The Washington Post

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce III

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce III 6.000

Rey Lopez for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Eat Voraciously Newsletter Jun 14, 2016

The headnote for this slow-simmered recipe in Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cookbook" says it all: "Pure sweet taste, at its most appealing." She recommended pairing it with potato gnocchi as well as spaghetti, penne or ziti.

If you're using fresh tomatoes for this rendition, you'll need a food mill.

Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Active time: 25 mins; Total time: 1 hour, 10 mins


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 6 servings; makes 2 cups, enough for 1 pound dried pasta

  • Scant 2 pounds fresh, ripe Roma tomatoes (may substitute 28-ounce can peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes; see NOTE)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, cut lengthwise in half
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Related Recipes


Cut the fresh tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place them cut side down in a wide saucepan; cover and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until slightly softened.

Working in batches as needed, transfer the tomatoes to a hand-cranked food mill set over a mixing bowl. Puree until the solids are completely broken down, with tomato seeds and skins left in the mill. Discard the solids; pour the pureed tomatoes and juices back into the saucepan, then add the butter and onion halves, cut sides down. Cook over medium heat until the butter has melted, then season lightly with salt and add the sugar, if using.

Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook (uncovered) for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, to form a smooth, brightly colored sauce that has thickened a bit.

Taste, and season with salt, if desired. Discard the onion before serving or storing.

NOTE: If you use canned tomatoes, chop, squish or puree them. Then, add them and their juices to the saucepan and cook as directed with the other ingredients.

If you don't have a food mill and want to use fresh tomatoes, peel and de-seed them first. Here's how: Slice an X through the base and dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until they float to the surface. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl of ice water. This will make them easy to peel. After peeling, slice the tomatoes in half and, using your fingers, scoop out and discard the seeds and gel. Tear the tomatoes into pieces and run them through a food processor, in batches if necessary, to puree.

Recipe Source

Adapted from Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cookbook" (MacMillan London Ltd., 1987).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at

Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 160

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 16g 25%

Saturated Fat: 10g 50%

Cholesterol: 40mg 13%

Sodium: 55mg 2%

Total Carbohydrates: 6g 2%

Dietary Fiber: 2g 8%

Sugar: 4g

Protein: 1g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

Most Read Lifestyle