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World’s Best Pasta Sauce (Marcella Hanzan’s 3-Ingredient Tomato Sauce)

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It’s touted as the World’s Best Pasta Sauce recipe, yet it is so incredibly simple to make! Created by renowned food writer and chef Marcella Hazan, once you’ve made this easy, 3-ingredient tomato sauce to serve tossed with fresh pasta, you’ll never make another tomato pasta sauce recipe again!

Bowl of tomato pasta sauce garnished with basil.

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How can you get any better than a recipe that promises to make the World’s Best Pasta Sauce? And it has only three simple ingredients.

Who is Marcella Hazan?

If you love pasta and Italian cooking, you have most likely encountered Marcella Hazan. As instrumental in introducing Italian foods to America as Julia Child was with French cuisine. Her cookbook, “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” (Amazon affiliate link), is a must-have for culinary libraries.

David Sipress, writing for “The New Yorker,” says Marcella Hazan changed his life. As a self-admitted transformed “terrible cook,” he writes, “All I had to do was follow her instructions to the letter, and success was pretty much guaranteed.”

Of the cookbook, he explains, “Her recipes are consistently clear and straightforward, enabled me to overcome a lifetime of insecurity in the kitchen. She just made it all seem so easy.”

And it all began with… the sauce.

“This is the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistibly tomato taste,” Sipress writes. “I have known people to skip the pasta and eat the sauce directly out of the pot with a spoon.”

A simple, 3-ingredient sauce, and 45 minutes to simmer.

Then, all you need is to add pasta or use it in place of marinara sauce in recipes like my Simple Baked Rigatoni or my Easy Italian Mac and Cheese.

Marcella Hazan’s most important rule for making her World’s Best Pasta Sauce:

Never cook a tomato sauce in a covered pan, or it will end up being “bland, steamed, weakly formulaic.”

Well, there you have it. That is the secret to success with this delicious sauce, as well as your three simple ingredients!

What You Need to Make This Tomato Pasta Sauce

An uncovered pan, obviously! But also a can of whole, peeled tomatoes (they provide a better texture and tend to have a better flavor than the chopped varieties), an onion, and butter.

Butter is the secret to this delicious sauce, so you should use the best you can get, preferably European butter. And you’ll need a bit of salt to season the sauce.

White bowl of tomato pasta sauce garnished with a basil sprig.

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World's Best Pasta Sauce with 3 Ingredients | 31Daily.com

World’s Best Pasta Sauce with 3 Ingredients

It’s touted as the World’s Best Pasta Sauce recipe, yet it is so incredibly simple to make! Created by renowned food writer and chef Marcella Hazan once you’ve made this easy, 3-ingredient tomato sauce to serve tossed with fresh pasta you’ll never make another tomato pasta sauce recipe again!
4.7 from 26 votes
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Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 46 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Stephanie Wilson

Ingredients

  • 28- ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 onion peeled and halved
  • 5 tablespoons of butter
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions

  • Add the tomatoes, halved onion and butter into a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered, with an occasional stir.
  • After 45 minutes, toss out the onion halves, season to taste with salt and pour the sauce over your favorite pasta. It really is that simple!

Notes

I like to use unsalted butter in this recipe because then you’ll be able to control the amount of salt you want to add.

Nutrition

Calories: 113kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 265mg | Potassium: 278mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 447IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: easy recipe, marinara, pasta sauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato, tomato sauce

37 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have been wanting to try this for some time… I am now considering making a large jar of this for each of my co-workers for Christmas. Can this be made ahead (without regular “canning” techniques) and put in a jar as a gift? Would it be O.K. to leave out of the fridge for a few days or should it be refrigerated? I am worried about what the butter will do if chilled.

    1. Hi Sue! That is such a creative and great idea for gifting. I’m going to add that to my list too! Unfortunately, because homemade tomato sauce isn’t made with shelf-stable preservatives, it has a shorter life in the fridge– plan on 3 to 5 days.

  2. 4 stars
    Well let me say this about the sauce. I used fresh tomatoes from my garden I had frozen and defrosted to peel. Twas a bit short so I added once can of diced tomatoes, the butter and onion. Smelled divine, had to cook a bitonger to get to best consistently. Gorgeous color, unlike any other. Found it a great bright back note, but added oregano, basil, garlic, sugar, balsamic and red pepper flakes. Then it became the best sauce ever. Last night over fettuccine with parm, today in an Italian, fresh moz, basil baguette sandwich, yum. Will never make pasta sauce again without starting this way.

