pasta sauce with tomato, butter, and onion :: by radish*rose

simple pasta sauce with tomato, butter, and onion

This is so simple that it seems it couldn’t possibly work. My favorite kind of adventure! How could something with only three ingredients taste so good? (Five if you count the pasta and Parmesan.) But it does! Really, you’ve got to try it for yourself. You can’t beat the convenience – in fact, I bet you have all these ingredients in your pantry right now. Or if you don’t, start keeping them on hand and then you can always make a tasty pasta on short notice. Indeed, I made this on a chilly, rainy summer evening, accompanied by a big green salad and a glass of wine, and it was just the thing.

This is based on a recipe by Marcella Hazan, republished in Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. I always think of her as the Julia Child of Italian cooking, because she really made Italian cuisine and home cooking accessible to American cooking enthusiasts like me. I’ve slightly rejiggered the recipe to use a whole 28-oz can of tomatoes (794 grams) instead of 480 grams as the original says, because I simply couldn’t think of what to do with the rest of the tomatoes. A total lapse of imagination on my part means we leave no tomato behind. And if you prefer to use fresh tomatoes, the Food52 Genius Recipes version tells you how.

simple pasta sauce with tomato, butter, and onion
Equipment: Large pot and colander for cooking pasta; medium saucepan for making sauce.
  • 28 oz can good-quality diced tomatoes (I like San Marzano or Muir Glen)
  • ¼ tsp. sugar (this alleviates the acidity of the canned tomatoes)
  • 6 T. butter (I used salted butter, then didn't need to add more salt)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, root and stem removed, and cut in half
  • Salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. any shape pasta (as you can see, I used penne)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese, for serving
  1. Make the pasta sauce: Place the tomatoes (including their juice), butter, and onion halves in a medium saucepan. Over medium high-heat, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a steady but slow simmer. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened and the butter floats to the surface (which you'll stir back in). Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Remove the onion halves before serving (you can totally eat them, but they're not needed for the dish).
  2. Cook your pasta: Once the sauce has been going for about 20 or so minutes, fill a large pot with water and add 1-2 T. salt. Bring to a boil. When it boils, add your pasta and cook according to the package directions, then drain. If you start your water once the sauce is about 20 minutes in, assuming your pasta takes about 10 minutes to cook or so, you should end up with the sauce and the pasta finishing around the same time.
  3. Finish your dish: Once your pasta and sauce are both done, add both back into the pasta pot. Over high heat, "marry" the pasta and sauce together by tossing together for a minute or two. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago. Enjoy!


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