Pizza Margherita, Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Homemade Ricotta
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Oh my gosh, I have so much deliciousness to report to you all, I don’t know where to begin. I suppose it all started last week after Food 52 reminded me of Marcella Hazan’s widely adored tomato sauce recipe and the NY Times reminded me of the pleasure of eating fresh ricotta cheese. And then I remembered seeing a Barefoot Contessa recipe for homemade ricotta cheese on Gwyenth Paltrow’s blog, which reminded me of a different GP entry about homemade pizza, all of which has led me to so many wonderful discoveries this week. Is your head spinning?
Let me summarize:
1. Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is every bit as delicious as everyone has claimed. Before this past Tuesday, when I dipped my wooden spoon into a pot of gently simmering tomatoes, lifted it to my mouth, and tasted the freshest, lightest, most delectable flavors, I had never had great success making tomato sauce. Friends, family, and any of you out there who have tomato-sauce making fears, rest assured that you, too, can cook like an Italian grandmother. This sauce is gold.
2. Thanks to discovery #1, I’ve finally made a classic pizza margherita at home. One of my all-time favorite spots for thin-crust pizza is 2Amys in Washington D.C., which serves an incredible pizza margherita topped with a most memorable fresh tomato sauce. 2Amys Pizza was my first thought after tasting Hazan’s sauce. Now, I’ve accepted that until I build my wood burning oven, I’m not going to achieve a restaurant quality crust at home. But I no longer have an excuse for not making pizza margherita. This sauce is so damn good. I credit nothing other than the sauce for producing the pizza that emerged from my oven today. It was one of the best. Less is more is the key here: a thin layer of this sauce topped sparingly with fresh mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of fresh basil out of the oven does the job. Yum yum yum.
3. Making fresh ricotta cheese at home is as easy as the Barefoot Contessa’s latest book promises. And it is SO delicious. I made myself nectarine and fresh ricotta bruschetta for lunch today. It was heaven. And then I remembered one of my all-time favorite pizza combinations — nectarine with basil and reduced balsamic — and made a variation of that for dinner. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to spread what’s left of my fresh ricotta on a toasted bagel and top it with one of my CSA tomatoes. I’m really living it up here.
The most fragrant purple basil freshly picked from my garden, a treat I have my brother-in-law to thank. Thanks Mr. T!
Making tomato sauce:
Straining homemade ricotta through cheesecloth:
Homemade tomato sauce and fresh ricotta cheese:
Sauce approved by a silent and contemplative kitchen assistant:
Classic pizza margherita:
Nectarine and ricotta pizza with fresh basil:
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- Total Time: 27 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups
Source: The Barefoot Contessa via Goop
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
- Set a large fine-mesh sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
- Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
- Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth. Save the whey — you can make bread with it. Use the ricotta immediately or transfer to a storage vessel, and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Cheese
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American/Italian
Keywords: homemade, ricotta
Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Simplified
- Total Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
- Yield: 2 quarts
This is a modified/simplified recipe of Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce with onion and butter. To sum up the changes: I don’t peel the tomatoes, I slice the onion and sweat it with the butter first, then add the tomatoes. After about an hour simmer, I purée it. This is just easier for me, and I find the taste of the sauce to still be fresh and bright.
Here I’ve doubled the quantities of the original recipe, so feel free to make a half batch or multiply the quantities if you wish, too.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 4 pounds tomatoes, dice into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook gently, lowering the heat if necessary, until the onions are soft, about 15 minutes. (The onions should take on very little color, but if they brown a little, it’s fine.)
- Add the tomatoes and salt to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring every so often to ensure the onion isn’t scorching on the bottom of the pan. (If you cover the pan for 2 minutes, the mixture will come to a boil more quickly.) Once the mixture is simmering, lower the temperature, so the mixture is gently bubbling—medium heat should do it. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reduced and feels somewhat thick as you run a spoon through it. Purée with an immersion blender or transfer mixture to a food processor or blender (taking care to hold the lid down tightly lest it blast off due to the steam) and purée until smooth. Taste. Add more salt to taste.
