1 Giant Batch of Tomato Sauce, 5 Dinners

July 29, 2013

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way. 

Today: Food52's managing editor Brette Warshaw lets three-ingredient Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter feed her all week long.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter from Food52

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This is what my life looks like:

I spend my weekdays dreaming of the things I'll make on the weekend: the corn I'll buy at the farmer's market and then butter or shave or char, the peaches I'll bake into oat-y, toast-y crumbles, the salads I'll toss and the breads that I'll bake. Sometimes, these things happen. But when Sunday night gets darker, and the week starts looming ahead, and the prospect of feeding myself for a week seems daunting -- not dreamy -- I turn to my pantry. I turn to tomatoes.

I take 3 (or more!) cans of tomatoes off the shelf, and I empty them into a pot. (In the summer, you can use fresh tomatoes, too.) I peel an onion, slice it in half, and I throw it in. Sometimes, I add half a stick of butter. And then I let Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter burble away on the stove as I lay on my couch with my feet up and watch mind-numbing television, preparing myself for the week ahead. I let that pot of sauce -- that elixir -- sustain me until the weekend comes again.

Here's what I do with all of it.

Eggplant Parmesan from Food52

Eggplant Parmesan
Coat long slices of eggplant in flour, bake, and then layer them with your sauce and with a ton of Parm. Add a thick ribbon of mozzarella in the middle. Bake it, and then throw a dinner party on a weeknight. (You can also make this a night ahead, and re-warm before serving.)

Eggs in Spicy Minted Tomato Sauce from Food52

Poached eggs for dinner is fine. Poached eggs in tomato sauce for dinner is awesome. Sauté whatever vegetables and spices you're in the mood for -- I use onion, red peppers, red chili flakes, and cumin -- and then add your tomato sauce. Once it's all heated through, crack your eggs into it, cover, and simmer until the whites are set and the yolks are runny. Top it all with tons of salt and black pepper. Eat with a loaf of bread.

Braised Chicken from Food52

Braised Chicken
Brown some chicken thighs on the stove, then take them out of your pan. Add some garlic, some stock or white wine, and your sauce to that same pot, bring it all up to a simmer, and then add your thighs back in. Cook until the chicken is tender, about a half hour. Eat like a queen. 

Meatballs from Food52

Meatballs on a weeknight sounds fussy. But when you have your sauce ready, they're fantastically, mind-numbingly simple. Dump some meat, cheese, eggs, and herbs into a bowl, moisten the whole mess with some milk or some water, shape into balls, and then braise them in the your sauce. Boil up some pasta while you're at it. Invite some friends over. Open a bottle of Chianti. 

More: Make any meatball you want with How to Many Any Meatballs in 5 Steps.

Tomato soup

Tomato Soup
This is so easy it's almost embarrassing: heat up your sauce, thin it out with some water or stock or milk or cream, and pour it into a bowl. Garnish with some herbs, if you're feeling fancy. Eat a ridiculous amount of it. Maybe make a grilled cheese, too.

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Serves 6

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes or 2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Top 5 photos by James Ransom, bottom photo by Sarah Shatz 

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Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


robin L. April 23, 2014
Shakshuka: YUM. i made this for breakfast last week, the day after i made this delicious tomato sauce for the first time. YUM.
Kerryloves2travel August 6, 2013
We just built a pizza oven. How would this sacue be for that? - with some fresh basil of course. Sounds think enough.
Brette W. August 6, 2013
It would be delicious!
Peggio August 5, 2013
This is my go-to sauce, especially in winter because it tastes so FRESH even tho' you are using canned tomatoes. I could eat it plain with just a spoon for supper it's so delicious. Yep, genius, Brette, thanks for the ideas on how to use a big batch for a week! :)
Brette W. August 6, 2013
I've eaten it with a spoon for dinner too many times to admit.
Gabriele August 5, 2013
I had some fab-u tomatoes that were getting a little too soft for my beloved tomato/cheese sandwiches, so after reading this post I made ... yay! tomato sauce. Thanks for the inspiration. I always take my extra tomatoes from my veg patch (or buy) and make "basic tomato sauce" and freeze in 2-cup flat baggies for winter. Such a great memory of summer when it's raining outside.
cherie August 4, 2013
So funny - I made a quadruple batch of that sauce this past week LOL - actually my 10yo did it with supervision - with tomatoes she grew in her garden and some canned as well. We had a fabulous angel hair with the sauce earlier in the week and she just made far too many lasagnas tonight with the remainder of it and some bechamel - I'd hoped to save some for another night but I miscalculated my noodles and with twice as many softened I had to let her keep layering in new pans! Some of that will get frozen - but no one is complaining about eating lasagna for dinner again this week!
Diane August 4, 2013
I make a large batch of sauce every month. Freezes well in quart size containers, keeps for months in the freezer. Keeps in the fridge for about a week. Can add canned mushrooms, garlic, sauteed peppers, browned ground beef, sausage, etc. My hubbies favorite!
nratt August 4, 2013
I've been using Marcella's recipe for quite some time. It's the best quick tomato sauce going. Sometimes I toss in a tablespoon of Italian season. And if, like me, you don't have the heart to toss that perfectly good cooked onion, take an immersion blender to the pot and blend the onion in well. If you still have a few chunks, oh, who cares!
Missy K. August 4, 2013
I usually roast fresh tomatoes with garlic, salt and olive oil in the oven for a rich saucy concoction. The idea of using butter instead of the olive oil is genius, and oh so decadent. Look for an article soon at Thanks for more great ideas.
JackandShelley K. August 4, 2013
Just read this as I am roasting a pan full of Roma tomatoes with fresh rosemary and thyme, sea salt, pepper and a good slug of olive oil. Plan to make a pizza this evening using the tomato sauce I'll get from this. Will be posting a blog about this at Thanks so much for the inspiration - I particularly like the idea of poaching eggs in the sauce. it would never have occurred to me. Love Food52.
Brette W. August 5, 2013
Sounds delicious!
Amirah H. July 31, 2013
Just amazing. Am about to make a whole batch of tomato sauce. How long does it keep for?
Brette W. August 5, 2013
It will keep for a few days in the fridge, but freezes beautifully!
mbj913 July 30, 2013
tomato soup with grilled cheese is a go to when we haven't been to the market. because who doesn't have canned tomatoes, bread and some type of cheese?
Amanda S. July 29, 2013
i'm in love with tomato sauce and how you describe everything
MaggieRosenthal July 29, 2013
Well, now I know what I'll be eating for the rest of the week.
rebecca R. July 29, 2013
Oh, this is nothing short of genius. You have just improved the quality and sanity of my existence.
Brette W. July 29, 2013
Wow, way to make my day!
Kenzi W. July 29, 2013
I love this. A sixth meal: this sauce, spicy, on top of polenta, with maybe a fried egg, maybe not.