I have to admit, I was a little skeptical going into my attempt at Saveur recipe trend #1: butter tomato sauce. The skepticism was based solely on an ill-conceived purchase I made a few years ago, back when Giada De Laurentiis started hawking products at Target. Impulsively, I tried a jar of her tomato sauce, but I quickly realized my mistake when it tasted strongly of butter. But not in a good way.
Still, lest I let that one bad experience influence my opinion of today’s sauce, I tried to keep an open mind. And I’m kind of glad I did.
The sauce is simple to prepare, requiring only three ingredients, very little prep, and only a bit of cooking time. Plus, it makes the house smell amazing—my mouth was watering and stomach growling after only 10 minutes, but I exercised restraint so the sauce could simmer for the full 45 minutes to ensure a complete blending of flavors.
In the end, I thought the sauce’s flavor didn’t quite live up to the tantalizing aroma it emitted while cooking, but it was still much better than I had anticipated going in. The butter notes were subtle; in fact, I think I could taste more onion than butter. The texture and flavor were both rich and luscious, to use the same term as a few other bloggers did for this sauce, because really, it describes it perfectly. But beyond that, I found it a little lacking.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am probably not the best person to weigh in on any tomato sauce. Being 50% Sicilian and growing up on Sicilian cooking, I have very strong opinions and high standards when it comes to sauce. Honestly, nothing quite lives up to my grandmother’s recipe, which I’ve ever so slightly adjusted for my own tastes. I even have to use only certain brands of canned tomatoes or I find a discernible (and often disappointing) difference. Plus, my recipe only requires four ingredients (tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and garlic—yes, garlic, not onions or mirepoix, as most tomato sauces call for) and less cooking time than butter tomato sauce, so I’m not really persuaded to switch.
At any rate, this was a fun experiment.
Butter Tomato Sauce
From Smitten Kitchen (who got it from Marcella Hazan)
1 (28 oz.) can San Marzano tomatoes (I used crushed, although the recipe calls for whole)
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
5 tablespoons butter
Combine tomatoes, onion, and butter in a large pot. Heat to a simmer. Reduce heat and keep at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until droplets of fat float to the top of the tomatoes. Taste and season with salt, if necessary (probably not be necessary if you use salted tomatoes and salted butter). Serve over pasta.