A Second Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce + Hot Italian Sausage + Gragnano Pasta = Utter Deliciousness

Gragnana Vesuvio Pasta with Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce

It’s only February 2nd, and already I’m dreaming about Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce — you know, the one and only most delicious tomato sauce in the world. I won’t belabor my love for that sauce a sentence more, but I’d like to share with you a second Hazan tomato sauce I recently discovered.

You see, while the famed Hazan tomato sauce can indeed be made with canned San Marzano tomatoes — I’ve made it several times, and it’s very good — I find it leaves me wanting. In this other Hazan sauce recipe, from Marcella Cucina, canned tomatoes are brightened by olive oil and sautéed onions, a few cloves of crushed garlic, a little white wine, some chopped fresh parsley, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. After about 20 minutes of simmering, it’s done. And it’s delicious.

While making this sauce, I learned something, too, from a note in the book:

As tomatoes cook down and their watery part evaporates, the fat you have used begins to run clear. When you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, or wipe away the sauce with the spoon from the bottom of the skillet, you see clear fat following the spoon’s trail, an indication that the tomato sauce is done.

It’s hard to envision this occurrence — clear fat trailing the path of your wooden spoon — but it happens, and when it does, your sauce is done. Cool, right? That Marcella, she knows her stuff.

I admit, this sauce doesn’t compare to the Hazan tomato sauce — what sauce does? — but it doesn’t leave me wanting. And it just might help these months leading up to tomato season pass a wee more quickly.

ingredients for pasta sauce

This is by far the best pasta I have ever tasted. I have a dear friend in NYC to thank for introducing it to me. It’s dry pasta from the Gragnano region of Italy, and my friend finds it at Eataly, a spot I have yet to explore, but which I hear I might like. The pasta hardly needs a sauce — it tastes delectable on its own with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano — but its shape is ideal for catching all of the goodies in any sauce, especially this one. It’s a real treat. Unfortunately, I cannot find an online source for this pasta. If any of you out there know of one, please let me know. I will be forever grateful! Eataly and Po Valley Foods now sell this pasta online.
dry Gragnano pasta from Eataly

Gragnano pasta from Eataly

Afeltra pasta from Eataly

Parmigiano Reggiano

I found a link to this Saveur video — How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less than 10 seconds — on Food52. Totally amazing. It really works!
garlic, peeled after watching an incredible video

tomato sauce, just finished stewing

Ella, such a little helper

Browned hot Italian venison sausage… the husband has been hunting again. Venison, by the way, is so delicious. More on that soon.
venison sausage

Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce & Hot Italian Sausage
Adapted from Marcella Cucina
Yield = enough for about 1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. pasta depending on how saucy you like your pasta

For the tomato sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced, be sure to watch this video
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup white wine (I made this with Sherry once, too, and really liked it)
1 28-oz can of peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes,* crushed
crushed chili flakes
kosher salt

* I saw this trick on the Martha Stewart Show: Empty your can of tomatoes into a large bowl. Use scissors to cut the tomatoes into smallish pieces. Normally, I just get my hands in the bowl and squish the tomatoes to break them up, but this is really messy. If you are messy-averse, try the scissor method.

For the pasta dish:

1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage* (or more or less to taste)
1/2 to 3/4 lb. pasta**
freshly chopped parsley***
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to taste

* Optional — The sauce is flavorful enough without sausage, but if you’re looking to add a little protein to the dish, sausage is a good fit. I used hot Italian venison sausage, but any hot Italian sausage will be delicious. In Hazan’s book, the sauce is paired with lobster.

** New Yorkers — If you can get a hold of some Gragnana Vesuvio Pasta from Eataly, use it. It’s unbelievably delicious. I imagine it is available in other places as well, but I’m just not sure where — I can’t find an online source for it in the states. Eataly and Po Valley Foods now sell this pasta online. When I run out of my stash of the good stuff, I’ll return to using my favorites from my local supermarket — Barilla or DeCecco gemelli or orecchiette.

*** Optional — this is merely to add some color to the finished dish. The sauce is flavorful enough without the additional parsley

1. Place the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan with the onions and sauté on medium until pale gold — you’re not trying to brown the onions here; you just want to sweat the onions.

2. Add the garlic and cook just a few seconds until you smell its aroma.

3. Add the parsley, stir once or twice, and then add the wine. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes until the alcohol smell dissipates.

4. Add the tomatoes, the crushed chili flakes and a generous pinch of salt, and cook at a steady simmer, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce (see note below*), about 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large skillet until cooked through.

6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook your pasta al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking liquid only if you’ve made the sauce in advance and are reheating it to toss with pasta.

7. Place pasta in a large serving bowl. Toss with enough sauce to coat. Fold in sausage (if using). Sprinkle with some more parsley (optional). Pass cheese on the side.

*Hazan’s note: As tomatoes cook down and their watery part evaporates, the fat you have used begins to run clear. When you skim the surface of the sauce with the side of a wooden spoon, or wipe away the sauce from the spoon from the bottom of the skillet, you see clear fat following the spoon’s trail, an indication that the tomato sauce is done.

