest of the sauce because it could be overpowering. If you try this, peel and slice a few layers and taste.
If you only have half an onion on hand that’s totally fine as well. I’ve made this sauce numerous times with just what I had in the fridge/pantry. You can experiment with shallot or even red onion, too. The simplicity of this sauce is what makes it so delicious. Less is more.
This tomato sauce is the perfect pairing for homemade pasta, especially gnocchi, and is a great way to elevate a simple weeknight pasta dish with some authentic Italian flair. Always serve pasta topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce is a simple and delicious 3 ingredient sauce that comes together in 45 minutes.
- 1 (28-ounce) can of whole San Marzano or Plum tomatoes
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
- Salt, to taste
- Optional garlic clove
- Add tomatoes (juices and all), butter, onion, (optional garlic), and salt to a saucepan. Cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened to your liking.
- Stir occasionally, crushing any large pieces of tomato with a wooden spoon.
- Taste and add more salt as needed.
- Discard the onion and serve as is or optionally use an immersion blender to blend the tomato chunks into a smoother more uniform texture. This will also slightly thicken the texture of the sauce. If it’s still too thin, you can continue to simmer the sauce after it has been blended.
- Serve with your favorite pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In my tests, San Marzano tomatoes will render a thicker sauce.
You can optionally leave the onion in the sauce if you prefer. I would not blend the entire onion with the rest of the sauce as it could be overwhelming.
The sauce can keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or can be frozen in an airtight container.
If the sauce is too acidic to your taste, you can add a tiny pinch of sugar to balance it out. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon and taste test.
- Serving Size: 1/4
- Calories: 141
- Sugar: 2g
- Sodium: 107mg
- Fat: 14.5g
- Saturated Fat: 9.1g
- Carbohydrates: 3.2g
- Fiber: 0.7g
- Protein: 0.7g
- Cholesterol: 38mg
Keywords: homemade tomato sauce