The Easiest Tomato Sauce That Won Hearts, Changed Lives

June 13, 2018

As Food52 gets older (and wiser), and our archive of recipes grows, we’re making the effort to revisit some gold recipes. Today, we're highlighting the internet's most famous tomato sauce with our brand new video.

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce could be the reason Genius recipes even exist.

“Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. It was only a matter of time,” Kristen Miglore said back in 2011. “The sauce was always there, seeping into every discussion of this whole genius recipe premise.”

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And why wouldn’t it be? The ingenuity lies in its simplicity: tomatoes, butter, and onion. No garlic or herbs, no pepper or carrots. Just simple tomatoes shining as the truest versions of themselves.

You don’t even need fresh tomatoes—though we certainly hope you can get your hands on some this summer! Hazan’s recipe is perfectly suited for a 28-ounce can of San Marzano or whatever canned tomatoes you prefer. Either way, those juicy fruits simmer in a bath of butter complete with an aromatic onion bath bomb. Once the fat floats away from the tomatoes, stir it right back in there and get ready to serve over your favorite pasta. Or pizza. Or eggplant. Or fish. Or eggs. (We really can keep going…)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Bonus: it takes about 45 minutes, with canned tomatoes, making it very weeknight friendly.”
— HalfPint

So what are you waiting for? Grab a can and start simmering.

Do you remember the first time you made the sauce? Join us down memory lane in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Candy
  • Kathy Yoshida
    Kathy Yoshida
  • Miranda Baxter-Russell
    Miranda Baxter-Russell
  • Tora12
  • Linda Lockhart
    Linda Lockhart
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Candy October 8, 2023
Where are the directions for the tomato sauce recipe
Smaug October 8, 2023
Near the bottom, above the ingredient list, is a button that says "See Recipe"- click on that.
Kathy Y. October 8, 2023
Who can second guess Marcella? Followed the recipe as written and for the simplicity, time and effort, it is amazing and definitely a keeper!
Miranda B. October 23, 2022
Wow, this is so incredibly easy, economical and tasty! To describe the flavour I’d use words including rich, deep, decadent and pure. I can imagine using this for all manner of dishes! What’s more, it took about a minute to put together. I let mine slowly simmer for almost an hour but tasted constantly to check for any changes in flavour after 45 mins. There were none, meaning it’s a forgiving recipe too, provided you stir gently, regularly.
After cooking I removed the onion, kept half the sauce exactly as stated on the recipe. With the other half, after removing the onion & making a purée using a stick blender, I mixed in a couple of spoons back into the sauce. Both versions are utterly delightful! Thrilled to have such a flavoursome recipe to add to my arsenal. Thank you!
Tora12 September 22, 2022
It’s delicious but I’m very bothered by food waste so I don’t discard the onion. I prefer my sauce smooth so I use a stick blender to make it smooth and that incorporates the onion as well. I also add a couple of garlic cloves because I love garlic and occasionally a bit of basil. I know it’s not the original but I think my version is better!!!
Linda L. July 19, 2018
The last time I made this I was a little distracted and dropped an entire stick of butter (8 tablespoons) in the pan instead of the usual 5. It was even more mind-blowingly delicious.
Judy June 29, 2018
My go to sauce. Sometimes I put garlic in the beginning and chopped basil at the end. Sometimes a squeeze of anchovies paste and some olives. Sometimes .... oh you get the idea. The basis is so easy.
Traveler June 29, 2018
I do remember the first (and only time) I made it. I took a few bites and threw the rest away. Disgusting!
Cat June 15, 2018
This is the recipe that taught me how to make sauce that doesn’t come out of a jar. Although I rarely make it as written anymore, it was foundational to me in learning new ways of cooking. I like to cut the onions in ribbons and leave them in because they are super delicious after simmering with the tomatoes and fat for a long while.
boulangere June 16, 2018
I've never been able to make myself discard the lovely onion either. I do cook it whole, but once the sauce is done, I slice it up and stir it back in. It has such a lovely silkiness that goes so well with the pasta.
Smaug June 14, 2018
A little surprising how many people have come to praise this recipe and then declare that they make fundamental changes to it- and a recipe like this, almost any change is fundamental. I tried it once as written- it was OK, but I wasn't tempted to repeat it.
DaaBix June 14, 2018
It sounds good, but I just can’t rock with a red sauce without garlic!
kgohl June 14, 2018
For years I breezed by this recipe, mainly because of the butter and the few ingredients. Butter? Really? When I finally tried it, about fifteen years ago, I was amazed. Now it's my go-to sauce. I always chop the onion, sometimes add garlic, sometimes a few leftover mushrooms. How could I have doubted for so many years?
boulangere June 16, 2018
I love the mushroom idea. I always have dried mushrooms on hand, and next time I think I'll toss in a few porcini. Thank you!
Easily one of our favourite recipes that we've discovered through Food52. We make this by the gallon during Australian summer, using fresh tomatoes from my in-law's garden (sometimes chucking in a few whole chillies for spice). It's a new Christmas tradition!
dinaofdoom June 13, 2018
The one recipe I reach for time and again.

Sometimes I buy canned San Marzanos, other times I go with an organic fire roasted. I also add a glug of balsamic at the end but leave the rest alone because it's perfect.
Panfusine June 13, 2018
I bottle at least two dozen jars of these during the tomato season.Its a labor of love, buying tomatoes from my local farm, peeling them and making the sauce in bulk, but oh so satisfying. substitute olive oil because of the long term storage issues.
Panfusine June 14, 2018
Yes, started doing that this year on (after adding a little more attention to detail about the bottles and making labels).
witloof June 13, 2018
I chop the onion first, before I toss it into the pot. I buy canned cherry tomatoes from Italy and they're so lovely in this sauce during the winter.
HalfPint June 13, 2018
This is a wonderful sauce. There have a lot of criticism that this isn't "Italian" because it lacks olive oil and garlic. And don't get some people started on the butter. But the butter works here because it adds a sweetness as well as a richness to the sauce that is sublime. Bonus: it takes about 45 minutes, with canned tomatoes, making it very weeknight friendly.
Bevi June 14, 2018
I believe butter is preferred to olive oil in northern Italian regions, according to Time Life foods of the World series on Italy! This sauce is a mainstay of my summer freezing schedule. It's so versatile and adds a silkiness to any dish I make with this sauce as an ingredient.
HalfPint June 15, 2018
@Bevi, I've heard that butter is more often used by Northern Italians. But these so-called 'real Italians' kind of consider Marcella Hazan and this tomato sauce a joke (blaspemous, I know). Every time this recipe shows up on my FB feed, the trolls come out of the wood works.
Bevi June 16, 2018
Ha! All I know is - it's good!