Food lovers, look away, for I have a confession to make: I hate tomatoes. It’s blasphemy, I know, for the tomato is one of the staples of practically every type of cuisine, yet since I was young and had my first BLT, I literally gag at the sight of them. My poor mother spent years picking little cherries out of my salads and big beefsteak slices from my sandwiches, and when I lived in Florence for a semester, it’s possible that I pissed off an entire city. (“Ma che cosa ci fa?? Stupido Americano!”) But what can I say? Eat a tomato in front of me like it’s an apple and you will see a grown woman squeal like a 5-year-old. (It’s the seeds, by the way.)
Cook the little suckers, however, and it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s ironic that for a girl who shuns gazpacho and bloody mary’s, I salivate at the thought of a sumptuous tomato sauce. Remember that scene in “The Godfather” when Clemenza was teasing Michael about his phone call to Kay (“Tell her you love her, Michael!”) all the while teaching him how to make the best Italian “gravy?” I had to make that sauce right away! And when I first made the holy grail of all tomato sauces, Marcella Hazan’s Tomato sauce with Onion and Butter, I felt like writing the city of Florence a mea culpa. Chefs from Matio Batali to practically every food blogger out there have sung its praises for years, elevating Hazan, the “Julia Child of Italian Cooking” to superstar status. It’s also ridiculously easy to make, so there’s really no excuse not to try it. Oh, unless you’re on a diet. Or watching your cholesterol. Because what makes this sauce so good is butter, and lots of it. Yep, it’s not your nonna’s traditional gravy with garlic or wine or sugar, but rather a lush and velvety sauce that is so simple and good, you may never make another tomato sauce again.*
Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them), with their juices, cut up
- 5 tbsp butter
- 1 onion (preferably yellow), peeled and cut in half
- salt, to taste
Put the tomatoes, butter and onion in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When the tomatoes start to bubble, lower the heat to a slow and steady simmer, and cook uncovered for 45 minutes or until the fat floats free from the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes to the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and discard the onion before tossing with pasta (Hazan suggests spaghetti, penne or rigatoni). Add grated parmesan cheese if desired, though most agree it doesn’t need it it’s so good!
*That is, until you read my “Best Tomato Sauce Ever, Vol. II and III, coming soon!