Food & Drink Magazine

The Sexiest Tomato Sauce

By Lilveggiepatch @Lilveggiepatch

I’m about to make a pretty bold statement here: this may just be the best tomato sauce you will ever have.

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I should probably tell you that before, tomato sauce was never something I really cared for. I mean, it was fine, but never something I sought out to garnish my pasta. (I’ve always been more of a mushroom-and-cheese girl myself.) But this sauce… game changer. And it’s not even a recipe I came up with, I just really want you to try it. it’s that good.

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And yes! That’s a great big chunk of butter you see there. I’d never even thought of using butter in red sauce; it seemed like someone’s Italian ancestors would take issue with that. But this recipe comes from the crusty nonna herself, Marcella Hazan.

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It comes from one of the classic cookbooks that, even if you no longer buy cookbooks, you should probably own. On p. 152, you’ll find this amazing tomato sauce. Page 90 holds the recipe for a particularly comforting spinach and rice soup; my dad made it for me back in my running days after six icy December miles upstate. Page 289 gives us the recipe for Sicilian salmoriglio sauce, an olive oil/lemon/herb situation we used to make on hot Southampton nights to ladle over our grilled fish. We just made it last week for Brien’s birthday, too! As the temperature drops, I look forward to channeling my inner Marcella and whipping up more of these comfortable, hearty recipes.

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But back to this sauce. (If you don’t have the cookbook, you can find the recipe online here.) While the recipe only calls for it to cook for 45 minutes, I simmered the sauce for about six hours and let it cook way down. The flavor was so rich, and not at all acidic. I’d never had sauce like this before! On a recent trip to Whole Foods, I discovered they’re selling pasta in the bulk bins. We ladled sauce over whole wheat casarecce, which held the sauce really well. Topped with fresh parmesan and served alongside lemon-and-garlicky broccoli rabe, it was an easy weeknight feast.  

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For my next go at tomato sauce, I substituted oil for the butter and added basil. I simmered cubes of tofu in some of the sauce, and served it alongside roasted eggplant. The meal itself was good, but the sauce was disappointing. Now that I’ve tried the butter sauce, I can’t go back!

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On another night, we poached eggs in the sauce shakshuka-style, and garnished it with full-fat Greek yogurt and parmesan.


I’m tempted to can some of this sauce for later use. It goes well with foods other than pasta (white beans, polenta, vegetables, etc.) and can really augment a meal. I’m curious as to what others use it for!

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