Easy Pasta Sauce Recipe

plate of easy pasta sauce with pasta

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There has never been an easy pasta sauce recipe easier than this pasta sauce– on this you have my word. And what’s better is that just because this pasta sauce is easy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. Keep reading for instructions on how to throw this yummy sauce together!

I teach cooking classes locally quite often. Normally, I love to teach the recipes that I learned while living in Italy, including my homemade pasta, cacio e pepe, and tiramisu. However, this is one dish that I teach that I didn’t actually learn while living in Italy. 

I learned the base of this recipe when I returned from Italy and was listening to the Splendid Table Podcast while driving. The Splendid table was promoting Marcella Hazan’s famous easy pasta sauce recipe made with only three ingredients. The way the podcast hosts had talked about it made the dish sound so desirable, so I went home and made it that night. I didn’t even need to go to the grocery store!

Marcella Hazan is a genius. Somehow, the three main ingredients in this sauce combine to make a delicate but robust pasta sauce that is thin but still creamy, and sweet with a little bit of tang. Are you intrigued? 

What is the Secret Ingredient in this Easy Pasta Sauce Recipe?

The scoop behind how to make this pasta sauce is the secret ingredient; and it’s one that not a lot of people would think to put in their pasta sauce: butter. 

When you simmer the butter for 45 minutes alongside the tomatoes and the onion, the elements of each food work together to complement one another. The fat in the butter breaks down the acidity in the tomatoes, turning the pasta sauce sweeter over time. It’s incredible! With very little ingredients or stirring, this pasta sauce is suddenly gourmet. Gotta love food science. 

What Ingredients are in this Easy Pasta Sauce? 

Canned tomatoes
Butter
Onion
Salt
Pepper 
Basil (Dried or Fresh)
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder 

The tomatoes, butter, and onion are part of Marcella Hazan’s original recipe. The seasonings added are of my own design and quantities. 

The Steps to Making Easy Pasta Sauce from Scratch

Peel and halve your onion. 

Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer over low heat, uncovered for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

Remove onion and serve. 

Yeah. That’s it. For full ingredient measurements and instructions to make this recipe, visit the recipe card at the bottom of this page! 

Fork twirling pasta with sauce

Using Fresh Herbs vs Dried Herbs 

You can use fresh herbs/garlic in your tomato sauce if you’d like. In fact, that might even be preferable. I like that I can make this sauce whenever I need to, because all of the ingredients are just things I have on hand. Basil, on the other hand, is something that I buy only when I need it.

If you’d like to substitute fresh basil for the dry basil, you are more than welcome to! Either way, make sure to not simmer your herbs for more than 45 minutes. Leaving herbs to simmer on the stovetop for an extended period of time can lead to your sauce becoming bitter.

If you plan to simmer your sauce for a while, take care to only add the herbs when you have 45 minutes left to go. You shouldn’t have to worry, though, because the instructions indicate to only simmer the sauce for 45 minutes anyways! 

What Kind of Canned Tomatoes Do I Use? 

I’ve experimented with many kinds of canned tomatoes, and finally decided on the fact that diced tomatoes are my favorite with this recipe. 

The first time I tried this recipe, I used whole, peeled tomatoes. Obviously, the flavor of the sauce was still delicious,  but I didn’t like the texture. It just didn’t get saucy enough for me. 


I also tried crushed, which allowed the sauce to become very thin and saucy. I liked this way, but my favorite is diced. Diced tomatoes are a happy medium between the two aforementioned varieties, and I like the texture this way the best. If you don’t like chunky sauce, use crushed tomatoes 🙂 

What Do I Do with the Onion?  

Once the sauce finishes simmering, you’ll have a beautifully cooked and sweetened full onion on your hands. Marcella Hazan’s original instructions are to remove and discard the onion. You can do so if you’d like, but you also have a few other options. 


If you really love chunky sauce, you can remove the onion from the sauce, cut it up into small pieces, and return it to the sauce. You will then have small chunks of sweet onion in your sauce. Mmmmm. 

If you don’t want chunks of onion in your sauce but you don’t want to get rid of your delicious onion, you can remove and reserve the whole onion (this is what I do). I keep the onion in a tupperware container in my fridge, and then use it in other recipes over the next few days. My favorite options are to put it on sandwiches or chop up into scrambled eggs in the morning. 

How Do You Get Spaghetti Sauce to Stick to the Noodles? 

This question isn’t specific to this easy pasta sauce recipe. You can take this advice and apply it to any pasta recipe you make at home! 

My biggest piece of advice would be to not rinse your noodles after you take them out of the water. Boiling in hot water allows the starches to release from the pasta and create a starchy coating on the noodles. This starch allows the sauce to stick to the pasta more easily! 

Well I think that’s all the advice I had for you all today. If you make this recipe, make sure to post a photo on Instagram or Facebook and tag @TheForeignFork or hashtag #TheForeignFork. 

Did you enjoy this easy pasta sauce recipe? Make sure to check out my other recipes for pasta dishes including: 

Easy Pasta Sauce Recipe

There has never been an easy pasta sauce recipe easier than this pasta sauce– on this you have my word. And what’s better is that just because this pasta sauce is easy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. Keep reading for instructions on how to throw this yummy sauce together!

Course Main Course, sauce
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can of high quality diced tomatoes
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 onion peeled and halved
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • tsp black pepper
  • ½ tbsp dry basil
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pan over low-medium heat.

  2. Leave uncovered and allow the sauce to simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow sauce to slightly bubble, but take care to not let it burn
  3. Before serving, remove the onions.

  4. You can cut the onions up and add them back into the sauce if you’d like, though this makes the sauce a bit chunkier. I opt to keep the onions out of the sauce but reserve the onions for things like adding to scrambled eggs, sandwiches, tacos, etc.

Recipe Notes

Recipe derived from Marcella Hazan’s recipe. Herb and spice additions are my own. 

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