In my book, the simpler the sauce, the better the dish. This is a riff on Italian chef Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce--hard to improve on, but with picky children swapping out whole tomatoes for crushed tomatoes and adding a bit more butter makes for happy faces. This simple preparation wins hearts and souls whenever served. It hardly seems possible that such goodness can come from canned tomatoes. However, it is not an exaggeration that this is one of the most delicious tomato sauces you may ever try. To boot, its vibrant, summer tomato color could just pass for sunshine in a bottle. Any leftover sauce can be used spread on a pizza crust, or on grilled bruschetta topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella. Best of all, it can be made in the morning and served in the evening without refrigerating. Simply cover and reheat just before serving.

Kitchen Notes
This sauce freezes beautifully—double the recipe and freeze any unused sauce for up to three months. This recipe makes enough to generously sauce 1 pound of pasta. 


  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

  • 1 medium yellow onion, paper removed and sliced crosswise

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 12 basil leaves, thinly sliced, optional


1. In a MEDIUM POT, bring the tomatoes, butter, onion, sugar and salt to a boll. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.

2. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be reduced by a quarter. 

3. Remove from heat, discard the onion and taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl. 

4. Stack the basil leaves one on top of the other. Roll basil leaves as if rolling a cigar. Thinly julienne the basil leaves.

5. Grind pepper onto tomato sauce and sprinkle with basil leaves if desired.

6. Serve piping hot over pasta.

Serves 4 over pasta