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How to Make a Week of Meals with Marcella's Genius Tomato Sauce

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Marcella Hazan’s recipe for tomato sauce with onions and butter is long-beloved, and for good reason.

As with most of her classic Italian recipes, this sauce is a celebration of simplicity. It utilizes three basics—tomatoes, onion, and butter—to prove that high-quality ingredients and a little time are all you need to make a dish really sing.

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Sure, you could use this Genius sauce over whatever pasta shape you adore and continuously devour. But because the recipe is so straightforward (and truly, honestly good), you can easily manipulate this three-ingredient winner into a whole week of different meals without much effort.

Photo by James Ransom

Make a big batch of this simple sauce on Sunday, use it to coat your pasta strands generously, and pretend you're twirling your fork through them in an Italian sidewalk café. When you’ve had your fill, pack up your extra sauce and get ready to have a week of equally happy meals. Here's how:

On Sunday make sure to cook up:

Then stock up on these goods:

  • Flour, butter, eggs, and breadcrumbs
  • Onions, carrots, and celery
  • Fish fillets (one for each person)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
  • Assorted cheeses
  • Bread, for sandwiches and serving
  • Couscous
  • Baby spinach and kale
  • Assorted seasonal vegetables
  • Herbs and spices
  • Assorted cured meats, if desired
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Put your basics to work all week:

  • Use your pizza dough to make stromboli. Roll dough into a rectangle and cover with cheeses, assorted meats, sautéed onions, and spinach (or whatever toppings you like), making sure to leave a one-inch border all the way around. Roll the dough tightly into a neat log and tuck the ends underneath. Cut a few steam vents in the top of dough with a sharp knife, brush with egg wash, and bake until golden brown. Serve with your tomato sauce for ample dipping.
  • Slowly poach fresh fish filets in tomato sauce (use a method just like this) and serve with couscous and a simple sautéed spinach.
  • Incorporate your tomato sauce into a seasonal ratatouille. If it's summery where you are, go for the classic eggplant, pepper, and zucchini combo, but if you're still working with winter produce, try parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga. Serve with chickpeas for some added bulk.
  • Sandwich night! Pound your chicken cutlets until thin, dredge them in breadcrumbs, and pan-fry in olive oil. Top them with cheese and broil until bubbly, cheesy, and amazing. Spread tomato sauce on slices of bread, top with chicken and sautéed kale, and celebrate.
  • You know that you'll want to eat this sauce over more pasta, so change things up by serving over a different shape, making a baked pasta, or bulking up the sauce with beans or greens. This is a good opportunity to use up any extras from the week (chicken, vegetables, chickpeas!).
  • And don't forget about eggs! You're just a few steps away from dishes like skakshuka or eggs in purgatory. Serve with toasted bread and any cheese you like.
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What simple recipes make your meals better? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Italian cooking, italy week, halfway to dinner, tomato sauce, meal planning, make-ahead meals, what to cook