I first read about this recipe for butter tomato sauce on the blog Orangette a few years ago. It seems to originally belong to Marcella Hazan, but I’m sure she attributes it to generations of Italian nonna’s before her. I make it periodically when the mood for pasta strikes (and by periodically, I mean about once a week). Over the past few years, we’ve made a few tiny tweaks, but the concept remains the same. Tomatoes, onion, butter, salt, and that’s about it.
To make a dish this soul-statisfying from such a simple ingredient list and nearly no work has me convinced that butter really is the best ingredient known to man. The sauce is sweet and mellow. The butter cuts the acidity of the tomato quite a bit and thickens the sauce until it’s satisfyingly voluptuous. It’s good on any pasta, or eaten from the pot by the spoonful.
So good apparently, that I don’t have a single photo of the finished dish. From anytime in the past three years. Please enjoy this informative photo of the ingredients instead. And some artsy photos of my plants and our humid windows dripping water on the inside. The dehumidifier is currently running on full blast to keep our mold situation under control. Once it’s done its work, I’ll use that water to water the aforementioned plants. Circle of life … or something?
Butter Tomato Sauce
1-28 oz can whole tomatoes (it’s worth splurging for San Marzano, we’ve tested it)
1 onion, sliced in half
2 garlic cloves, pealed (optional)
6 tablespoons butter (not optional)
salt, pepper and chili flake
Now for pasta! Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy-bottom sauce pan. Add the tomatoes, the onion halves, the garlic cloves, a sprinkle of salt and chili flake. Smoosh the tomatoes a bit. Let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, until the sauce has thickened a bit and the flavors of the onion and garlic have infused the tomatoes. Remove the onion, and puree the sauce a bit with an immersion blender. Add the remaining 2-3 tablespoons butter, and season with salt and just a little pepper. Top your favorite pasta, tortellini or ravioli with the sauce, and maybe a sprinkle of parmigiano.