Marcella Hazan’s Butter, Tomato, & Onion Sauce

I made this sauce when I was still swimming in gorgeous fresh tomatoes. Because the sauce is so simple, it really showcases them. That being said, the quality of the tomatoes used is very important.

There are many debates about this famous sauce online. Much of the discussion is about whether or not butter (and its richness) should be incorporated into a tomato sauce. My vote is “YES!” 🙂 After tasting it, I think most would agree with me. Other discussions revolve around dissatisfaction with the results compared to the “hype.” Comments about the sauce being soupy and underwhelming may stem from using lower quality tomatoes or an abbreviated cooking time. We loved it.

My intention was to freeze the sauce to enjoy it during the winter, but it was too delicious to wait. The debate about this sauce in my house was about what type of pasta to serve it with! 😉 My husband won with his choice of pappardelle. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Hazan Family Favorites: Beloved Italian Recipes by Guiliano Hazan, via Epicurious.com. I increased the cooking time and reserved the onions after removing them from the tomato mixture (I pureed and seasoned them to serve as a spread on toasted baguette slices). Using fresh instead of canned tomatoes may have altered the total cooking time. I more than doubled the cooking time in order to achieve my desired consistency. I also pureed the finished sauce. Addictive!

Yield: Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (or 3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to finish
  1. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them: Score the base of each tomato and place it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove the tomato with a wire strainer and peel off the skin.
  2. Coarsely chop the fresh or canned tomatoes.
  3. Trim both ends of the onion; peel it and cut it in half lengthwise.
  4. Put the tomatoes, onion, butter, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to a slow but steady simmer. Cook, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are no longer watery and the sauce has reduced, about 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size and shape of the pot. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.) The sauce is done when the butter has separated from the tomatoes and there is no remaining liquid.
  5. Puree the finished sauce, if desired.
  6. Prepare one pound of pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions.
  7. When you toss pasta with the sauce, add about 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Note: If the sauce is doubled, the cooking time will increase.

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Pasta Primavera with Asparagus, Peas, & Crème Fraîche

This quick and fresh dinner was truly springtime on a plate. It uses a combination of early spring vegetables- asparagus, peas, and scallions- which, as the author describes, makes it a “true celebration of the season.”

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I modified the proportions and omitted the tarragon. I also used reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Loved it!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas, stems trimmed
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, ends snapped
  • tablespoons unsalted butter
  • cup fresh English peas
  • 1/3 cup (5 large) thinly sliced spring onion, white part only (or use shallot)
  • garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 16 ounces pappardelle, fettuccine or tagliatelle, preferably fresh
  • cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature
  • 6 oz (3/4 cup) crème fraîche or whole milk Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, slice snap peas in half and asparagus stems into 1/4-inch-thick pieces; leave asparagus tips whole.
  3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add snap peas, asparagus, English peas and onion. Cook until vegetables are barely tender (but not too soft or mushy), 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  5. Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente (1 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta, more for dried pasta). Drain well, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  6. Transfer pasta to the skillet of prepared vegetables or to a large bowl.
  7. Immediately toss pasta with vegetables, Parmigiano-Reggiano, crème fraîche and herbs.
  8. Thin sauce to desired consistency with reserved pasta water.
  9. Season generously with salt and pepper, if needed, to taste. Serve.

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Shrimp in Green Mole

I am a HUGE fan of a flavorful green sauce. This one did not disappoint. I would have just gobbled up the sauce with rice, but I served it with shrimp for the rest of the family. 😉 The shrimp is cooked in the wonderful sauce, so it was also delicious!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. I loved the contrasting texture from the crunchy, pan-toasted pumpkin seed garnish. Excellent.

Yield: Serves 4

  • ½ cup hulled untoasted pumpkin seeds
  • ½ pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 serrano chile or 1/2 jalapeño (more to taste), stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 3 large romaine lettuce leaves, preferably the outer leaves, torn into pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion, soaked for 5 minutes in cold water, drained and rinsed, plus more for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ cup tightly packed chopped cilantro, plus cilantro leaves and sprigs for garnish
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon canola or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound medium-large tail-on shrimp, shelled and deveined (I used 21-25 count per pound)
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving
  1. Heat a heavy straight-sided skillet or a saucepan over medium heat and add pumpkin seeds. Wait until you hear one seed pop, then stir constantly until they have puffed and popped and smell toasty, about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not let them darken beyond golden or they will taste bitter. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Remove 2 tablespoons to use as garnish and set aside.
  2. Place remaining cooled pumpkin seeds in a blender or Vitamix, and add tomatillos, chile, lettuce, onion, garlic, cilantro and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Cover and blend mixture until smooth, stopping the blender to stir if necessary.
  3. Heat oil in the skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cumin and let it sizzle for a couple of seconds, then add puréed tomatillo mixture.
  4. Cook, stirring often, until sauce darkens and thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. It will splutter, so be careful. You can hold the lid above the pot to shield yourself and the stove, or set the lid on the pot to partly cover it.
  5. Add remaining cup of chicken stock, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until sauce is thick and creamy, 10 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
  6. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Shortly before serving, bring mole sauce to a simmer and add shrimp. Simmer 5 to 8 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through but still moist.
  7. Serve over rice, garnishing each serving with toasted pumpkin seeds, diced onion, and cilantro.

Note: The sauce can be made up to three days ahead and kept refrigerated until ready to use it. Alternatively, it can be frozen, just whisk or blend to restore its consistency after thawing.

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Pressure Cooker Pork Ragu with Pappardelle

I made this dish to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my meat-loving husband. ❤ One of his absolute favorite dishes is a pork ragu served over pappardelle; this dish is a wonderful weeknight version.

This recipe was adapted from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen. We ate it with roasted asparagus and cauliflower with a custardy French Apple Cake for dessert. My Valentine was pleased! 🙂

Yield: 8 servings

  • 3 links (about 8 ounces) sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed (I used country rib meat)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 1 lb. pappardelle pasta
  • freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. In pressure-cooker pot on medium-high, cook sausage in oil 5 minutes or until fat has rendered, breaking up meat as it cooks.
  2. With slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl.
  3. Season pork all over with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  4. In batches, add pork to pot; cook 4 minutes or until browned on two sides, turning once halfway through. Transfer pork to bowl with sausage.
  5. To pot, add carrots, onion and garlic; cook 8 minutes, stirring often.
  6. Add wine; cook 3 minutes.
  7. Return meat to pot and add tomatoes, milk, bay leaves and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  8. Cover and bring up to pressure on high. Reduce heat to medium-low, maintaining pressure. Cook 20 minutes. Remove from heat; let pressure release naturally.
  9. Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle according to the package directions.
  10. Uncover cooker and discard bay leaves. Fork shred the pork. Stir in basil.
  11. Serve tossed with pasta, garnished with Parmesan.

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Turkish-Spiced Halibut Skewers With Yogurt Sauce

Many people grill year-round, but our grill hibernates during the winter. 😦 Thankfully, it is unseasonably warm here this week (Yay!), so I am going to share a couple of belated grilling recipes.

This first recipe is an adaptation of a Turkish dish typically made with local swordfish and fresh bay leaves. This version, from David Tanis of The New York Times, uses firm-fleshed halibut with thinly sliced lemons and onions. The fish is only marinated for an hour, grilled, and served with a wonderful and fresh cucumber-yogurt sauce.

We ate the skewers with hummus, warm naan, Israeli couscous, and steamed spinach on the side. If grilling season is over for you, this dish can easily be replicated using a broiler. Great!

