Pasta or pizza sauce fortified with veggie puree is a great way to sneak nutrition into your kids' diets. I love to spend all day Saturday roasting veggies in the oven to make sauce; roasting gives veggies so much flavor. But let's be realistic, not everyone has a full day to devote to sauce-making and not everyone wants to spend their day in the kitchen. Here's a quicker, easier version that's still full-flavored and nutrition-packed. This recipe will make enough sauce for two to three lasagnas or pasta dishes, so freeze the extra for later. It freezes beautifully.
Weeknight Delicious Nutritious Tomato Sauce
2 medium onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large or 2 small carrots, cut into 4 or 5 pieces each
Cloves of 1/2 to 1 head of garlic, to taste, peeled
1 bell pepper, cut in quarters
1 zucchini, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning (I like Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle)
1/4 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
2 14.5-ounce cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 29-ounce can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. ground beef, optional
1/2 to 1 cup pinot grigio, optional*
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and celery and saute/sweat until translucent.
Place a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat and add canned tomatoes and bay leaves.
While onion and celery are cooking and tomatoes are warming, place the carrots in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until they're roughly ground. Add garlic cloves and pulse until roughly ground. Add bell pepper and pulse until roughly ground. Add zucchini and pulse until everything comes together into a thick puree.
When onion and celery are translucent, add garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook and stir for 5 minutes to "bloom" the seasonings.
Add the veggie puree from the food processor to the skillet. Reduce temperature to medium-low heat, and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until the liquid cooks off and the veggies smell very fragrant. Be careful not to let them scorch.
Pour the veggie mixture from the skillet into the stockpot or Dutch oven with the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper and wine. Continue simmering over medium-low heat, tasting and adjusting seasonings as desired, and stirring often.
If you're adding ground beef, brown it in the skillet you used for the veggies. No need to clean the skillet in between. Pour meat into a collander to strain off the fat and add the meat to the tomato sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is reduced to the consistency you want. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves.
* I like Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio for tomato sauce. You can usually find it for $10 or less per bottle. Although you can skip the wine if you want and still make a good sauce, wine and tomatoes "love each other," and the wine greatly enhances the tomato flavor. Alton Brown explained it all in a Good Eats episode.