Faites Simple

Escoffier's phrase faites simple translates as make it simple or keep it simple. Elizabeth David defined it as the avoidance of all unnecessary complication and elaboration.*
When I came across Italian cookery writer Marcella Hazan's recipe for tomato sauce with onion and butter I was reminded of Escoffier and David's words. Such a simple, elegant recipe. Take some fresh, ripe tomatoes, a lump of butter and a peeled onion, put them in a pot and simmer for 45 minutes. Discard the onion and eat the sauce. 

And yet, and yet...... I couldn't help complicating and elaborating just a little.
To begin with I used tinned tomatoes. That was allowed, I'd seen other versions of this recipe using tinned toms and nothing will induce me to buy imported tomatoes out of season, and actually tinned tomatoes are less fuss to prepare.
Secondly, I felt, as did others that discarding the onion was a crime. I decided I would blend it into the sauce at the end of the cooking time. To make this easier on my stick blender and to reduce spaltter I chopped it into chunks before adding it to the tomatoes.
Thirdly, I threw in a couple of peeled garlic cloves. 
A grinding of black pepper was my final complication.
Despite my tinkering I feel this is still a very simple recipe; easy to make, few ingredients and above all really delicious.

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes - use good quality tomatoes. I used the Italian brand Cirio because they were half price but I have had excellent results with Waitrose own brand. 
1 onion cut into large chunks
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 oz (55g) butter - I used salted butter but did not add any salt to the sauce
Black pepper, from a peppermill
A blue pot - essential for the pleasure of seeing the complementary colours of blue and orange in your kitchen on a dull February day.**

Put all the ingredients except the pepper in the blue pot over a low heat.

Simmer for 45 - 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Let it cool a little before going in with a stick blender, or use a food processor. Blend the onion and garlic into the tomato until it is reaches a consistency you are happy with. Your sauce will now have tuned from red to a lovely glowing orange which will be enhanced by your blue pot.
Grind on some black pepper.

I used some of my sauce on these simple pitta pizzas which are a regular school holiday lunch in our house.

I will use the rest on proper pizzas this Friday.
I also intend to make an enormous batch of this sauce to stash in the freezer. 

Use this sauce in a baked pasta dish tossing it with cooked pasta and topping with cheese sauce before baking. 
You could add cooked ham, tuna, prawns, crisp bits of bacon or mushrooms to make a more substantial pasta sauce. 
Use it to cover chicken breasts for baking, perhaps with some mozzarella tucked inside each one. 
Bake white fish fillets in it with some black olives for a Proven├žal flavour.
Serve with breadcrumbed pork or turkey escalopes, or with sausages as a change from onion gravy. 
Pour it into a shallow baking dish and crumble feta cheese over it, put in the oven to melt the cheese. Scoop up with crusty bread .
Bake vegetables in it; big flat mushrooms, wedges of squash or pumpkin, sliced courgettes, aubergine slices or peppers. Add some chunks of goat's cheese. Eat with bread.
Make a meatless main course layering it with sliced aubergines, squash slices or courgettes and mozzarella. Top with a shower of grated parmesan.
Smear a bit on a pancake, top with grated cheese, roll up, pack into a baking dish, spoon over more tomato sauce, or use cheese sauce, and bake.
Pour it into a shallow dish and crack some eggs into it, bake.
Turn it into soup by thinning it with stock, milk or maybe some single cream.
Make a quick bolognese or lasagne sauce by adding browned minced beef to it.

* From French Provincial Cooking
** If you don't have a blue pot- my sympathies, your pot should, however, have a good thick base or the sauce will burn. I can see no reason why it could not be cooked in the oven.



  1. does slated butter taste a bit like salted butter then?! tee hee only teasing. Keep up the flow of simple recipes, my sister-in-law is bound to be dropping by your blog later, and she actually does get round to making them and reporting the results to me, which is very handy indeed.....

    1. Oops! I have corrected it. Thank you :)

  2. Hey Sue. This looks delish but could you tell me what size tin of tomatoes you used? Can't wait to try this as well as some of your other recipes. Thanks!

