Very Veggie Marinara


With the abundance of fresh vegetables available during the summer, sometimes I go a little overboard when it comes to stocking up on our favorites at the local farmer’s market.  Everything looks so delicious that I instantly get a 100 ideas in my swirling around in my head about what I can do with everything. Couple that with being able to chat with the farmers that grew the food, and  I lose all sense of rationality and snap up whatever looks yummy.

Then things get busy, I forget all about some of the veggies that I just had to have until they reach the use-them-or-lose-them point. Totally a first world problem. When this happens, I usually I end up sauteing the veggies, and tossing them over rice or pasta for a light and easy meal–for Hubby & I anyway–the kids won’t touch veggies & rice.  So when I found myself in a veggie-overload predicament once again, I decided to tweak the recipe for Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce by omitting the sausage, and include a lot more vegetables.  And it was goooood!

Since I live in a house full of serious carnivores, I tossed in a few meatballs from the freezer to entice the men-folk to try it.  The kids slurped up the sauce with their pasta, and a few of them even wiped the remaining sauce off their plates with a slice of garlic bread.

I don’t know where they get that kind of behavior from.

Next time you find yourself with a plethora of vegetables in need of an application, try this Very Veggie Marinara.

A Plea:  Please bear with me–this is a clean out the crisper/deplete the pantry/throw it together kind of recipe that I whipped up when I was short on time. The photo-documenting speaks to that fact. :)

Start by getting the vegetables ready for the sauce. I used sweet bell peppers, carrots, celery, onion, and zucchini. Lop off the tops of the sweet peppers, and remove the seeds. Finely dice the peppers, and set them aside. (About 1 cup of peppers)

Give a few carrots a quick rinse, and slice them into thin “coins.”  (About 1 1/2 cups.) I typically don’t peel carrots because the skin is chock full o’ vitamins.

Grab a few stalks of celery, and give them a good scrub to remove any dirt. No need to remove the leaves because they add a lot of flavor. Slice the cleaned stalks of celery very thin. (About 3/4 cup.)

Then go ahead and peel and dice a little sweet onion to add to the mix. (About 1 cup.)

Wash and shred a zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. (About 1 cup.) I had a few cups of shredded zucchini in my freezer leftover from making Omelette Muffins, so I used part of that.

Then I peeled a few cloves of garlic, and thinly sliced them. I like a lot of garlic in my sauce, so I used 4 cloves. Use as many as you are comfortable with.  Phew! Done with the vegetable prep!

I used a multitude of various canned tomatoes for the base of the sauce.  I like the different textures offered by mixing tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, whole, and diced tomatoes.

Pour a little olive oil into a large stock pot, and heat it over medium-high heat until hot.

Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium and toss in the sweet peppers, carrots, celery, onion. Stir the vegetables for about 5 minutes.

Once the vegetables start to soften, add the sliced garlic and stir it around.

Toss in a little salt and pepper…

…along with the shredded zucchini.  Continue to stir and saute the vegetables for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, and then “sweat” the vegetables for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Veggies will be extremely soft.

Dorky Explanation Alert:  “Sweating” vegetables over a lower heat is done with crunchy aromatic veggies in order to draw out moisture, soften the cell structure, and intensify their flavor, which in turn builds the flavors of the sauce.

Once the vegetables have sweat out their frustrations, they will be very soft. Add all of the canned tomato products to the pot.  Break apart the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Add about a tablespoon (total) of dried basil and dried oregano.  Stir the pot. <Snicker>

Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, to “reduce” the sauce and concentrate the flavors.  Don’t go too far away! You’ll want to be sure to stir the pot <more snickering> on occasion so that your sauce doesn’t adhere to the bottom.

Now if it were up to me, I would leave the sauce well enough alone, and serve it in all it’s chunky glory. But since I regularly feed a bunch of boys that do not appreciate the texture that chunks of vegetables lend to their pasta sauce, I enlist the help of a trusted friend.

My stick/immersion blender is my BFF in the kitchen, right next to my stand mixer.  I used it to puree the vegetables in the sauce so that my kiddos would actually eat it without complaining.  Sneaky, but effective.

Don’t like chunky sauce or have an immersion blender?  No worries–the sauce can be pureed in batches in a blender or food processor before serving this Very Veggie Marinara over hot cooked pasta.

Any remaining sauce can be cooled and put into freezer containers for another day.

Then, if you’re like me and you happen to have a slice of garlic bread leftover from dinner, you’ll put it to good use cleaning the pot. 😉


Very Veggie Marinara

Makes about 3 quarts

2 Tbs. olive oil

1C. diced sweet bell pepper

1 ½ C. thinly sliced carrots (2-3 large carrots)

¾ C. thinly sliced celery stalks with leaves (2-3 stalks)

1 C. diced onion

2-4 cloves of garlic, (to taste) peeled and thinly sliced

1 C. shredded zucchini

Pinch of kosher salt

Pinch of black pepper

1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce

2 (15 oz. each) cans petite diced tomatoes

½ Tbs. dried basil

½ Tbs. dried oregano

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until hot.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, then add the bell pepper, carrots, celery, onion to the pot and sauté for 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add the zucchini, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Continue to sauté for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and “sweat” the vegetables for another 10-15 minutes, or until very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Dorky Explanation Alert:  “Sweating” vegetables over a lower heat is done with crunchy aromatic veggies in order to draw out moisture, and intensify their flavor, which in turn builds the flavors of the sauce.
  5. Stir all of the tomatoes, the basil, and the oregano into the pot. Break apart the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes (or more) to reduce the sauce and concentrate the flavor.
  6. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  7. Sauce can be left chunky or pureed in batches with a stick blender, blender, or food processor.
  8. Serve immediately over hot pasta, or allow sauce to cool completely before transferring it to freezer containers for storage in the freezer.



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  1. says

    I blog about my immersion blender and then you go use yours! I swear-to-God, the Universe must be with us these days because I had to do a double take when I saw you mopping up the pot with garlic bread. That’s exactly how I roll. Shamelessness is our motto.

  2. says

    Love this recipe. 1. We’re always looking, like many people, for ways to sneak in more veggies for the kids. 2. You addressed the chunky texture issue, which was my first question when I began reading this, as my two boys hate any chunky textures in their food. 3. My husband makes homemade pizza on most Fridays (his pizza is awesome, truly), and has gotten very good at balancing taste and health issues (actually, it’s mostly about taste, but he tipped his hat to health). I’m sending this post his way to see if he can use some of this in his pizza sauce. Just an idea.

  3. says

    Oh, and 4., you froze zucchini, which I was just wondering about yesterday as I was shredding zucchini for an appetizer I was making. I’m not kidding either, which is freaky timing considering how little I cook.

    • says

      Ha! I freeze zucchini all of the time to use in recipes later. (Usually baking.) You do need to drain the shreds before using them though, because the freeze/thawing processes cause the zucchini to release a lot of water. I’m curious about the appetizer… 😉

      • says

        Thanks for the tip. The appetizer is basically just a way of making your bread slightly more healthy, with zucchini, slightly less carby, with eggs, and slightly more tasty, with lots of spices (garlic, oregano, etc.). Oh, and it bakes in a 13×9 pan, which makes for easy transport when necessary. Course, mine never gets taken anywhere, because I always eat it all myself. That’s the type of gal I am.

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