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless halibut or other firm-fleshed fish
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, plus 1 garlic clove, grated or smashed to a paste
  • 8 bay leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 small cucumber, about 2 ounces, peeled and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  1. Cut halibut into large chunks of equal size and thread onto skewers. You should have 4 kebabs weighing about 6 ounces each.
  2. Lay them in a shallow dish. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, put cumin, coriander, paprika, red pepper flakes, onion, lemon, minced garlic and bay leaves. Add olive oil and stir together.
  4. Spoon mixture over fish skewers and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Put yogurt in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add garlic paste, cayenne and cucumber.
  6. Mix mint, dill and parsley together, add half to yogurt mixture, and reserve the rest. Stir to combine. Set aside.
  7. Heat a grill or broiler. When it is hot, cook skewers for about 2 minutes per side, until just opaque. (Leave some lemon, onion and bay leaf clinging to fish, so they char a bit.)
  8. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with remaining herb mixture, if desired. Serve with yogurt sauce on the side.

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Salmon with Salsa Fresca

Similar to my summer vegetable gratin post, this dish also incorporates a complete “CSA box” – plus salmon. It was a light and fresh meal. The salsa was absolutely delicious. I was inspired to make it when I received all of these beautiful tomatoes in my box.

We ate it with roasted beets and red potatoes, also from my CSA box, of course. 🙂

This dish was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I used on half of a small red onion instead of a white onion, my mixed tomatoes from my CSA share, a home-grown jalapeño, and the juice of 1 lime in the salsa. Bittman notes that grilled, broiled, roasted, or even steamed salmon (or other types of fish such as halibut or swordfish) would work equally well.

This dish is so colorful it might just be dinner party worthy too. Ready in 30 minutes makes it extra-fabulous.

Yield: 3-4 servings

  • 2 large fresh ripe tomatoes, or 3 or 4 ripe plum tomatoes, or a pint of mixed cherry tomatoes, diced (and cored if large)
  • ½ large white or red onion, peeled and minced
  • ¼ habanero or 1/2 jalapeño chili, stemmed, seeded and minced, or to taste
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • juice of 1 or 2 limes, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper and coarse salt to taste
  • 1 salmon fillet, about 1 1/2 pounds, preferably with skin on (can substitute halibut or swordfish)
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola
  1. Start a charcoal or gas grill; fire should be moderately hot and grill rack about 4 inches from heat source. Or, heat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Chop tomatoes and combine them in a bowl with onion, chili, cilantro, lime juice and some salt. Set aside. (Salsa can be made up to one hour ahead of time.)
  3. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. If grilling, rub fish with a little oil as well; put it on grill, skin side down, and let it sit for 4 to 5 minutes, then turn once (don’t worry if part of skin sticks to grill). Cook for about 3 minutes more, until medium-rare.
    If roasting, heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat for a minute. Add oil and, a few seconds later, salmon, skin side up. Sear for a minute, then transfer to oven and roast until medium-rare, about 10 minutes.
  4. Allow to rest for a minute or so, then remove skin, if desired. Turn over and serve, topped with salsa or passing salsa at the table.

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Fresh Tomato Sauce

My husband waters a co-workers’ tomato plants for a week every summer with the benefit of bringing home all of the ripe specimens. This year, he was fortunate enough to bring home a TON.

I had been saving some fabulous “meter” pasta for a special sauce- this was IT. This slow-cooked sauce had wonderful concentrated flavor. The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Grace Parisi. Absolutely delicious!

Yield: enough sauce to coat 1 pound of pasta

  • 5 lbs tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1-2 large basil sprigs
  • 1/2 T granulated sugar
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large pot, combine the tomatoes with the water, cover and cook over moderate heat until the tomatoes are softened and soupy, about 15 minutes.
  2. Set a food mill over a very large bowl. Add the tomatoes and puree them into the bowl. You should have about 8 to 9 cups.
  3. Wipe out the pot and heat the olive oil in it. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over very low heat until softened, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomato puree, basil and sugar and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 5 to 6 cups, about 2 hours.
  6. Discard the basil, if desired.
  7. Serve over your choice of pasta, cooked according to package directions. Alternatively, let the sauce cool, then pour into 1-pint plastic containers and freeze for up to 4 months.

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