While studying abroad in Italy many years ago one of our professors invited our small classroom to her apartment one night to learn the art of making a delicious pasta sauce from scratch. At the time, I was not a vegetarian but our professor was, this was at a time when the idea of being a vegetarian in Italy was very unheard of. She told us many times how people in town scoffed at the idea of not eating meat. While I’d always been on the fence about eating meat and honestly rarely did, I could not fathom not eating the delicious salami and chinghiale and lamb that was featured in every shop, on every menu. It felt like of all places in the world to eat meat, Italy was it. So I did. I still to this day remember devouring a delicious pasta bolognese IN Bologna (#noregrets).
But, our professor did not eat meat, and so she taught us how to create a comforting red sauce without meat. After which we gobbled up plate after plate and finished off with cold fruit soaking in a bowl of water for dessert. Ahhh the elegance of Italy. Have you ever felt homesick for a place you couldn’t ever truly call home?
Over the years I’ve attempted various homemade sauces using the same basic principles our professor taught us: start with oil, onions, and garlic, sweat it all, add carrots and celery, add tomatoes and paste and possibly sugar and spices, repeat. In my journey to eat clean, avoid packaging, and learn new recipes I wanted to try a simple sauce that I could perfect and possibly eventually give away as gifts during Christmas. After hunting down the ingredients at my local farmer’s market last weekend I spent the day turning tomatoes into sauce.
Our old professor would probably be appalled at the chunky texture of the sauce but I personally think a chunky sauce tastes heartier and makes it more versatile. You can use this not only on fresh pastas but also on breads, as a base for other sauces, and mixed into other grains and vegetables.
- 4 large vine ripened tomatoes
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 onion
- 6-7 cloves of garlic (I reallllly like garlic so I likely used much more than this)
- 1 small can of tomato paste
- Several tbs of olive oil
- Spices–I use spices very generously so I’ll just note here what I used and won’t provide an exact measurement. Cooking should be fun and geared towards your tastes. Use this blend to your liking.
- Salt and pepper
- Red pepper flakes
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh basil
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and combine with sliced red peppers, several whole garlic cloves (reserve a few to add in later), olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a glass baking dish. Roast vegetables for about 45 min.
- While veggies are roasting, sautee minced carrots, onion, more garlic, more olive oil, red pepper flakes, rosemary, oregano, and parsley together until soft and well cooked.
- Remove roasted tomatoes and peppers and pulse in your food processor with a bit more olive oil. Remove sauteed carrot and onion mixture from the stove and add to the processed tomatoes. Pulse for a bit longer.
- Add tomato paste, chopped basil, and more garlic if you’d like and continue to pulse. Add more olive oil at this point if the sauce is too thick.
- Wait for sauce to cool slightly before storing in repurposed jars or mason jars.
- Or, immediately eat because it’s so delicious and you can’t control yourself….and why should you!?
*Note: If sauce still feels very thick you can add a little bit of water to your tomato paste can and swish it around to make a thin, watery tomato sauce and slowly add a bit of this to your processed sauce while you pulse. Also, as noted above I prefer a chunky sauce but this would also be delicious pulsed down even further to produce a thinner sauce. Again, it’s all about what YOU like.