the easiest tomato sauce for pasta

the easiest tomato sauce for pasta

Home from a week away and tired after a long journey. I was so close to ordering pizza but then I realised what I really wanted was a bowl of pasta with a good tomato sauce and too much Parmesan. So I turned to the easiest tomato sauce for pasta there is.

This classic recipe from Marcella Hazan is stupidly easy but deserves every bit of adulation from all the food writers who sing its praises. I don’t know why I hadn’t tried it earlier – I think it just sounded a bit too plain. My mistake.

to make the easiest tomato sauce for pasta

Just put 2 cans of unsalted, unseasoned tomatoes (about 800g or 24oz in total) in a medium sized saucepan with 5 tablespoons butter (about 60g), a red or yellow onion that you’ve peeled and cut in half and a big pinch of salt.

Pop a lid on then simmer the whole lot together on a low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then pull out the onion (I snaffle it with a sprinkle of salt as a cook’s treat). I add black pepper before stirring the sauce through pasta, using a little of the pasta cooking water to get the right silky texture. Then I serve it with freshly grated Parmesan.

It goes against all I usually do to leave out the red wine vinegar, olive oil and basil but her recipe just works. The butter softens the acidity of the tomatoes. The onion leaves a modest whisper of flavour. The ultimate store cupboard dinner with minimal effort. And if the butter freaks you out please don’t let it – it’s a ton less fat than most pre-prepared sauces (and there is no sugar in this unlike the bought stuff).

I’ve also made a video of this to help you see what to expect.


You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools. I receive a small affiliate fee from Amazon if you buy via my link. The products don’t cost you any more. These small fees help me keep creating all the free content I share.

More recipes like this

Find more recipes for sauces, pasta and tomatoes here.

Sign up for more

Sign up for my free newsletter. You’ll get free seasonal recipes, tips and videos. You’ll also be first to hear about my online and in person courses.


I agree to be emailed about your products and services

Terms and Conditions checkbox is required.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Follow me