Buttered Tomato Sauce

Butter, the ultimate flavor enhancer.  Well, besides salt.  Last weekend my in-laws were in town and we went to North Italian Farmhouse and my son ordered the pasta with red sauce from the kids menu.  It shouldn’t have been anything fantastic, I mean most restaurants don’t put any thought into what they serve to our kids.  But, the sauce was amazing.  Fresh, light but flavorful and above all, buttery.  I am sure I have eaten tomato sauce with butter before, but this was the first time I had such a clean version of the dish.  It tasted of roasted tomatoes, butter, salt and a pinch of basil.  It was perfect.  I admit I was happy to slurp a couple of tastes from his bowl.

We left and the thought of that sauce left my mind.  That is until a couple of days ago when I ran across tomato sauce with onion and butter by Smitten Kitchen.  The writer admits that this concept wasn’t theirs and also that this idea has been done many, many times.  But, I must say it hasn’t been done in this house.  Usually I make bold tomato sauces that have a long list of ingredients, tons of spices, sauteed vegetables, red wine, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste.  Bold, hearty sauces that are complex and loaded with in your face flavor.  They are wonderful and I happily serve them as they are or mixed with ground beef, veal and or pork for a meaty heft.  Sometimes I will add a touch a cream too to make them into a bolognese sauce.  I am not about to forgo these preparations, but I must say the simplicity of buttered tomato sauce gives way to a new idea of homemade pasta sauce.

Pre-Blended Buttered Tomato Sauce

The list of ingredients is very short compared to my usual sauce.  In it’s essence all the original recipe calls for is canned tomatoes, onion, salt and butter.  I considered this, mulled it around in my head and came to the conclusion that I needed just a touch more to make it my own.  I needed a pinch of sugar.  I needed to add some garlic because I just felt it was wrong to leave it out.  I gave the sauce a hefty dose of ground pepper and at the end I decided a tomato sauce just begs for fresh basil and I had it, so it went into the pool of soon to be awesomeness.

Pureed Buttered Tomato Sauce

Also, Smitten Kitchen cut the onion in half, popped it in there and then took the onion out when the sauce was done.  I understand the concept, but in my heart I feel the onion didn’t fulfill it’s onion destiny.  It hurt my heart to think about throwing the onion out of the sauce.  So I left it in.  Because of this choice I also made the choice to drop a stick blender into the sauce to combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil together.  It’s the style I personally like.  I felt it was the right choice and I stick to that stick blender :)

Noodles with Buttered Tomato Sauce

After a few hours simmering away I came to two conclusions.  First one was this would have been great in the slow cooker.  Must try that next time.  Conclusion two was I needed to stuff some pasta in my mouth stat.  So I boiled some pasta up and threw a couple ladles of sauce into them to keep the noodles from sticking and then dished them out, put some more sauce on top and then gave the whole thing a good dose of Parmesan cheese.

Finished Pasta with Buttered Tomato Sauce

The result was mouth watering.  My son went for three servings and everyone was happy and in a pasta coma after we gorged ourselves on this lovely sauce.  This sauce is fresh and fruity.  It has a wonderful mouth feel and each ingredient really plays a vital roll.  I think because there are such few ingredients, you should use the best you can buy.  I did use San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and sweet yellow onion.  High quality salted butter.  Slow cooking for a few hours is imperative in order to develop each flavor.  But, I promise your patience will be rewarded  Butter really is a magical thing.

Buttered Tomato Sauce

  • 2 (28 oz) cans of whole peeled canned tomatoes (San Marzano’s if you can please)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil, whole but without their stems
  • 6 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (or sea salt, table salt or my favorite Himalayan Pink Salt)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  1. In a large dutch oven or your crock pot, put all the ingredients in and stir to combine.
  2. Cook on low heat on your stove or 8 to 10 hours in your crock pot.
  3. If using your stove, cook on low for a minimum of two hours covered.
  4. Turn off heat source and let cool for a few minutes.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper and then take a stick blender and blend all the ingredients together.  Please be careful because the sauce is still hot and can burn you.
  5. Now use for pasta, meatball subs, reduce down and use on a pizza.  You can even thin it out with some chicken stock and/or cream and turn it into a tomato soup.  I hear grilled cheese and tomato soup now calling my name!

This sauce makes more sauce than you will need for one meal.  You can freeze it beautifully for later use and just remember that sauces and soups get better when eaten the next day.  Now go and make a family meal of your own…Clink!