My kitchen is the most important part of my medicine cabinet.
My recipes are how I keep my family and loved ones healthy, from the inside out.
Family Red Sauce; loaded with hidden veggies and flavor
Pasta sauces are a fantastic nutrient vessel for picky palates. While we all know that consistent exposure to healthy foods is ideal, the truth is that it never hurts to have a versatile recipe that boosts the nutrient content of a meal, especially when it freezes like a dream. Like most of my recipes, omit things that don’t serve your dietary needs and add in things that do!
A few side notes about this recipe:
*This recipe is naturally hypoallergenic (dairy free, gluten free, nut free) keto and macro friendly, and is easily adaptable for most dietary restrictions.
*For those that have textural considerations, prepare this “as is” and pop it back into the blender/ food processor to your desired consistency. I do this with left-overs and turn it into pizza sauce (adding a tablespoon of tomato paste as a thickener if needed) to ramp up nutrient count on pizza nights.
*This is a big batch recipe and freezes beautifully. I prefer to freeze in glass, to avoid unnecessary endocrine disrupters that come from plastics. If you choose to freeze in plastic containers/bag, allow the sauce to cool completely before transferring it.
*This sauce can be used as a pizza sauce, dipping sauce, or the basis of a stew/soup if you change up your seasonings.
*As we will eating the both the flesh and the skin of these veggies, please purchase organic options whenever possible.
1 tbsp olive oil (make sure you like the taste of your olive oil, as this serves as the backbone of your sauce. *More on this below.)
32 oz crushed tomatoes *More about brands and variations below.
1 large white or yellow onion (skin and root removed, and halved)
1-2 zucchini and/or yellow squash (washed and halved)
1-2 large peeled carrots (depending on how sweet you like your sauce; more carrots= sweeter sauce)
8 oz white or Bella mushrooms (prep these by wiping the caps with a damp paper towel to remove lingering dirt)
2 cloves of garlic (I like a mountain of garlic- both for the taste and immune bosting properties, so while I say 2, I really mean 4.. or more)
2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 c. chicken stock (This is a powerhouse flavor booster! If you have any homemade stock lingering in your freezer, now is the time to use it!*).
Spices: onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried parsley, dried oregano, rosemary (fresh or dried), dried basil…
1 lb of ground meat (optional)
A few notes…
*Olive oil is the only added fat source for this recipe, so make sure you like the taste of the one you chose. Olive oils are notoriously diluted or rancid and can make or break your sauce. This is one ingredient that you should always buy from a reputable source. In my kitchen, olive oil is worth its weight in gold. My absolute favorite olive oil is Kasandrinos organic olive oil, with all the quality certifications that a holistic minded physician looks for (multi-generational production, organic, single- sourced, sustainably sourced, non-GMO, and PGI certified). This is a perfectly balanced Greek olive oil, with a beautiful flavor profile that gives the illusion that your sauce was handcrafted by the Gods. However, when my stash dwindles my favorite grocery store brand is California Olive Ranch, as it has been authenticated and has a very mild, buttery taste.
*I prefer to use to use tomatoes that are packaged in boxes or jars, NOT cans. Pomi (boxed) and Bionaturea (organic and jarred) are my favorite brands, as their tomatoes and packaging are GMO & BPA free and processed in a hypoallergenic environment. The size, shape, or texture of the tomato is less important to me than the quality and the taste.
*Remember that due to the acidity of the tomatoes, tomatoes packaged in cans may leach compounds from the lining of the can, so I always opt for the jars or boxes.
*Alternatively, you can use fresh tomatoes. For this recipe the rough equivalent for 32 oz of crushed tomatoes is roughly 16 fresh tomatoes. As we will be using the skin and the flesh of the tomatoes, consider purchasing organic whenever possible. Lastly, remove the stem and fibrous core, and quarter them.
*If my veggie combo isn’t in your flavor wheelhouse, try incorporating leeks, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and bell peppers. If you find something you love, let me know!
*Water is an acceptable substitute for stock.
*If you are preparing this recipe for young child, or anyone who may be concerned with sodium levels, consider purchasing Low Sodium varieties, and chose organic and free range whenever possible.
Take the flavor up a notch
*I also like to add a parmesan rind (that I keep in my freezer) to my sauce while it cooks, adding a richness to the final flavor. If you have dairy concerns, you may want to bypass this step.
1) In Dutch oven, stock pot, or large sauté pan, brown/ char the carrots, onions, garlic, zucchini, and squash, using 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Just a friendly reminder to be aware that the garlic will brown/burn very quickly.
2) Once everything has some color or caramelization on it, toss all the veggies (including the mushrooms) into a blender until puréed.
*If your tomatoes are fresh/ whole/any consistently you don’t want, throw those in as well. I like my tomatoes to have a different texture from the rest of the sauce, but feel free to do whatever sounds good to your crowd.
*You may need to add some of you chicken stock to thin out the veggie combo, depending on your blender/ food processor. Fair warning, the mixture will turn an unappetizing brown… push through it and take a leap of faith!
3) Preheat your pot on low/medium heat.
4) Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, veggie puree and any remaining chicken stock and tomatoes to the preheated pot. Cook on a medium heat.
5) Add salt and seasonings according to your preference. I like a few fresh sprigs of Rosemary, with 2 tablespoons of parsley and basil, 2 teaspoons of oregano, with a tablespoon of garlic and onion powders.
6) At this point your sauce may taste very veggie based, so add in 2-3 tablespoons of tomatoes paste. Salt and pepper according to taste, keeping in mind that parmesan and salted pastas will add quite a bit of saltiness to the final dish.
7) OPTIONAL* If you want to add raw ground meat or meat balls, do it at this stage (as you won’t want to taste your sauce again until your meat is cooked. If the thought of adding raw meat to the mix isn’t appealing to you, you can of course add any browned meat.
8) Cook your sauce for about 30-45 min on a medium heat. If you are using an instant pot, cook for 15-20 minutes on medium heat.
9) For pizza sauce, I take a few cups of this sauce and add another tablespoon of tomato paste. If the sauce has chunks of meat, I’ll run it through my blender again until it’s a homogenous consistency. This will freeze beautifully.
My kiddos loves their red sauce topped with my lemon goat cheese pesto, and a giant side of sausage balls. However you use your sauce, ENJOY!