- Once cool, transfer to storage containers and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for months.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hours 15 minutes
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: homemade, tomato, sauce, Marcella, Hazan, simple, summer
Classic Pizza Margherita
Follow instructions for making dough and pizzas on this post.
1 recipe pizza dough
1 recipe tomato sauce (see above)
fresh mozzarella cheese
fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly after pizza is removed from oven
Nectarine and Fresh Ricotta Pizza
Dough yields 4 pizzas serving 3 to 4 people total
1 recipe pizza dough
1 recipe Homemade Ricotta Cheese (see above)
fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly after pizza is removed from oven
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52 Comments on “Pizza Margherita, Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Homemade Ricotta”
Marcella Hazan’s sauce is pire genius and would create incredible pizza too!
That’s a budding chef if I ever saw one! Can’t wait for you to open up your own place where I can come by and try all these goodies. Hope you’re well.
How perfect! I haven’t made pizza this summer, I must correct that! I had the same tomato sauce revelation using a Jamie Oliver recipe. So delicious! And actually, mozzarella is very easy to make at home too.
I need to get in touch! Homemade mozzarella is easy, too? Please share!
Gorgeous photos and inspiring recipes, Alexandra. I could eat like this every day (if I only had fresh tomatoes and nectarines and/or peaches…). I want to try the nectarine/ ricotta pizza. Have you ever tried making the ricotta with whole milk and buttermilk (no cream)? It’s not as rich as Barefoot Contessa’s, but very easy and good.
This tomato sauce really is awesome. We made a batch, then grilled pizza dough on the outdoor grill, flipped it, slathered with the sauce and fresh mozz, grilled until the cheese melted, then basil chiffonade. Unbelievably good!
Second recipe I’m dying to print but can’t figure out how without printing the whole entry with pictures and everything. Help! TIA. Karin
Okay…WOW! I made this tonight – the entire schabang – and it was incredible. I’d made the dough before (a gazillion times) but for some reason tonight was extra good The fresh tomato sauce is perfect for pizza, nice and light. And that ricotta, which I added to a margarita, was so so so SO good. I couldn’t find cheesecloth in Zürich, but I used muslin that I bought in the baby section of a department store (can’t you see I was desperate for cheeese). I’d never made cheese before and I was blown away by how easy and delicious it was. Kerry is coming next week and I told her to bring me some cheesecloths, even if it means scouring every store in NYC. Thank you thank you for a great post!
You are seriously dedicated… so impressed that a muslin baby wrap worked! And so glad that you like the tomato sauce and ricotta. I can’t get enough of either these days.
Bless you and thank you for sharing the joys of Ina Garten’s fresh, homemade ricotta – and special thanks, of course, to Ina! I just made some for the first time and am in heaven…and quickly looking up the recipe for the pizza dough to do something creative here.
Oh, and I couldn’t find cheesecloth either, here in Chile, so I bought some crochet-y lace-y kitchen curtains, which they have plenty of, and cut them up to make a triple layer. Worked great 😉
Your baby is a cherub!
Thanks, Heather… she’s not so much acting like one these days, however 🙂
Anyway you can repost the whole sauce recipe? The link to it does not work anymore to retrieve the full recipe. Thanks! I would love to try!
Sure thing, just did!
Your blog is amazing! Full of yummi recipes!
I am definitely going to try the pizza margherita, looks so easy and delish!
Hello, I just Stumbled upon your site today and I’m really enjoying it! I am going to try your chicken recipes for sure.
I was curious to see that the full recipe for making ricotta isn’t listed? Am I missing something?
Thanks for the inspiration, I look forward to cooking up some of these recipes. =D
TH — thank you! How did I miss that?! I just updated the post with the full recipe for the ricotta. Hope it turns out well for you!
I just wanted to find out from you if I do not take whole milk can I use soya milk instead and what do I use for the cream? I am vegan and I do not do any animal products
Shirley, gosh, I’m not certain, but I don’t think soya milk will work in place of the whole milk for the ricotta. I wish I could offer advice about a substitute but I am not familiar with vegan substitutes for cheese making. If I learn of anything, I will report back.
