Saturday, 5 September 2015

Taste Test: Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion

Had heard and read about this really ridonkulously easy tomato sauce recipe (for pasta) by Marcella Hazan a while back and had no real reason to try this until one fine day when my mother was on holiday over the long weekend and I got a couple of canned tomatoes that were on clearance at Cold Storage. If you don't know who Marcella Hazan is; don't worry, neither did I. Google is your friend.

Here's what you need...
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, or 3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion, peeled and sliced into halves
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Canned tomatoes are supposedly picked and canned at their (so-called) peak ripeness (so the marketing goes), so that wasn't an issue. One can was organic tomatoes and already had herbs in it, but what the heck. The one large yellow onion cost 50 cents from Hero Supermarket (there's only shallots in the house). The pat of unsalted butter cost more, obviously, depending on the brand you chose, as there wasn't any more (actual) butter in the house. 

According to Google, 5 tablespoons is about 2.5 ounces. The pat of butter I bought had ounce markings on the wrapper which made life easier when I did the chef-y thing and sliced the butter, paper and all, LIKE A BOSS.

I went with unsalted butter because I know I would definitely be seasoning the sauce as I went along, but you could probably use salted butter if you had it lying around or what. 
1. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them. Coarsely chop the fresh or canned tomatoes. Trim both ends of the onion; peel it and cut it in half lengthwise.
2. Put the tomatoes, onion, butter, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to a slow but steady simmer. Cook, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are no longer watery and the sauce has reduced, about 45 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the pot. The sauce is done when the butter has separated from the tomatoes and there is no remaining liquid.
Taste? For starters, you definitely taste the butter in the final product. But I also had to add some brown sugar as even with all the cooking and seasoning, the sauce was still a tad tart for my liking. The onion got translucent in the end. You COULD eat the onion, but as all the flavour's gone into the sauce, the recipe was right in saying you should just dispose it before serving. Just make sure you get the sauce out of the layers cos that's how soft it went.

But as someone who likes garlic, the lack of it was obvious. It's okay for people who want a no-frills base sauce; the rest of us can just add whatever we want to it.