As is true in many households, Italian food is one of our go-to cuisines. Pastas and homemade pizza are often on our weekly food plan. One of the reasons I like these options so much is that they are very flexible—I can almost always come up with a way to use whatever I have left in the house at the end of the week in an Italian dish of some sort. The leftovers of a meat can be added to a sauce or as a topping for a pizza. A little bit of ricotta can be used as filling in a pasta or put on pizza. And then there are the veggies as toppings on pizzas, as an extra crunch in a sauce, roasted and mixed in, the possibilities are endless!
And I have learned a trick that enables my Italian obsession: make the sauce ahead of time. There are a number of reasons why this has been such a breakthrough for me: 1) I save a lot of money not buying the jarred tomato sauces, 2) dinner is made a lot faster and there is a lot less stress because I always have the sauce on-hand, 3) I can incorporate a lot more vegetables directly into the sauce than are usually in the jarred stuff, and 4) it tastes SO MUCH BETTER!
I started on this vats-of-sauce kick when my brother introduced me to the amazing Babbo Basic Tomato Sauce recipe. I started making double batches of the stuff about once a month and freezing it in smaller portions to be used for whatever I needed: pizza sauce, marinara sauce, a base for a sauce with other additions to it (veggies, meatballs, etc.). I then I started to play around with it to sneak in some more veggies—adding more carrot, some green pepper, etc. Now I use this sauce almost once a week in some way, shape, or form.
Some ideas on ways to use the sauce and add even more veggies:
1) Super Veggie Pizza Sauce: heat up about 2 cups of the sauce. Throw in a ½-1 cup of steamed broccoli or spinach. Puree all of it together with an immersion blender, food processor, or blender. Use in place of pizza sauce on your pizza.
2) Roasted Veggie Sauce: Chop up some of your favorite roasting vegetables into bite-size, or a little smaller, pieces. Roast them. Toss them into the sauce and serve on your favorite kind of pasta.
3) Use this sauce in the crock pot veggie lasagna.
It really is versatile and fun! Enjoy!
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped into ¼ inch dice
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced (the original recipe suggests 4 cloves, which is a bit much for me, but if you love garlic go for it!)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1 medium to large carrot, shredded
- ½ green pepper, shredded
- 2 (28 ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
- Salt, to taste
- In a 3 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme, carrot, and pepper, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.