Que pizza tan rica y tu ayudante, la mejor! besos
I just made both the Margherita with the fresh tomato sauce and the Nectarine with the fresh ricotta. Wow! These were amazing. I also used your pizza dough recipe, which gave me nightmares because it was so wet and sticking everywhere…. but it was perfect with these two pizzas. Yummy!
Armida — I know, that dough is sticky sticky. If you are looking for a dough that is easier to work with try this one: https://alexandracooks.com/2012/05/31/tipo-00-flour-worth-paying-for-shipping/ You have to plan ahead because the dough rests for a long time, but it is so good. This is the one I use most often these days. So glad you liked the pizzas!
I totally agree with you regarding Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce recipe-it is the best and easiest tomato sauce I have ever made or tasted. It works equally well with tinned ( I think you say canned in the States) tomatoes, to which I add a teaspoon of sugar to counteract any acidity there might be. I have two of her recipe books and never had a failure with any of the recipes I have tried. I enjoy reading your website, and I am looking forward to trying out the aubergine involtini. Do you have a recipe for spinach and ricotta malfatti?
Ingrid, hi! Thanks for the tip on using canned tomatoes with the Hazan sauce — I bet that bit of sugar goes a long way. Which books do you have? I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but I don’t own one! I need to do something about this. And no, I am afraid I don’t have a recipe for spinach and ricotta malfatti. But now I’m intrigued. I’m going to have to do some research 🙂
Hi Alexandra. I have Marcella’s ‘The Classic Italian Cookbook’ originally published in 1973, and ‘The Second Italian Cookbook’ published in 1982. They are simple staightforward recipes with no photos, but as a lover of Italian food, they have been well used! I believe her son has followed in his mother’s footsteps and has also published recipe books in the US. (I live in South Africa.)
I have found various recipes for spinach and ricotta malfatti but they all vary slightly in the quantities of spinach, ricotta and eggs used, so I am looking for the definitive one!
Ingrid — Thanks so much for these suggestions! I think those old, unflashy cookbooks are some of the best. I’m going to check for these at my library this weekend before biting the bullet on one or both. I feel like these are must-haves in any good home-kitchen cookbook library. If I come across any malfatti recipes, I will be sure to be in touch. And how fun to hear you are from South Africa!
Love your website. Just wanted to share….while making ricotta, when you separate the curds from the whey, curdle it with lemon instead of vinegar. That way you can use the whey by blending it with a couple of cucumbers, a dash of salt and a sprig of mint. It makes a great summer cooler .
Inez — thank you for this! Love this idea. Will definitely try lemon next time. If the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of vinegar, would I just use 3 tablespoons of lemon juice? Or would I have to use more or less? Thanks so much.
Hi! I am making this tomato sauce right now but I am trying it with fresh yellow tomatoes! My sauce seems really watery and runny. Is there any way to thicken it up? Thanks!
Michelle — Hi! I would just try gently simmering it until the right amount of liquid has evaporated and the sauce looks like the right consistency. I don’t think there’s anything else you can really do unfortunately. I wonder why this has happened?! Yellow tomatoes sound totally delish. Let me know how it turns out.
Exactly – that’s why my mother took all day to slowly simmer her sauce. Simmer it uncovered until you get the consistency you want. That also helps concentrate the flavors!
This recipe looks so amazing! Do you recommend a certain type of tomatoes to use for sauce? Also what kind of vinegar do you use? I have trader joes on hand but want to make sure I get this recipe right the first time around! Thank you so much in advance!
Dabielle — hi! Well, if you can get to a farmers’ market, any tomatoes there will likely be better than what you can get at the grocery store, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a boodle on heirloom tomatoes. Just a nice beefsteak tomato will do the job. Does that help? Let me know if you want specific names. When I was in CA, I loved Cherokee purple tomatoes, but I never cooked with them…they were like gold. I ate them with just a little salt and olive oil. So good! Ok, and I use white balsamic most of the time, but I have made it with white wine vinegar, too. I like the Colavita brand, but I don’t think you have to be too fussy here either — any relatively good white vinegar will work. Let me know if you have other questions!