    1. They are 400g tins Elaine. I shall amend the recipe to say so.

    2. Thank you! Got it on the stove now...can't wait!

  3. I have the blue pot, the waitrose toms & onion etc. I feel a cooking session coming on!

  4. Anonymous4:05 pm GMT

    Simple yet delicious!

  5. Such a simple touch of adding the butter seems to make such a difference. Love this sauce and think I will use my blue pot to make a big batch once I have eaten soe space in my freezer

  6. Yummmmm..... I must get a blue pot!

  7. Looks really good, and am aways making up tomato sauces - will have to give this one a go - thanks

  8. I don't think you have complicated the recipe at all, I think it would be bad form to discard the onion. The longer the sauce is cooked, the more mellow it will become. I think I should use white pepper, just a grind or two.

  9. This post made me smile - partly because I make tomato sauce like this all the time, and use it for all sorts of things, and also because it reminded me of my Mum - she made a version where the onion stayed in chunks, so it was tomato and onion sauce, and we always ate it with roast lamb or lamb chops. Bliss! Thanks for the happy memory!

  10. I do have a blue pot! Ax

  11. I always make my tomato sauce this way, and add a bit of sugar too as like it a bit sweeter. Sometimes splash of Worcester sauce or balsamic vinegar. Fresh basil is really nice too.

  12. I really agree with you about the blue pot. I really wish I had one!

  13. LOL, I love your comment about the blue pot. You are my kind of cook! Lovely recipe too.

  14. My ex's mother used to make this all the time, I had no idea as to its provenance. It's my "too tired to cook" recipe, as you say it involves barely an washing up or effort. I like it plain on spaghetti, lathered in cheese. Comfort food (the food, not thinking of the ex!).

  15. Hmm, hubby's been complaining about the current tomato sauce I use for pasta - he's gone off garlic and I've been looking for something to substitute ... somewhere between your version and the original would seem perfect. Thanks Sue x

  16. Hi Sue, great blog - I've just stumbled across it! I've always wanted to make my own tomato sauce for pizza or pastas. I am definitely going to try this one. Looks lovely. And I would really love a blue pot!

  17. I'm with you on the tinned tomato front- My kitchen wouldn't be 'my kitchen' without tinned tomatoes! (I only use fresh tomatoes when there's a glut of them in summer)

  18. Anonymous5:23 pm GMT

    This is one of our favourite pasta sauces, and although I agree about the onions, I do tend to fish them out - mainly because I can't be bothered to get out the blender and I don't have a stick one (something I curse almost weekly). I have to say your complications sound delicious though. Isn't Marcella brilliant? I imagine her as Italy's Delia, only better. I like the way she is slightly bossy about how things should be done, somehow not at all irritating when coming from an Italian - which reminds me, if you haven't seen it, try to get hold of a copy of the film Mid-August Lunch - it's Italian and all about food, slightly bonkers and very charming, and made more so if you then watch the making of bit on the DVD afterwards.

    1. At £3.49 why not? Have duly ordered a copy as I trust your judgement implicitly Charlotte. Thank you.

  19. Delicious Sue, as usual, just had this for supper with gnocchi and pancetta. You have inspired me to order my very own Elizabeth David from Amazon.

  20. Splendid Sue.

    For years now - possibly since working in Greece in mu mid-twenties - homemade tomato sauce has been an essential part of my diet. As long as it's good I will serve it in many forms. It is a delicious component of risotto too.

    Right, I'm going to make a huge batch in my BLUE Le Creuset pot tomorrow.


  21. Sue, I think that you would really enjoy Marcella's book. Everything is simple, classic and absolutely delicious! I find that cooking from her recipes is very soothing and uncomplicated and results in a very good meal without a lot of effort, or expense. Thank you, I always enjoy your blog.

  22. Brilliant. I will be making this.

    (Oh and thankyou so much for the blue/orange zing).

  23. Anonymous12:34 pm GMT

    Looks so tasty, would like some now for lunch!
    Love your blogs

  24. This sounds yummy. Do you think it could be made in a slow cooker? Would need to get to simmering point on high, then maybe put it on low for a while? I have this slow cooker that I don't seem to use enough!

    1. It's a long time since I used a slow cooker but I don't see why it wouldn't work Susan.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig