Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter is a phenomenon. One of those recipes that’s so unassuming and simple, it’s easily overlooked in a search for cooking inspiration. But nothing should be overlooked in Marcella Hazan’s books. I’ll write more about her soon. Until then, read Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking before you spend anymore time without her.
This sauce is haunted by sweet onion and made earthly with the grounding notes of butter fat. All you do is simmer tomatoes with a halved onion, a chunk of butter and season. Perfect simplicity.
Unless you’re me, and you’re also haunted by a fridge full of preserves and a weirdly relentless desire for peas. Then, THEN, feel free to complicate things…
Tomatoes and Peas with Linguine
- 750g tomatoes (good quality, whole canned tomatoes, or replace with some proportion of roasted tomatoes, whatever amount you have. I used half-half)
- 74g (or thereabouts), of organic salted or unsalted butter (if you use salted, you’ll just season the sauce less)
- One onion, cut in half and peeled
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 heads of garlic confit
- 2 cups frozen baby peas (the only frozen vegetables worth buying)
- 500g linguine
- Homemade pesto (optional)
- Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
Bring the tomatoes, butter and onion to a strong simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic heads, if using. Do an initial seasoning with sea salt and a twist of pepper. Place a lid on the pot, set slightly askew to stop the splattering and simmer strongly for around 45 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and glistens like velvet. Pull out the onion halves and add to the compost. Pull out the garlic heads, and with a fork pinning the head down, push a knife edge along its length toward the tips of the cloves. Most of the garlic should ooze out. Scrape this back into the sauce and taste for seasoning again.
Before you scraping the garlic cloves, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add enough salt (low grade sea salt) to make the water taste a bit like sea water (but not quite). When the water comes to a rapid boil, add the pasta and stir to separate. Place a lid on the pot until it threatens to boil over, then stir again and continue to cook until nearly al dente (Taste the pasta often. Bite through a piece. It’s ready when there’s no dry white centre visible in the middle but the pasta isn’t swollen with water and is still resistant to your bite), throw in the peas, cook for 30seconds and then drain the whole lot.
Toss the pasta back into the pot with the tomato sauce and stir until well combined and the tomato sauce completely adheres to the pasta. Serve with grated Parmeggiano Reggiano and pesto on the side, if you got any.