I love to make my own tomato sauce for several reasons:
- It’s incredibly healthy. I know exactly what’s in it (and what’s not in it!) and that makes me feel really good about what I’m feeding my family.
- Three kids later I am certain: even the pickiest eaters love spaghetti! They don’t have to know just how many vegetables the sauce has in it.
- It saves our family money. A “mid-grade” (not the store brand, not the most expensive stuff) 24 oz. jar of tomato sauce costs about $3.50. It costs me around $1.50 to make 24 ounces of homemade sauce.
- It tastes really good and it can easily be adapted to suit your own preferences by just playing with the spices.
- It’s fun! You can experiment with whatever you want. Find a few recipes and take ideas from them. You’ll find that, the more you play around with different recipes, the more confidence you’ll have in your ability to just make stuff up!
I started with Jamie Oliver’s recipe. After the first time I made it, I liked it, but it was a little bland and thin, in my opinion. Over time I started adding more vegetables and different spices. I quickly learned which vegetables to start cooking first and which ones to add at the last minute (some have a higher water content than others). I posted one recipe here, but I’ve played with it many times since then and every time I make it, I find myself changing it around. Because why not?
This is my most recent batch, and my favorite so far. I encourage you to not only make your own sauce, but get creative with it! Draw ideas from the one posted here, my old recipe, the Jamie Oliver recipe, friends, Pinterest… It doesn’t matter where you get your ideas from, but make it yours. It’s pretty hard to screw it up.
To make this recipe you’ll need:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 16 oz fresh spinach
- 3 tsp minced garlic
- 1 lb carrots
- 5 celery stalks
- 3 bell peppers (any color)
- 4 c water
- 3 leeks
- 4 zucchini
- 3 yellow squash
- 1 c mushrooms
- 160 ounces canned stewed tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 12 oz canned tomato paste
- 1/4 c sugar
- 3 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp dried basil (or fresh if it’s in season)
To begin, heat the olive oil in a very large stock pot. Remember, this is going to make a lot of tomato sauce for you to put in your freezer, so plan accordingly. Add the spinach and minced garlic. I use the store-bought garlic in a jar because I’m lazy, but if you choose to use fresh it’s cheaper and it really does improve the taste.
While your spinach is wilting in the pot on low heat, peel and chop the carrots, seed and roughly chop the bell peppers, and chop the celery stalks.
Remember to save your vegetable scraps because you can make delicious vegetable stock with it!
Add your chopped veggies to the pot along with the water. Bring it to a boil, then immediately reduce it to a low simmer. Cover and continue to simmer while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Chop the leeks and zucchini and add them to the pot.
Next, chop the yellow squash. Add those and the mushrooms (no need to chop them up) to the pot.
Now, open your tomatoes and add them, juices and all, to the pot.
Add an entire bunch of fresh cilantro (chop the stems off) along with your tomato paste.
Finally, stir in sugar, salt, and basil.
Allow the sauce to simmer with the lid off for about about an hour. Keep a close eye on it and stir it every now and then, but it’s okay to walk away during this part. It’s pretty much on auto-pilot at this point.
When the sauce has cooked down some, use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables. I really love my Cuisinart Smart Stick. It has a powerful blender, and it also comes with a whisk and chopper.
When it’s all said and done, this recipe yields approximately 32 cups of really good sauce! I usually freeze it in 2 and 3 cup increments. I use plastic freezer bags and freeze them flat so it doesn’t take up too much space in the deep freezer, but I also like to use some glass mason jars and just stick them in the door of my freezer.
Our favorite thing to do with it is, of course, make spaghetti for the family. Simply cook 1.5 lbs ground turkey or beef in a skillet, drain, return to skillet and add 5 cups of thawed tomato sauce until it’s heated through. When served over spaghetti noodles, this feeds a family of 5 with leftovers for lunches the next day. Cheap, delicious, and healthy!
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