What does it take to become the most famous tomato sauce in the world? Utter simplicity, it turns out. In 1987, with the re-issue of “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” Marcella Hazan captivated home cooks with her red sauce.

Inspired by the flavors of Emilia-Romagna (and the minimalist recipes that are a hallmark of the region), Hazan’s sauce requires little more than an onion, plenty of butter and chopped tomatoes. Simmered together for nearly an hour, they become rich and velvety, taking on a surprising complexity given the sparse ingredient list.

Our mission was to build on Hazan’s template, but devise a way to achieve those same deep flavors—but faster.

Long-simmered sauces need time to coax richness and flavor out of tomatoes. So we opt instead for tomato paste: an instant flavor booster, and a Milk Street pantry essential.

As tomato in its most concentrated form, tomato paste is made from produce harvested at peak freshness—for bright, bold, savory flavor straight out of the can.

And the method is simple. Once the noodles are ready, we gently sauté onions in butter, then stir in the tomato paste along with 1½ cups of reserved pasta cooking water. As the ingredients mingle in the silky, starchy water, they transform into a plush sauce. For more umami oomph, we add a bit more butter, a splash of balsamic vinegar (the fruity depth enhances the natural sweetness of the tomato, while underscoring brightness) and ample Parmesan cheese.

The result: a rich, pantry-simple pasta dish that comes together in just over 30 minutes.