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Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

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Vegetarian, Pasta, Family Favorites

A wonderful sauce that tastes only of fresh tomatoes (oh, and butter!)

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  • 2 lbs. fresh, ripe plum tomatoes
  • 5 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half cross-wise
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. penne, cooked according to package directions
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving


Wash the tomatoes, cut them lengthwise in half, and put them in a covered saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Put them in batches in a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes (for thicker sauce) or the medium holes (for a thinner sauce) and purée.

Put the pureed tomatoes in a saucepan and add the butter, onion halves, and the salt to taste. Cook uncovered at a steady simmer for 45 minutes. Add additional salt if necessary. Discard the onion before serving.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the penne. Toss the penne with the sauce and serve immediately. Pass the Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table.


If you don't have a food mill, you can use a blender. When you remove the tomato halves from the hot water, peel off the skin and cut off the top of the tomato where the stem was. Puree the tomatoes in a blender until they are relatively smooth (this is not a very chunky sauce). If the seeds bother you, send the pureed mixture through a fine mesh sieve. I have a food mill but it is my least favorite appliance so I prefer to use the blender.

Plum tomatoes are often called roma tomatoes in the supermarket (roma tomatoes are actually a type of plum tomato) - they are oblong instead of round.

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recipe type

Side Dishes


Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan


6 servings




Kosher v. table salt
We always use kosher salt in our cooking because its crystals dissolve better in water than ordinary table salt. However, kosher and table salt are not equivalent when you are measuring amounts for a recipe. To further confuse matters, different types of kosher salt measure differently. If a recipe calls for table salt (or just salt), and the amounts are relatively small (e.g., one teaspoon), we simply use the amount called for in the recipe. You can always add a bit more salt to taste. If however, the recipe calls for larger amounts of salt, as would be the case, for example, in a brine, then you should convert the amount called for. Most sources cite 2 types of kosher salt as being widely available: Morton (which is what we use) and Diamond Crystal (which none of us have ever been able to find.) In any case, to convert the amount of table salt to Morton Kosher Salt, multiply the table salt by 1.5; to convert to Diamond Crystal, multiply by 2.

Just another example of why algebra really is im