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  • Writer's pictureLydia Gerratt

Tomato and butter pasta sauce

Tomato and butter pasta sauce

This is one of those pasta sauces that you need to have in your recipe arsenal. It’s bloody brilliant. How can it taste so ridiculously good when it only has a couple of ingredients? It’s the creamy, fatty, rich butter slowly cooked with the slightly acidic tomatoes which creates the magic.

This recipe is an adaption of Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce with onion and butter from her ‘The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’ (get this book if you haven’t already, as a culinary bible of all your favourite Italian recipes). I’ve adulterated this classic recipe by adding garlic because I love the flavour and using slightly less butter than the original recipe as the amount was just a bit too much for me. I also find that I have to add a good amount of water to the simmering sauce otherwise, it will burn during the 45 minutes of cooking. Maybe, the canned tomatoes we get in the UK have a thicker tomato sauce than the ones Marcella used?!

Make sure you use a good quality pasta (Guiseppe Cocco is my favourite) and lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve.

My two little boys absolutely love this pasta sauce, I think it’s the butter and smooth tomato sauce that brings them running to the dinner table….

Miraculous ingredients: Canned plum tomatoes (Mutti or Waitrose organic plum tomatoes are excellent),

Tomato and butter pasta sauce


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press

400g (1 can) of plum tomatoes (Mutti or Waitrose organic plum tomatoes are excellent)

¼ teaspoon sugar (optional, I add a little sugar if the tomatoes are too acidic)

50g unsalted butter

1 medium brown onion, peeled and cut in half

Sea salt to taste

400g pasta; spaghetti, penne or egg fettucine (Guiseppe Cocco is a good brand)

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan)


Place a small sauce pan on a low heat. Add the olive oil and gently fry the crushed garlic for a minute (do not let it brown as it will taste bitter). Add the can of plum tomatoes and break up the tomatoes as much as possible with a wooden spatula. Fill ½ the can with water (to get every last bit of tomato flavour) and add to the pan. Add the sugar, if using. Add the onion and butter. I add a large pinch of sea salt now and then taste again once the sauce is cooked to see if it needs more.

Simmer the sauce on a low heat for about 45 minutes. The sauce will thicken and concentrate in flavour. Be sure to stir the sauce every now and again, as it will stick to the bottom of the pan when it thickens and comes to the end of its cooking time. Remove the onion when the sauce is cooked. The onion can be discarded, though I love to eat it as it has now become super soft and delicious.

During the last 15 minutes of sauce cooking time, boil the pasta in a lot salted water (at least 3 litres) and when al dente (soft on the outside but slightly hard in the middle), lift the pasta out of its water with a pasta spoon and put it into the pan with the sauce. Add a 3-4 tablespoons of pasta water to help create a sauce (the starch in the pasta water thickens the sauce).

Serve immediately with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Preparation time 5 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes, serves 4


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