**My note: The sauce can be made ahead and heated as needed. It will definitely thicken up as it sits (especially in the fridge), so you might want to reserve some pasta cooking liquid to thin it out when you reheat it. It’s not necessary, but I’ve found this to be helpful.

Gragnana Vesuvio Pasta with Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce


    • says

      Stephanie — thank you for the link! I just emailed them to see if they would ship to the US. I’ll let you know if they get back to me. It doesn’t seem to be an option if you just go through the website :(

  1. says

    Ali, Eataly was on my list when I was in NYC in November and I didn’t make it. I am especially bummed after seeing this post – that pasta looks delicious! We are having a snow day (literally, work is closed) and a big bowl of pasta sounds perfect. Lovely post!

  2. Katy says

    uhhh I’m going to try that peeling garlic method, I have been so mad at garlic lately for making my hands smell so gross, you may have changed my life woman! OH and PS this looks amazing, can’t wait to make it!

  3. Liz says

    Scrumptious looking dish. You inspired me to search for Alfeltra pasta–very difficult. I did find something similar from the Gragnano Region, which seems to be the key, in the same shape “Vesuvio” and manufactured using the same process as the Alfeltra brand. The brand is Il Vecchio Pastificio. I bought two bags from pastacheese.com. Each bag was $6.99 for 17.6 oz. bags, and the 1-day shipping for 2 bags was $9.31. This is the cheapest shipping option. Expensive yes, but that pasta shape is pretty irresistible! Can’t wait to try it.

  4. Janet Ward says

    I sent you an e-mail about this, but you can find the exact pasta you used at atasteofitalybypompeo.co.uk It’s in the UK, the pasta is 2.85 (that’s pounds, not dollars) not sure how much that would be to have it shipped to the US. They have it also as a part of a sample box from Eataly.com as well. It’s the Mediterranean box that it’s apart of. I’m still looking to see if I can find it anywhere else.

    • says

      Janet — thank you so much for the link. I just emailed them to see if they’ll ship to the US. 2.85 pounds seems like a pretty good deal, but I bet shipping will be a mint. I’ll report back. Thanks!

  5. Cooknotchef says

    Holy crap, does this look good!!!! A, your photos are SO mouthwatering! Every time I look at the comment section I make fun of the people who say “I’m going to make this”. Well, I’ve just become one of them! This pasta and luscious sauce will be made pre-super bowl. Can’t wait! Hey Darcy, where the heck do you live? I live in the upper n/e of the U.S. And we are looking at grass! No snow, so sad:(

  6. says

    I love Marcella Hazan. Can’t get enough of her recipes. She’s smart enough too to use white wine, not red in sauce. I hope you find out about that pasta. It’s looks spectacular and i want some too. Love your lead picture.

  7. says

    What a lovely blog! I’ve seen so many food blogs lately that have left me completely uninspired. And I’m a chef! Your food looks divine and pictures are poetic. And the pictures of the darling baby melted my heart. So happy to have found you! Delicious wishes!

  8. lizzie says

    Can you give a little advice on olive oil. I have heard the stuff in the supermarkets is terrible and would love to hear your opinions and where to buy decent evoo without breaking the bank.

  9. Craig says

    did you ever find an online outlet that sells the pasta?? my wife and i just returned from italy where we purchased the exact same pasta. We had it tonight for dinner and need to get more ASAP!!

  10. Kathleen says

    I am cooking my way through your blog a little bit! This sauce recipe is so wonderful! Thank you :) and as someone else said the white wine instead of red was a huge selling point for me!

  11. jen says

    This looks so amazing, I’m definitely going to try it tonight! I am going to try to make it with Mafaldine pasta, since I don’t have the one you recommend, but also feel that the sauce is so great it could be delicious with any pasta. Just wondering if not adding any parsley at all greatly affects the dish? B/c I have grown a slight aversion to parsley for some reason, so can’t eat it as much as I used to.

    • says

      Jen — I am probably getting to you too late, but I think the parsley is totally optional. I will make a note in the recipe. These days, I add it if I have it, but I don’t even think twice if I don’t — I would never make a special trip to the store to get parsley for this sauce. I have been making this sauce a lot recently. It is so good! I hope you like it, too.

  12. jen says

    Alexandra – Thanks for this! I went ahead and skipped the parsley and made it last night. I have to say it’s probably the best tomato pasta sauce I’ve made thus far, that does not require a lot of ingredients but is so delicious and tasty. Also agree that adding the italian sausage is not totally necessary, I found that the sauce was so delicious I almost didn’t want to add the sausage in, but it was fine with it. Next time I’ll probably keep it simple though. Thanks again and I will be using this sauce from now on!

  13. says

    Jen — Wonderful to hear this. Yeah, sometimes I think recipes just call for parsley to add a little color more than anything. That’s not really the case here since it totally loses its color after sautéing, but honestly, I don’t think that it really adds much to this sauce. Thanks so much for reporting back!

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