A testimony to Italian cooking, this simple Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter from Marcella Hazan is out of this world!
I originally published this recipe several years ago; I had been asked to review a cookbook from the Hazans and I chose this recipe. While well known to a lot of food bloggers and media types I still have friends who go nuts over it when I serve it for dinner so I thought it was time to introduce some more people to my favorite spaghetti sauce. Don’t let the simplicity fool you…it’s the butter that makes it BETTER!
The cookbook world seems to be exploding today which is both good and bad. Seeing that the publishing world still believes in delivering cookbooks in print is important to me; as much as we all seem to be immersed in more and more deliverables through digital processes I remain attached to my books and magazines. There is nothing that inspires me to snuggle up with a Kindle and I hope that never changes. I’ve also been asked to review books that were quite simply not ready for prime time so with the plethora of choices; how do you decide?
Glancing at the stack of cookbooks on my kitchen counter that I’ve either purchased or have been asked to review, I recognize that I have my own subconscious criteria. I prefer books from authors with some history or very evident experience.
I’ve bought Dorie Greenspan and Melissa Clark; am now thumbing through (and wondering if I will ever find something I can actually make) from the gorgeous Eleven Madison Park cookbook and Abby Dodge will always be a favorite; first discovering her in Bon Appetit magazine and having that love affair only grow with each of her new ventures.
When I was approached by Lael Hazan inquiring if I would be interested in reviewing her husband Giuliano’s latest cookbook, Hazan Family Favorites, it was very simply a ‘no brainer.’ Giuliano comes to this effort of love with a legacy behind him. His mother was the renowned Marcella Hazan; a legend in the world of Italian cooking and Giuliano himself is an accomplished author, he and Lael own a cooking school in Verona, Italy and he often appears as a guest on a variety of cooking related venues including a recent appearance on the Today Show.
When the book arrived, I was eager with anticipation; you know I think I’m Italian right (it can too be a state of mind!)? I made a recipe of Giuliano’s last year so he had a lot to live up to. After winning some of their olive oil, I wanted to make sure that the post I planned would showcase their amazing product so I asked Lael if she would query Guiliano for a recommendation; something I could make and post with the olive oil as an integral part of the dish.
The recipe for Tagliata (Cut) Ribeye with Olive Oil, Garlic and Parsley that they gave me was simply the best steak I have ever had. I can still remember that moment of standing at my kitchen counter saying, ‘Oh I’ll just take one more little bite.’ and soon had to literally walk away before devouring steak I had made to serve four. I was concerned that my family would not understand just 2 slices left on the plate. I am so not kidding. Simply prepared and using the best ingredients; that seems to be the thread that runs through this collection of family recipes.
I’ll be honest; at first glance one might think this dish just a bit too easy to prepare and you might wonder what the big deal is but that is the very essence of why this is such a fabulous cookbook. This is not meant to be preparations that have days of hard labor involved, they are quite simply recipes meant to serve to your family at the dinner table.
Recipes with the freshest of ingredients and time honored traditions are evident throughout and include the story of a family complete with photos and stories from Giuliano about his own childhood where his love of food and cooking started those many years ago at the skirt of his grandmother, Nonna Mary.
Knowing I wanted to make something this past weekend I was determined; I needed to get to the market and get started early, in the cool of the day, allowing me to prepare and photograph before the heat of the afternoon when I try to avoid turning on the stove or oven in my kitchen. I sat down with my cup of coffee and a purpose; it was time and the choices that appealed to me seemed endless.
Sausage with peppers, penne with mushrooms, an Italian mac and cheese; sorbets and cakes that I wanted right then and there. When I came to the page for an already favored recipe, ‘My Mother’s Butter, Tomato and Onion Sauce’ this is the first sentence, verbatim, ‘If I had to pick one dish that exemplifies ‘Hazan family favorites’ it would be this sauce.’
You know how sometimes you just know, how you knew all along but the choice seemed too easy; maybe too expected so you avoided it completely…searching for the ‘real’ right choice? That was me and this was that dish. I’ve been making this spaghetti sauce for several years; the first time I made it for my daughter Lauren she said I should never bother with meat sauce again…yes, it’s that good and just as cool? It’s that easy too.
The butter both balances the acidity of the tomatoes while imparting it’s own richness to the sauce and the onions add the perfect touch of sweetness to the mix. While I was searching for something more unique or more complicated the truth of that sentence hit home; this recipe I already loved is the true essence of what this cookbook is all about and it was the one I simply had to share.
It is ridiculously easy. It’s a full 5 minutes of labor; it has four simple ingredients and yet it tastes amazingly good. Isn’t that the perfect dish for a family favorite? If you’ve made it before you know exactly what I’m talking about and now I know you want to run into the kitchen and make it again.
If you have not made it, well then you are in luck because I’m including the recipe. But the bottom line for each one of you? You need this book. Family time is precious, preparing a meal and having the opportunity to sit with our families seems to be more and more difficult as our lives seem to expand beyond the time available.
I love the stories in this book too; the weaving of family and food in a way we can all enjoy, appreciate and hopefully, find the time to do ourselves.