This recipe is fantastic for weeknights when you want a delicious homemade meal but don’t want to be chained to the kitchen for an hour (or go to the store). The garlic compound butter can be made ahead of time and frozen (I recommend making a couple of batches at a time so you won’t even have to prep it next time), as can the sauce. But the sauce is so hands-off that it’s pretty easy to make it on the fly. In the end, you have crunchy, buttery garlic bread and a homemade tomato sauce that’s fresh but also velvety and rich. It’s a win-win.

This is a sneakily vegetarian recipe—meaning you won’t even miss the meat— and can easily be made vegan by subbing in vegan butter and omitting the cheese. But if you so wish, you can add whatever you like to the tomato sauce– sauteed veggies, meat, etc. This recipe has plenty of down time for you to pour yourself a glass of wine and chill. Or catch up on your never-ending pile of after-work chores. Or… I mean, the wine sounds great.

You’ll need:

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

  • 1 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 5 oz. butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved
  • Salt to taste

Garlic Compound Butter

(makes one batch, but I recommend doubling or even tripling it so you have more for later!)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 C shredded parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 C parsley (about a handful)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic

For serving:

  • 4 servings pasta (or zoodles)
  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread

I could seriously give you two directions and you’d pretty much have it all done: simmer the sauce ingredients for 45 minutes, and combine the garlic butter ingredients and put in the freezer until you’re ready for it. Seriously. It is almost that easy. But I’ll walk you through it.

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

I like to do the spread first if I don’t have any on hand. Pulse the garlic in a food processor until it’s chopped well, then add the rest of the butter ingredients and pulse it until combined. OR, if you don’t want to haul out your food processor and spend as much time cleaning it as you would chopping everything yourself, just mince the garlic and parsley finely and smoosh them together in a bowl with the butter and cheese using a fork or clean hands.

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Roll the butter into a log and wrap in waxed paper, then put it in the freezer.

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Put the tomatoes in a pot and cut them up (with scissors or kitchen shears) right in the pot. Halve and peel the onion and add it and the butter to the tomatoes. Put the heat on low, uncovered. You want to cook this about 45 minutes, or until the fat floats up to the top. Stir it from time to time, smashing the tomatoes against the side of the pot.

Now’s the time to open that bottle of wine…

When you have about 20 minutes left on your sauce, boil your water for your pasta and turn the oven on to 425F for your bread.

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Cut the bread in half horizontally, put it on a baking sheet, and grate your butter log onto it. DO NOT also grate your fingers, because it will throw off your timeline and you’ll bleed everywhere. (WHY DO FINGERS BLEED SO MUCH.) When your sauce is about 10 minutes from done, put the bread in the oven (on the top rack) and throw your pasta in the boiling water.

Everything should be ready at the same time! The sauce will be ready when the fat kind of floats free to the top (just give it a good stir before serving). It should be pretty saucy and not super chunky, if you’ve been stirring it and smooshing the tomatoes.

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Drain your pasta, then either top the pasta with the sauce or toss them together to serve. Top with some grated parmesan, if you’d like (I tend to use it in place of salt in Italian dishes).

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

Cut the garlic bread into slices to serve alongside the pasta. I like to use the buttery garlic bread like a big edible spoon– honestly, I could eat this without the pasta entirely, just dunking the bread into the sauce. It is SO tasty, warming, homey, and heartening– all without the intense work of a home-cooked meal.

Easiest Tomato Sauce and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread

You’ll come back to this recipe time and time again, trust me. It’s just that easy good.

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