Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Marcella Hazan’s Epic Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Three simple ingredients, one epic sauce

Three simple ingredients, one epic sauce

Crazy-good tomato sauce, best tomato sauce ever, simplest tomato sauce ever, revelatory tomato sauce . . .

I’d read so many superlatives about Marcella Hazan’s simple three ingredient tomato sauce, I nearly expected the stars to fall out of the sky when I made it.  Or to be transported to said stars.

Ok, so while that didn’t happen, this ethereal and lovely tomato sauce did cause a smell to waft through my apartment that can only be described as . . . heavenly.  And I guess that’s pretty close to the stars.

Let me just say, you want this aroma in your house . . . It smells like happiness and warmth and fully fed contentment. It’s one of those smells that, if a neighbor stops by for a cup of sugar, will think you are possibly one of the world’s greatest cooks in the history of ever. And want to come in for wine and conversation.  And questions, many questions, about your mad cooking skills. Questions like, “What is that amazing smell?  What in creation (if you’re a Southerner) are you making?”

Yep, it’s that crazy good.

[After making this sauce, I went around telling everyone, “I could catch a husband with that sauce!”  (Sean N., I’m talking to you.)   ; )  But I digress.]

You may be tempted to add garlic or basil or one of your other usual tomato sauce ingredients here, thinking this sauce can’t possibly be flavorful enough with just three simple ingredients to warrant all the fuss made over it, but I assure you, it is.  You will be shocked at how good it is, given you simply throw three things in a pot and pretty much walk away for 45 minutes.  I promise you, it’s rich, indulgent and has plenty of depth just the way it is, prepared according to the recipe.

I urge you to try it in its original form first, then next time you make it, add whatever you like.

But enough about all that. Here’s a pic of what it will look like in the pan while it’s simmering, with the recipe just below that.

The beginning . . .

The beginning . . .

Marcella Hazan’s Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan)


• 2 cups canned plum tomatoes, about one 28-oz. can, whole, peeled, and chopped, with their juices (*San Marzano preferred)
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
• Salt, to taste


• Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion halves in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. A 3-quart pan works well.

• Bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes.

• Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.

• Discard the onion.

And there you have it, it’s just that easy. 


• You may find you don’t need to add any salt, as the tomatoes you’ll use are likely salted.

• I’ve made this sauce twice, and both times I wish I would have mashed up the tomatoes a little with a potato masher or similar before adding them to the pot, to make the final sauce not quite so thick and chunky.

• I served this sauce over penne, and grated some good Parmigiano Reggiano to top it with.  But here’s the thing, I didn’t end up using the cheese, because I wanted to fully appreciate the luscious sauce.  That’s how good it is.

• I served it with a sparkling wine, Ruffino Prosecco, which made this a really special meal.

Bon Appétit!

(For more recipes, wine pairings, and other food & wine goodness, enter your name and e-mail at the top right of this page.  You’ll get some of my favorite recipes with specific wine pairing advice, and hey, it’s free! : ) )

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


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