Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce

The first time I read about this recipe, I was a doubter. Canned tomatoes, butter, and an onion? Sure, I thought, sounds okay and all. But it doesn’t sound like anything that would part the heavens and make the birds sing and force me to declare proudly that my life was now complete.

Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce

Which I guess it really doesn’t – it’s just food after all. But this sauce truly is more divine than you’d think upon reading the list of ingredients. Something about simmering these three ingredients together really does create magic.

Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce

Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce is wonderful tossed in or spooned over just about any pasta. We especially enjoy it mixed in with plain ol’ spaghetti noodles or piled onto whole-wheat penne.

Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce

Simple, inexpensive, and easy to make. Who doesn’t want more of that in their kitchen?

Print Recipe

Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce

Three ingredients: tomato, butter, and onion come together perfectly in this simple - and simply magical - pasta sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes


  • 1 (24-ounce) can whole tomatoes (San Marzano are fabulous, but I've used others and they're also delicious)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • Salt (optional), to taste


  1. Add the tomatoes, butter, and onion to a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, keeping it at a steady simmer.
  2. Simmer for about 45 minutes until the butter droplets float free from the tomatoes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, gently smashing the tomato on the side of the pan as you stir.
  3. Remove the onion and discard.
  4. If desired, season to taste with salt.
  5. Serve with your favorite pasta.

I originally discovered this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Marcela Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking.


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One Response to “Magic Three-Ingredient Pasta Sauce”

  1. cindy posted on May 15, 2012 at 7:39 am

    yum! I’ve made this sauce before and it’s SO simple and surprising. it’s so pretty on that yellow plate with that green!

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