Two quart containers filled with tomato sauce.

If you are familiar with Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter, you know it is made with three ingredients, four if you count salt. How then, you might be wondering, can such a sauce be simplified?

Simply: by using unpeeled tomatoes. Here, the ingredients are the same as Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce but there’s no scoring of the tomatoes and blanching them to remove their skins, and there’s no discarding of the halved onion at the end. Everything, rather, is puréed together at the end.

Here’s the how-to:

Homemade Tomato Sauce in 4 Simple Steps

  1. Slice two onions, and place them in a pot with a stick of butter.
  2. Meanwhile, chop up 4 pounds of tomatoes, and add them to the pot with a teaspoon of kosher salt.
  3. Simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Purée with an immersion blender, food processor, or traditional blender.

Taste your fresh, bright tomato sauce, then smile for days as you put it on everything: pizza, pasta, crispy eggplant rounds, savory monkey bread, eggplant involtini, zucchini involtini, summer squash gratin, etc.

Friends, should you find yourself with a haul of tomatoes, this modified Marcella tomato sauce recipe might come in handy. I think we’ve picked the last from our little raised bed, which did well this year, treating us to a good run of bagel-cream cheese-and-tomato breakfasts. I’m not ready for fall.

PS: ALL the tomato recipes here.

A bowl of tomatoes.

Here’s the visual play-by-play for making a simplified Marcella tomato sauce:

1. Melt a stick of butter.
A board of halved onions aside a pot with a stick of butter in it.

2. Slice two large onions (typically I use white) and add to melted butter.
A board of sliced onions aside a pot with a stick of butter in it.

3. Sweat onions for 15 minutes or until they …
A board aside a pot with a stick of butter in it and 2 sliced onions.

4. turn white! Kidding. Cook until the onions are soft.
A pot of sliced onions, cooking slowly.

5. Meanwhile, dice four pounds of tomatoes.
A board of chopped tomatoes aside a bowl of chopped tomatoes.

6. Add them to the pot with a teaspoon of kosher salt.
A pot with simmered onions and chopped tomatoes heaped on top.

7. Bring to a simmer. After five minutes, the tomatoes will look like this:
A pot of tomatoes simmering with onions and butter.

8. After about an hour, they look like this:
A pot of tomatoes, onions, and butter after an hour of simmering.

9. Purée the sauce with an immersion blender, or transfer to a food processor or blender (taking care the lid is on tightly lest it blow off during the whirring).
A pot of puréed tomato sauce aside an immersion blender.

A pot of puréed tomato sauce aside an immersion blender.

Two quart containers filled with tomato sauce.

10. Transfer puréed sauce to storage containers. These are my favorite: 1-Quart Deli Containers Such a great size for all sorts of foods.
Two quarts of tomato sauce, dated.

11. Use sauce in your favorite recipes, perhaps a roasted eggplant and Swiss chard lasagna? Stay tuned.
A 9x13-inch pan filled with homemade vegetable lasagna.

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two quarts of homemade tomato sauce

Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Simplified

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4.7 from 13 reviews

  • Total Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 quarts
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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


  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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