Simple Tomato Sauce

Agnolotti with simple tomato sauce

I am an avid collector of cookbooks.  I’ve inherited this illness from my mother.  I can’t walk past a book sale without picking up a cookbook or two.  In this age of food porn, photography is everything, however my favourite books are without doubt those tomes of text only, with perhaps a few hand drawn illustrations thrown in for good measure.  Think Elizabeth David, Claudia Roden and Marcella Hazan.  I’ve also picked up a few obscure gems along the way, usually at a great price and mostly overlooked by others for lack of images.  These well known and obscure text books have become my classics.  They are the ones I can’t do without and cook from most often.

I love these books because the finished product is totally up to me and my interpretation of the recipe.  They are also a testament to the skill of the writer as they rely on expertise to convey their message.  (Perhaps Elizabeth David was the original food blogger!)  I can sit for ages flicking through these books, imagining the taste and aromas that the list of ingredients and cooking method will provide, gaining inspiration for a family dinner.

Today’s offering is my adaptation of “Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter” from Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  I have varied the amounts of ingredients and added sugar.  I always add one teaspoon of sugar per can of tomatoes (in most recipes) to balance the bitterness of the tomato seeds – a little trick my grandmother taught me.  As this dish relies on only a few ingredients it’s essential to use the best quality you can find.  I love this sauce on Spinach and Ricotta Agnolotti but it can be used in any dish that requires a plain tomato sauce.  The onion and butter impart an incredible sweetness to the sauce and a divine aroma as it cooks.  This is a very easy dish that should be in everyone’s repertoire.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 4-6 with pasta


3 x 400g cans tomato (whole peeled or diced)

1 onion, peeled and cut in half through root end

100g unsalted butter

3 teaspoons sugar

Cooking salt to taste


If using whole peeled tomatoes, place them in a bowl and crush them through your fingers to break them down.

Place all ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a steady simmer over medium heat.

ingredients for simple tomato sauce

Turn heat to low and simmer uncovered for around 45 minutes or until the sauce looks rich and the butter is floating on the top.

As it cooks stir the sauce occasionally and crush the tomatoes further with a wooden spoon to make a smooth sauce.

Use the sauce to dress your favourite pasta or in other dishes, discarding the onion if you prefer.

simple tomato sauce

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post.  Please contact me using the options below.


2 thoughts on “Simple Tomato Sauce

    • I think the US conversion is 1 stick of butter and 3 x 14oz cans of tomatoes. San Marzano or any good brand of Roma tomatoes will be great. You can increase the butter if your heart/waistline etc. can take it!

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s