Simplest Tomato Sauce

By Corinne

I had read about this tomato sauce with butter and onion over at Smitten Kitchen  some time ago, but two things stopped me from making it despite her rave reviews. Firstly, it seemed well… too simple. Secondly, it called for San Marzano tomatoes – which are difficult to find here (I’ve only regularly seen them at Maltese) and expensive. The ones I picked up weren’t even the most pricy brand, and they were still $5.49 for the can!

I had two questions I hoped to answer. Firstly, was this sauce really worth raving about? (spoiler alert- yes) and secondly, are these San Marzano tomatoes really worth the $5.49?


Upon opening the cans, the San Marzano’s are noticeably brighter and the juice from the can is much thicker.

After 35 minutes

After 45 minutes

You can see the onion is more broken down in the regular plum tomato sauce, perhaps because it’s more watery?

Upon tasting.

If you taste the Primo sauce FIRST you are like, hmmm, this sauce is pretty good considering what’s in it!

And then when you taste the sauce with the San Marzano’s you have silky, bright, simple tomato sauce perfection! It was the clear winner, even in a blind taste test for my husband- who isn’t known for his ability to distinguish subtleties in flavours.

I wouldn’t make this sauce all the time, I think it really shines when you want your pasta to be the star of the show, it’s perfect with garlic scape gnocchi or homemade ravioli. While I’m sure it would be good with a clove of garlic or a glug of red wine thrown in there, the beauty of this sauce really is the simplicity.

Time: 45 min

Serves: 3-4

You will need:

  • 1 can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • possibly a pinch of salt if your finished sauce needs it- mine didn’t

Add tomatoes to pot, halve the onion and put it cut side down into the tomatoes. Add the 5 tbsp of unsalted butter. Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pan with your spoon. When finished, remove and discard onion halves.

Use with your favourite pasta.

* note – you might think with 5 tbsp of butter that this sauce might end up greasy, but it’s smooth and rich and doesn’t have a greasy texture at all.


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