basil | herbs | italian | macaroni/pasta | quick & easy | recipe | sauce | seasonal | tomato

The simplest, freshest, easiest tomato sauce you’ll ever make.

August 28, 2015

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Simple, fresh and easy summer tomato sauce. Adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan.

When it’s like, 200 degrees out, you do not want to be making something that takes hours over a hot stove. Nuh-uh. It’s too much. Even if you have the A/C crankin’ you still don’t want to be standing stirring something, sweating.

Wow, alliteration! My 8th grade English teacher Mrs. Clarey would be proud.

Anyway, I’ve been making this sauce for a couple of years now. Mainly in the summertime, but I’ve been known to make it in a double batch on a cold day. It’s my go-to simple sauce recipe because of a few reasons: 1) it’s easy, 2) it tastes delicious, 3) it’s quick to make and 4) it’s EXCELLENT on both pasta and homemade pizza. And it’s also amazing on crusty bread with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella. Yum.

All you need (plus salt and sugar) to make the best, freshest tasting tomato sauce ever.

And best of all? There are 4 main ingredients, shown above, and two minor ingredients (sugar & salt). That’s just 6 ingredients in all. And in 20 minutes, you’ve got a delicious sauce, ready to eat. Also, it can be made with peeled whole canned tomatoes as well, if you prefer a chunkier sauce. Just crush ’em in the pot with your hands before adding the other ingredients.

SALSA SEMPLICE (SIMPLE SAUCE, adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan)


  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh finely chopped basil (or use dried basil, just less of it, ’cause it’s stronger), or just throw in a few basil leaves, which is what I like to do
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (unsalted or salted, whichever you have)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  1. Put all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat, bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove onion before tossing sauce with the pasta, saucing your pizza or using in your baked pasta dish. I just throw the onion away, but maybe there’s another use you can think of for it.

Simple, fresh and easy summer tomato sauce. Adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan.

I like to eat it on a sweltering hot summer evening, with more fresh basil on top, sprinkled with parmigiano reggiano, and with a cold glass of San Pellegrino. I happen to grow my own basil in our garden, so it’s easy to just go snip however much I want. If you choose to use dried basil that’s fine too!

The butter imparts an amazing, velvety richness to the sauce. You can’t achieve that with olive oil! If you’ve never had a tomato sauce with butter before, you have to try this.

Simple, fresh and easy summer tomato sauce. Adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan.

And yes, if you grow your own tomatoes (I do too!), you can certainly use them in this sauce! Let them get ripe or even a little overripe, then just get rid of the stem part and chop ’em up. Throw ’em in a pot (skin, seeds and all!) and add the rest of the ingredients. You’ll need about 10- 12 tomatoes to equal one 28-ounce can. You can also steam peel the tomatoes for a more “canned” tomato feeling. I would recommend doing this only if you grow such an exorbitant amount of tomatoes that you need to use them or you grow Roma/Sam Marzano/Amish Paste tomatoes specifically to use them in sauce. Otherwise- save the fresh tomatoes for eating fresh. There’s nothing wrong with a good can of tomatoes!

This sauce is also very good with toasted pine nuts sprinkled on top.

Simple, fresh and easy summer tomato sauce. Adapted from a recipe by Marcella Hazan.

Suggestions for use: Use it any way you’d use regular tomato sauce- on pizza, pasta, baked pasta dishes, on baked eggs, etc.
Soundtrack: Rosemary Clooney – “Mambo Italiano”
Sources & credits: Cento tomatoes & love.
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