Vegetable-Packed, Yummy Tomato Sauce!

Check out my updated version here!

I love to make my own tomato sauce for several reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. Even the pickiest eaters love spaghetti! They don’t have to know just how many vegetables the sauce contains.
  3. It saves our family money. A “mid-grade” (not the store brand, not the most expensive stuff) 16 oz. jar of tomato sauce costs about $3.50. It costs me about $2 to make 16 ounces of homemade sauce. You can do it even cheaper if you grow some of your own vegetables and spices, or skip some of my cheats. But, ya know, time is money.
  4. It tastes really good and it can easily be adapted to suit your own preferences by just playing with the spices.
  5. 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 I wasn’t totally satisfied. The flavor was a little bland and the sauce was too thin. So the next time I made it, I added different spices and let it cook down a little longer. The third time, I got ballsy and started adding different vegetables and even more spices. Then some friends of mine starting sharing their own pasta sauces, so the next time I made it I played around with it even more. Here’s what I came up with:

What you’ll need:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small leeks
  • 5 stalks of celery (cheat: 8 oz. package of celery sticks)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 4 zuchinni squash
  • 6 carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves (cheat: 3 tsp store-bought minced garlic)
  • 1 chopped onion (cheat: 1 package 8 oz. frozen chopped onions)
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 155 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms (cheat: buy them already sliced)
  • fresh parsley (cheat: 3 tbsp store-bought parsley in a tube)
  • fresh basil (cheat: 3 tbsp store-bought basil in a tube)
  • oregano
  • red pepper flakes
  • bay leaves
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • sugar
  • 3 cups water

Thoroughly wash all your vegetables before beginning. Pour the olive oil in the bottom of an extra large stock pot. That way you can dump your veggies in the stock pot as you chop.

Next, chop your leeks and celery.

Halve, de-seed, and chop the bell peppers.

Chop the zucchini.

Peel and chop 6 carrots (no really, 6–I already chopped 2 before I remembered to take the picture here) and 3 garlic cloves. The carrots should be chopped pretty small, because they take a little longer than the other vegetables to cook. You can use the store-bought garlic and it still tastes fine, but I happened to have some cloves on hand.

Chop the top off a butternut squash, cut it in half and de-seed it. Scoop the meat out of the skin and add it to the stockpot of vegetables.

All of the above vegetables should already be in your stockpot. Add the canned tomatoes, juices and all.

Slice your mushrooms and add them to the pot. Or, cheat like me and buy them already sliced.

Chop 1 large white onion and add it to the pot. Or, cheat and buy an 8 oz. packaged of frozen chopped onions. This is one cheat I always do because I hate chopping onions.

Finely chop 3 tbsp fresh basil and parsley, each. Or, cheat and use the squeeze tubes. I wouldn’t recommend this cheat if you’re not going to use these tubes pretty quickly for something else because they’re expensive and they don’t last long. These drove up my cost quite a bit.

Add 3/4 tsp oregano, 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes, and 4 bay leaves.

Add 1 tbsp sea salt, 1/2 tbsp black pepper, and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Add 3 cups of water to the pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the pot from the heat and take out the bay leaves.

Allow the sauce to cool, then use a hand blender to puree (or puree in batches in a blender or food processor). I use my Cuisinart Smart Stick for this and I love it. This thing serves as an immersion blender, a chopper, and a whisk–it was one of my best kitchen purchases.

Divide sauce into 2-cup portion sizes and store in quart-sized freezer bags.

As you can see, this makes 30 cups (15 2-cup bags) of tomato sauce. You can easily halve the recipe if you don’t have the room to store so many. To take less room in your freezer, freeze them flat. Here I just placed all 15 bags on a cookie sheet, then put them in the freezer.

Once they’re frozen, you can store them in a freezer drawer like a filing cabinet. To keep it fresh longer, store in a deep freezer.

*Tip – Cook 1.5 pounds ground beef and mix with 4 cups tomato sauce. Divide into 2 portions, store in freezer bags, and freeze. Each portion is enough to feed 4+ people, so you’ll have 2 ready-made dinners (all you need to do is cook the pasta).

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