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4-ingredient tomato sauce

Adam: I used to hate cooking. I didn’t like making a mess, I didn’t like having to clean up dishes, and I was never good at following instructions (not to mention my patience would expire after being in the kitchen for more than ten minutes). Before I met Ryan, if I was making pasta, I would buy a jar of pre-made sauce, a box of spaghetti, and nothing more—anything else would mean more time, more work, and of course more dishes. So I learned some handy tricks along the way. To save washing an extra pan, I wouldn’t even heat the sauce. Instead, I would just pour it over the hot noodles and let them warm it up. And to avoid washing a bowl, I would eat the pasta straight from the pan! Following this savvy method, the only things that needed to be cleaned were one pot and one fork! But things have changed: now I find washing dishes to be relaxing, and cleaning satisfies my obsessive-compulsive ways. Well, this easy 4-ingredient tomato sauce we are sharing today would have been completely acceptable if I had discovered it during my bachelor days, and it would have tasted much better than those fifteen-cent-packages-of-instant-ramen-filled dinners spent alone before meeting Ryan. This delicious sauce requires no effort, little cleaning, and is an ideal dinner for busy work days, yet elegant enough for a relaxing date night in.

For those of you following our “Instastory” on Instagram, you will have seen the epic caramel apple tart that we have been working on this week. When we tasted it yesterday, the results didn’t quite meet the Husbands That Cook expectations, so we needed to make it again. Talk about dessert dedication: we were up past midnight last night working on it, and thankfully this time it turned out perfectly, so we are excited to share it with you later this week. This pasta sauce was the perfect meal to ease the stress from yesterday’s caramel chaos, and after adding a delicious extra ingredient that knocked it out of the sauce park, we realized that we had to post it on our site as soon as possible.

The original recipe uses just three ingredients and comes from the famous book, Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazen. Released nearly twenty-five years ago, this simple recipe has become a classic, making its way into countess blogs, magazines and newspapers. The first time we heard about it was from Smitten Kitchen in 2010, and it has been a favorite of ours ever since. Made with a can of your favorite San Marzano tomatoes, an onion, and butter, these three essential components are all you need. The secret ingredient that we add here is a green bell pepper, giving this already rich sauce a wonderful deep flavor that blends perfectly with the tangy tomatoes and sweet onion.

This authentic one-pot Italian recipe is one of the easiest sauces we know. There is no chopping, and it basically cooks itself while you wait. You simply combine a can of tomatoes, an onion, a bell pepper, a little butter, and that’s it. After simmering for forty-five minutes, you have a zesty tomato sauce ready to be tossed with spaghetti. Top it with fresh basil, grated parmesan, and you have a romantic evening and a gourmet meal without barely lifting a finger.

4-Ingredient Tomato Sauce
adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
makes enough sauce for about 12 ounces of pasta, serves 4

1 28-ounce (794g) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
1 green bell pepper, cut in half, stem and seeds removed
5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter
12 ounces (340g) spaghetti

For garnish:
basil leaves
parmesan cheese

Pour the tomatoes and juice into a 3-quart saucepan. Add the onion and bell pepper halves and the butter, stirring to combine (it will be quite chunky at first, but as the sauce cooks the vegetables will soften and become easier to stir). Place the pan over medium-high heat, cover, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and using the spoon to break up the tomatoes. Taste for salt, and add if needed.

At this point, you can remove the onion and bell pepper halves if desired, or leave them in since they are full of flavor. It’s up to you!

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, then drain and return to the pot. Toss with the warm sauce, serve topped with basil leaves and grated parmesan if desired, and enjoy!

note:
— To make this dish vegan, use a non-dairy butter. To make it gluten-free, use a gluten-free pasta.
— Some brands of tomatoes contain salt, and some do not, so taste your sauce and adjust as needed.