Alexandra, the pizza looks wonderful! You’ve inspired me to make it all from scratch…
The cheese you’ve made, while lovely and perfect for a Margherita, is not Ricotta. I would call it a Queso Fresco, and I thin Inez’ suggestion of using lemon juice to curdle the milk is a great idea. Try that, but DON’T throw out the whey (however you make it). True Ricotta is “re-cooked”, and made from the saved whey.
After draining the cheese, return all the whey to the pot and gently raise the temp to about 180°F. Hold there for 5 minutes or so, then slowly continue heating, until near boiling, but stop at 200°. Remove from the heat and let cool naturally.
Filter again through new cheesecloth, and you’ll have TWO batches of homemade cheese for your effort!
Dave, hi! And thank you for all of this. You are absolutely right. And I can’t believe I have not yet tried re-cooking the whey. I always save it — I make bread with it — but since reading an article (maybe in Saveur? maybe in NYT?) about how to make true ricotta, I have been meaning to try it. I will definitely report back. Question: do you use a thermometer or do you eye it? And if you do use a thermometer, do you recommend a good one? I’ve never had any luck with these. So excited to do this. And definitely try making pizza from scratch. Lahey dough is my favorite: https://alexandracooks.com/2012/05/31/tipo-00-flour-worth-paying-for-shipping/ Baking Steel is my favorite pizza tool: https://alexandracooks.com/2013/08/01/baking-steel-pizza-tomato-mozzarella-caramelized-onion-burrata/
How do you store your sauce? I put mine in a mason jar but am unsure if I should put it in the fridge or in the pantry! 🙂
Kat, hi, I store it in the fridge. If you do the whole canning process, you can store it in the pantry, but otherwise, I would refrigerate it, or freeze it if you aren’t going to use it within a week or so.
After seeing the tomato photo I realised that I was giving the cuts on the opposite direction hence always had difficulty in peeling it. Thank you. Nice sauce, and your kitchen assistant must be helping you a lot more now.
Oh wonderful, glad the photo offered some guidance. And the kitchen assistant is such a good “helper.” She tries very hard, and I enjoy her company at the kitchen counter 🙂
Love this blog!
I keep looking at this recipe for tomato sauce in disbelief! Can it really be just tomatoes, butter and an onion? And does the onion eventually melt into the sauce, or do you need to take it out of the pot once it’s done? I’m definitely going to try it, but I’m so used to more ingredients (i.e. garlic, basil, oregano)!
Tracey, you have to try it! It’s a classic. And oh so good. You eventually extract the bulk of the onion when the sauce is done. You’ll love it!
Oh man do I ever miss 2Amys! The polpettone pizza, the pizza with eggplant sauce, the broccoli rabe salad, salt cod croquettes…I’m drooling right now. I’d say based on those photos you win at the Neapolitan pizza game. So glad I stumbled on this page!
Oh I miss 2Amys! Honestly, everything is so good. I never tried the polpettone pizza…I need an excuse to fly back to DC now 🙂 We always get the pizza margherita with the bufalo mozzarella…their sauce is so fresh and light and tasty.
The ricotta is sublime. I’ve made it several times, and I find that spending a little time to find cream and milk that are not ultra-pasteurized (just pasteurized) is well worth the result. The cheese seems to be fluffier and richer tasting. Love all the variations on your blog–the roasted grapes and thyme are a great combination.
Don’t discard the whey! Use it in place of the liquid in baking, use it in stock making, in smoothies (if unsalted), use it in lemon pie, use it in the garden – the internet is full of uses for whey. Discarding it is wasteful!
Thanks! IIRC, there’s lots of vitamins/minerals in tomato skin (also the seeds and ‘jelly’ that are often squeezed out) … glad to know the flavor is not sacrificed : )