Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce recipe, my easy, homemade version includes fresh tomatoes, sweet leeks and basil for a tasty twist. Serve with fresh pasta (or dried), homemade gnocchi, and as a base for Italian-style dishes.
If you know this sauce, you know...
Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe, this easy, homemade tomato sauce with onion and butter is absolutely, hands down, like no other tomato sauce recipe on the planet (only 5 ingredients!). And this is coming from someone who whole heartedly adores pasta sauce recipes (like this quick Sicilian-style tomato sauce & authentic pomodoro sauce) to name a few! So, if you’ve never tried it before get ready for the shock of your life: the taste is so light and delicate it won’t even register as tomato sauce!
I’ll show you how to make it Marcella’s way, with radiant fresh tomatoes (however canned tomatoes can bed used too). I use leeks (instead of onions) and fresh basil for flavor. Make a large batch to freeze or simply serve with your favorite fresh homemade pasta (or dried), homemade gnocchi, and as a base for various Italian-style dishes. I love this sauce in minestrone soup!
Tomato Sauce Ingredients (You Will Need):
- Fresh tomatoes
- Leeks (or onions)
- Basil Leaves
- Sugar, to taste
Fresh Tomatoes: This is the selling point of this recipe. Choose fresh tomatoes when in season (I grew the tomatoes pictured above). Look for San Marzano plum tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes- whatever you want. You can even use a mix. Either way, the tomatoes must be ripe and super fresh. Take a trip to the farm stand.
In a pinch: top-quality canned tomatoes can be used instead. Keep in mind, the overall flavor will change. The sauce will become a richer sauce, which is not quite as delicate. My favorite canned tomato brands include: Cento, Mutti, La Valle and Jovial (this brand comes in glass jars, not tin cans, and you can taste the difference).
Leeks: I love leeks. They are the most under rated vegetable on the scene. Leeks are part of the onion family, but they’re sweeter, which makes them perfect for this sauce. Onions can also be used, per the original recipe.
Butter: Do not even think of omitting this ingredient! The light, creamy, buttery taste mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes making the overall sauce light and delicate. It’s amazing! I’m a huge fan of Kerry Gold butter, both unsalted and regular. Pick what you like.
Basil Leaves: Herbs wake up any dish you make, and tomato sauce is no exception. Just a handful of fresh (not dried) basil leaves will do. I’ve made this sauce without the basil and it was still spectacular.
Sugar: People always cringe at the thought of sugar in sauce, but don’t. It’s only used sparingly to offset any tart, acidic notes from the tomatoes.
Tomato Sauce Tips:
These tips are similar to the ones recommended for my Sicilian-style tomato sauce and authentic pomodoro sauce. It’s all part of the tomato sauce family.
- Taste as you go. Fresh tomatoes, especially various varieties, will taste different. Add more salt and/or sugar as needed. Don’t assume they don’t need a little doctoring up.
- Listen to the sauce. Don’t time it. If it sounds bubbly, like boiling water, the texture is too liquid. If it sounds scratchy, add a splash of pasta water or more tomatoes- the texture is too dry. Fresh tomatoes have different moisture levels which require varying cook times. Be flexible.
- Make it ahead. Chill this tomato sauce in an airtight container, up to 4 days; Freeze up to 3 months.
- Keep it simple. Resist the urge to add “Italian-style” bottled spice blends. They contain dried rosemary and thyme which is overpowering.
Tomato Sauce with Onions & Butter Pairs Well With:
- Beginner’s to Fresh Homemade Pasta Dough
- Beginner’s Guide to Fresh Homemade Gnocchi
- How to Make Perfect Pappardelle at Home
- Fresh Spinach Pasta Dough
More Pasta Sauce Recipes to Try!
- Ragù Bolognese Sauce
- Aglio e Olio (Garlic and Oil)
- Quick Sicilian-Style Tomato Sauce
- Pesto alla Trapanese (Sicilian Pesto)
- Classic Italian Basil Pesto (Pesto alla Genovese)
- Easy Golden Butter & Sage Pasta Sauce
Easy Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter
- Yield: 2 quarts
- Category: Pasta Sauce
- Method: Stove-Top
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
Adapted form Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce recipe, my easy version includes fresh tomatoes, sweet leeks and basil for an updated twist. Serve with fresh pasta (or dried), homemade gnocchi, and as a base for Italian-style dishes.
- 7 tbs butter, divided
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
- 6 lbs assorted colored tomatoes, roughly chopped with the smaller cherry tomatoes left whole
- Small handful of fresh basil, chopped
- 2 heaping tsp sugar, plus more to taste
- salt, to taste
- In a large heavy bottom pot (a Dutch oven is perfect for this), melt 2 tbsp of butter over low heat. Add the leeks and saute until soft and translucent. A little golden color is okay at this stage.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
- Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until all of the tomatoes have broken down and are nice and soft. This will take about 30 minutes or so.
- Remove the pot from the heat and puree with a stick blender, including the basil leaves. Alternatively, puree in batches using a blender.
- Return the pot to the stove and add the remaining 5 tbsp of butter. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is slightly reduced and velvety smooth. Taste and season with additional salt or sugar, if needed. The flavor should be slightly sweet.
- Pour into mason jars to cool before refrigerating. You can always freeze the sauce in individual portions once it has cooled completely.
Keywords: tomato, sauce, easy, recipe, onion, butter, Marcella Hazan, Italian, homemade, pasta, fresh, gnocchi
Lee Bedford says
This tomato sauce is phenomenal, and so easy to make.
I used it in a lasagne dish last night. Side note, I used fresh picked chard in lieu of the spinach.
Hands down, one of the best lasagnes I’ve ever made!
It was comparable to the fantastic lasagne I was treated to in Deruta, Italy a few years back.
This tomato sauce recipe is a keeper, thank you so much Emilie.
Beverley Press says
Enjoy fabulous Italy, it’s a wonderful country to visit . I still enjoy my early mornings to myself even though we have been empty nesters for 8 years! It’s a time when the house is still asleep and you can plan your day and collect your thoughts. Delicious looking recipe xoxo
Can you use can tomatoes?
Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says
I love mornings too. These photos are absolutely dreamy and I want to try your delicious sauce (so simple, just my style ;d) I hope you’re having a beautiful trip, lucky lady!
Ana Victoria says
Hello, thanks for the delicious recipe… it looks easy to do… sorry to ask, was expecting the best way to sterilize the bottles to freeze the sauce in…. if you know where to find the way, please send the link. I am going to follow you from now on … and enjoy your trip to Italy…. thanks
Celia Becker @ AfterOrangeCounty.com says
Good morning! Your 6am timing could not have been better, as I too am an early riser and find dawn to be a beautiful time to savor life. And, yesterday I happened to harvest a basket full of cherry tomatoes from my garden. So they will be put to very good use using your recipe, which sounds divine!
What Italy?!! Sounds wonderful!!! This sauce looks great too. I love that you added butter. Butter always makes everything better. Enjoy your trip Emilie. Can’t wait to see your photos!