Monday, March 20, 2023

Vegetable-packed tomato sauce

I always improvise when it comes to tomato sauces. I make them so often that I can’t really stick to one recipe (even though I have a couple that are my all-time favorites), because simply the ingredients that I use will depend largely on my cravings as well as on what I have in my fridge and cupboards.


Since having Aris, I invariably prefer to add vegetables in any sauce I make, for the nutrition factor, something I, admittedly, rarely did before, and I also cut down a bit on my use of spices as I prefer everything to be more spicy and hot than what my three-year old prefers. So for the past couple of years, my tomato sauces are more vegetable-heavy and dare I say more delicious for it.

This one, which has carrots, bell peppers and courgettes added in, I make often to serve with plain pasta, but it’s not limited to that. I use it on top of homemade pizza dough, I mix it with boiled red lentils and serve it over couscous and I also use it as a base for lasagna and for stuffed pasta shells.





Vegetable-packed tomato sauce (for children and adults alike)

Due to the addition of various vegetables, this sauce is naturally sweetened and isn’t as acidic as other tomato sauces are. If, for any reason, yours tastes acidic from the tomato and/or tomato paste, add a little bit of coconut sugar or other unrefined sugar.

The texture of the sauce is of course somewhat chunky since it contains all these vegetables, but you can certainly use an immersion blender to puree it if you prefer a velvety tomato sauce texture.

I use Turkish sweet red pepper paste (tatli biber salcasi) in this sauce as I love its flavor and can easily find it here in the Netherlands, but it’s not a necessary addition so just omit it if you can’t source it. You could alternatively add a little bit of harissa.


Yield: 6 servings (when served with pasta)

Special equipment: food processor



120 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 can 400 g whole tomatoes (I use Italian, San Marzano tomatoes)

2 red onions, peeled

1 shallot, peeled

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 large red bell pepper

½ large green bell pepper

½ medium-sized zucchini, chopped roughly

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped roughly

2 tsp tomato paste

1 tsp Turkish sweet red pepper paste (optional)

½ tsp smoked paprika


Black pepper



Before you start cooking the sauce, you need to use your food processor to finely chop and/or puree the different vegetables.

So start by finely chopping together the onions, shallots and garlic in the food processor and empty in a small bowl.

Then add the red and green bell peppers and process until finely chopped to the point they become very liquid. Empty in another bowl.

Then add the carrot, chop finely and empty in a third bowl. Finely chop the zucchini and add it in the same bowl as the carrot.

Finally, add the canned whole tomatoes in the food processor and puree them.

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the olive oil, heat over medium-high and add the chopped onions-shallot-garlic. Sauté, stirring constantly, until softened and golden.

Add the finely chopped red and green bell peppers and sauté until they have dried a bit (you want most of their water to have evaporated). Then add the finely chopped carrot and zucchini and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and sweet red pepper paste (if using) and stir well. Add the pureed tomatoes and stir again. Fill the empty can of tomatoes with hot water, swirl it around a bit to get the remaining tomato bits and add it to the saucepan. Then fill it again by half and add this too. Finally, add the smoked paprika, salt and black pepper to taste, and bring to the boil.

Turn heat down to low, put the lid on and simmer gently until you have a thick and rich sauce. I simmer it for at least 1 hour. If it’s watery, simmer more without the lid until it reaches the consistency you prefer. Check the seasoning and correct if you need to.

Serve with pasta or use in another dish.

It’s great in any dish that requires a tomato sauce.




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