Not Martha

Marcella Hazan’s easy tomato sauce

The other day I found myself caught between being hungry and lazy. (You know how to know when you’ve become an adult? When you no longer have foodstuffs that don’t require thirty minutes of cooking and other ingredients to make them edible. That’s how.) We had almost nothing to eat in our house but I just couldn’t get myself to put on pants that were respectable enough to go to the grocery store. And then (!), accompanied by rays of sunlight and angelic music, I found a jar of homemade tomato sauce in the back of my freezer. Suddenly (or with ten-ish minutes of effort) I’d gone from So Hungry to eating delicious tomato sauce on polenta (always stock corn grits for times like this) topped with an egg. I ate this again for lunch since new food hadn’t magically appeared in my fridge. Having this tomato sauce in my freezer made me feel like a genius. Or at least somebody who is occasionally able to feed myself with dignity.

This sauce I refer to is Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter. Its an amazingly simple and delicious recipe so if you’re already familiar with it then high five, and if you’re not already familiar with it then you’re in for a treat. This is how it goes:

– a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, with the juice
– one onion peeled and cut in half
– 5 tablespoons of butter
– a pinch of salt if needed

Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Done.

Ok, there is a little more than that. You let the whole thing simmer slowly for about 45 minutes and near the end crush the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Discard the onion before serving. Done and done.

For a more detailed version of this see Orangette, or Amateur Gourmet, or Smitten Kitchen.

For this recipe I make a double batch. Doubled it fits in a 4-quart dutch oven nicely and I freeze the leftovers in portions for later. I’ve been using small canning jars (note: affiliate links) with the very handy plastic screw caps lately for freezing foods, it’s easy to take of the lid and thaw the whole thing in a microwave. Or at least I find the jars less fuss than I anticipated them to be. I bought a bunch of jars a few years back expecting they’d eventually be cycled out of my house when giving food gifts to friends and I’ve honestly been surprised at how much I enjoy using them for dry food storage and freezer storage. The caps, though, make all the difference. They are easier to remove and clean and keep track of and won’t rust.

This is a little tip I learned somewhere that I cannot recall. (I think Cook’s Illustrated?) If you want to break up whole canned tomatoes with as little mess as possible use kitchen scissors to cut them up while they are still in the can. This recipe doesn’t require you break up the tomatoes first but I do it anyway because I can get a little obsessive over smashing the tomatoes later on and I like to give myself a head start. I’ve read that when deciding whether to buy whole or diced or crushed canned tomatoes it’s better to buy whole because there is less processing time before the tomatoes hit the can so they are fresher. I’m not sure if this is true but it’s good to keep in mind. Maybe a taste test is in order?

While I’m here let me just say that I’m totally in love with my no-sharp-edges can opener. I know there are not exactly breaking news but every time I open a can I find myself being gushingly appreciative of not being able to cut my fingers on anything sharp. (Because I did, every time.) I own the Zyliss and have no complaints. Sweethome recommends the OXO Good Grips version. In conclusion: not having the culinary equivalent of a throwing star weapon in your trash is good.

Ok, go, make the easy sauce and feel like a genius.

This post is part of an occasional series that I consider my Freezer Pantry. Here is the link to the category: Freezer Pantry, and here is a list of all the previous posts:

· comments [9] · 01-12-2015 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shahnnen // Jan 12, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    omg, let me sing the praises of the Good Grips can opener. It works like a buttery dream and is a joy to use, unlike my bastard IKEA piece of trash (sorry, IKEA, love you but you can opener can suck it.) The magnet thing holds the lid so it doesn’t deposit a boatload of bacteria into your freshly opened food, the edges are not sharp, it’s very easy to sue without a ton of effort (it’s what is suggested to people with arthritis, apparently) Every suggestion from Sweethome has been spot-on.

  • 2 KWu // Jan 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Curious as to whether there’s a specific reason you prefer the plastic caps over the lids that those mason jars come with, especially for freezing things? I had a few too many gallon jars lost in the freezing of chicken stock, even though I left lots of head room :(

  • 3 megan // Jan 12, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    KWu – Simply that the caps are easier to handle and clean when there is one part instead of two parts to deal with. I also find them easier to get open. I hope they start selling jars without the canning lids because I have a huge collection of lid parts tucked away that don’t get used.

  • 4 megan // Jan 12, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Shahnnen – Good to know! And yes, I admire Sweethome and their parent site Wirecutter a lot.

  • 5 whitney // Jan 13, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Another vote for the OXO can opener! I’ve had mine for years and it still does an awesome. Also, I just ordered some of the plastic jar lids yesterday and I already think I might need to order more…

  • 6 KWu // Jan 13, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Fair enough on the one part caps being easier to deal with. I do have tons of extra canning rings lying around, but they do get rusty sometimes and I’ll recycle them then. If you have lids from those jars that have never been used for canning yet, you could give them to someone who cans. I’ve canned enough using the same jars that I have to go out occasionally to buy new lids so that they’ll seal properly.

  • 7 L // Jan 15, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Do you find that the tomato sauce (or pesto) stain the plastic lids?

  • 8 megan // Jan 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    L – Not so far!

  • 9 shawn // Jan 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    OH! yay for unsharp can-openers. love.

    also! i made this for breakfast yesterday and it was the bestest.

    * boil 16ish ounces of tomato sauce in a mediumish pot

    *crack an egg into a ramekin and pour it into one quarter of the surface area of the sauce. repeat with three more eggs

    *toast two big ol fat pieces of bread

    * spread generously with ricotta

    * once the egg whites aren’t runny, spoon out half the sauce and two of the eggs onto each toast slab

    *nom it up

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