Marinara Sauce à la Marcella Hazan

Pasta with marinara sauce à la Marcella Hazan.   Photo by Keri White

Famed Italian chef and writer Marcella Hazan was born in 1924 in the Emilia-Romagna province of Italy. She earned degrees in biology and natural science, and began her career as a science teacher, but eventually pivoted to culinary education and writing.

In 1955, she married Victor Hazan, an Italian-born Sephardic Jew who was raised in New York and became a renowned wine writer. She published nearly a dozen cookbooks, founded a culinary school, received many prestigious awards and is credited with educating the American public on authentic Italian cooking.

One of Hazan’s most famous and enduring recipes is her marinara sauce, a deceptively simple but incredibly delicious preparation. Her version uses butter, but for vegans or meat menus, olive oil can be substituted. It is a great “pantry meal” because it requires so few ingredients and is done after a merry 45-minute simmer. I served it over fresh fettucine recently for dinner and it was wonderful — but it would be a delightful topper for filled, dry or fresh pasta, or any recipe calling for marinara or red sauce like eggplant parmesan or lasagna.

Marinara Sauce ala Hazan
This makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta, or approximately 3 cups

A note on the tomatoes: Because this dish is so simple and tomato-centric, I recommend using the San Marzano type. They are more expensive, but in this recipe, where they are the star of the show, the extra spend is worth it.

Photo by Keri White

Hazan recommends that you use whole tomatoes with their juice, which you let break down and squish up with your hands or the back of a spoon, but, if I may be so bold as to disagree with her, I prefer the crushed version, which saves effort and produces a smooth sauce.

1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
½ stick butter or ¼ cup good-quality olive oil
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
A few pinches of kosher salt (more if using olive oil or unsalted butter, less if butter is salted)

Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the sauce to simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove the onion and discard. Use the sauce as desired.


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