    1. Hi MaryAnn, fresh tomatoes from the garden can never be beat! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. Thank you too for sharing your tweaks and additions. Isn’t making homemade tomato sauce so fun!

  3. My first ever pasta sauce not out of a jar — and it’s SO delicious! After cooking I kept the onions and ate them as a side (so good!) then used a stick blender for a few seconds to smooth the consistency. Wonderful, thank you!

    1. Hi Gail! Don’t you love making your own sauce! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks for trying the recipe!

    1. Hi Pam! I’m so glad you you liked it— thanks for trying it and letting me know how it worked for you!

  4. 2nd time i am making it for visitors. First visitors this sauce isn’t out of the jar like most. They could straight away tell the difference.
    Hope the one tonight goes well too.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Oh yay! I’m so glad it’s working well for you. There’s nothing like homemade sauce! Have fun tonight.

    1. Hi Carolyn! I’m so glad you enjoyed the pasta sauce. Your tips are super helpful– thank you for trying it and letting me know how you liked it!

  5. 5 stars
    We love this sauce! I keep the onion and use my immersion blender at the end of cooking to smooth it out. I also add just less than a teaspoon of sugar. Seriously, it is so good!

      1. Hi Vicki! You made my day! I’m so glad you enjoy this pasta sauce, it’s a weekend staple at my house too. The immersion blender is a great tip as is the added sugar. Thank you for trying the recipe and letting us know how it worked for you and which tomatoes you used.

  6. 4 stars
    I have made this sauce multiple times already and it always seems to be extremely watery once the 45 minutes are up, I’m not sure what I am doing wrong but it still tastes very good!

    1. Different tomatoes can contain different amounts of moisture. One way you can thicken a sauce is by bringing it to a hard boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking until done. This helps deactivate an enzyme that breaks down tomato’s natural pectin (thickener).

  7. 4 stars
    I have a question. I tried to make this sauce yesterday and it did not come out good :(. My boss made it at his house once and it was literally the best sauce I’ve ever tasted, then I tried to make it and it tasted off. Does it matter what kind of tomatoes you use? I used the 28oz can of peeled tomatoes, but I think they were plum tomatoes. Not sure if it makes a difference! Otherwise I did everything else by the recipe. I know the sauce is amazing because I’ve had it made the right way before lol.

    1. Hi Ashley, I’m so sorry this tomato sauce recipe didn’t turn out as expected. You are correct that different varieties of tomatoes make a huge difference in the sauce. And everyone has a different opinion on which tomatoes are best. Much of it has to do with the balance between sweetness and acidity. I like mine a bit on the sweeter side, so lately I’ve been preferring to use canned “Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes.” It has a sweeter balance and I’m happy with the flavor of the sauce it makes. Other brands that are popular are “Hunt’s San Marzano Style Tomatoes” and “Alta Cucina Whole Plum Tomatoes.” It would be interesting to ask your boss which product he used in the recipe. I’d LOVE to hear. Thank you for trying it though!

  8. 5 stars
    I have been making this for my son for years but I am going to be the reason he drops down with a coronary. Is there a less unhealthy version of this recipe, 5 tablespoons of butter! I feel guilty every time I make it for him, I’ve tried less butter but it doesn’t taste as nice at all, even if I just put 4Tbls of butter in he can tell. It is amazing though.

    1. Hi Mandy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this pasta sauce. I absolutely love it too! As to reducing the butter, I’ve also tried it several different ways, including adding half butter, and half olive oil. Both, though, are 100% fat, although olive oil contains less saturated fat so is healthier. But the flavor isn’t the same!

  9. 5 stars
    This was the best pasta sauce I have ever tasted! Period!
    Someone commented this pasta sauce was so good people eat it without the pasta and I am one of them. It’s delicious and of course, it’s great over pasta but it is also great right out of the pan. It’s the ONLY pasta sauce I have been able to eat right out of the pan without pasta. Easy to make and you’ll LOVE IT! Give it a try!

    1. Should you drain the tomatoes first?
      I’ve got this on the stove and it’s simmered for 3/4 hour but it’s still very watery.

      1. Hi Dave, you do not drain the tomatoes. I would continue to simmer for a bit longer and then mash some of the larger chunks of tomatoes. This will help thicken the sauce.

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