Friday, November 12, 2021

Italian Night!

I finally made the famous Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with onion and butter that has been written up by every food writer and blogger from NYC to Milano. Wow. What the heck was I waiting for? This couldn’t have been easier or more delicious. With only three ingredients (four, if you count the salt), and only three steps, within an hour you will have a bright, clean, delicious tomato sauce perfect for a host of dishes.

The three (four) ingredients:

Fresh, ripe tomatoes or 1 can (28 oz) imported Italian tomatoes

5 TB butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

Salt to taste

Full recipe below.

You may be thinking, “butter, and an onion just cut in half and thrown in??” Yes. And, whatever you do, do not discard that onion post-cooking. It is the sweetest, most delicious onion you’ll ever eat! A couple of commenters on Food52 suggested using a stick blender and whirling it back into the sauce. Another suggested just eating the onion outright (I did this, it was fabulous). No wrong answers.


The day I made the sauce, I ladled it over a twirl of linguini, added a few torn basil leaves, and showered it with freshly grated Parmigiana Reggiano (that gorgeous image at the top). Simple perfection!

On day two, I had a “voglia” (Italian slang for a craving - pronounced “wool-lea,” depending on the region) for chicken parm. Don’t ask me why, I just did. I almost never crave red sauce-type Italian-American dishes, but this week I did. I found a pretty low-intensity (read: not a million steps) recipe, used the leftover Marcella sauce, and used Panko instead of breadcrumbs to produce a crispier, crunchier coating. It was terrific. I didn’t go totally old school and serve it over spaghetti, but I did enjoy a crusty Italian bread alongside the parm.

Old school chicken parm

I didn’t have any Italian reds in the house so I used a hearty zin, which worked just fine.

And, finally, to complete Italian night, I made the easiest dessert possible (if you have the means to make espresso): affogato. In Italian, affogato means “drowned.” You literally drown cold ice cream in hot espresso. 

I recently treated myself to a starter espresso machine (made by Capresso and purchased on sale) and I am loving it. Two cappuccinos in the morning and, sometimes, a decaf espresso in the afternoon, and I’m good to go. 

Affogato is a divine little treat. What could be better than ice cold ice cream (in my case, coffee), drowned in dark, delicious espresso? My go-to ice cream of late is Enlightened’s cold brew coffee. At only 90 calories for 2/3 cup, it is all indulgence and zero guilt. I honestly don’t know how they make such a rich, creamy ice cream that clocks in at that caloric rate. But, whatever, I’m on board. The picture of my affogato was sub-par so I’ve included a stock image so you get the gist of what it “should” look like.

Photo by Sarah li from Pexels

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Serves 6, enough to sauce 1 to 1-1/2 lb pasta

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes for the sauce

2 lb fresh tomatoes, prepared as described below, or 2 C canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

5 TB butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

Salt to taste

  1. Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  2. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Taste and correct for salt. Before tossing with pasta, you may remove the onion (as Hazan recommended) and save for another use, but many opt to leave it in. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for the table.

Food52 editor’s note: Marcella called for 2 cups of tomatoes when using canned, but feel free to use a whole 28 oz can (closer to 3 cups), if you like. You can scale up the butter and onion, if you like, or don’t - it’s genius either way.

Making Fresh Tomatoes Ready for Sauce

The blanching method: Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or less. Drain them and, as soon as they are cool enough to handle, skin them, and cut them into coarse pieces.

The freezing method (from David Tanis, via The Kitchn): Freeze tomatoes on a baking sheet until hard. Thaw again, either on the counter or under running water. Skin them and cut them into coarse pieces.

The food mill method: Wash the tomatoes in cold water, cut them lengthwise in half, and put them in a covered saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Set a food mill fitted with the disk with the largest holes over a bowl. Transfer the tomatoes with any of their juices to the mill and puree.

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