Hidden vegetable pasta sauce – versatile and packed with flavour

This dish can be used in a myriad of ways from spaghetti bolognese to lasagne

Hidden vegetable pasta sauce

Hidden vegetable pasta sauce

 

All I want to do is get stuck into festive cooking now that December is here. There’s something about darker evenings, having the stove lit and fairy lights up that makes me want to bake. I want to be dusting icing sugar over a pyramid of freshly-baked mince pies while my children are outside ice skating and holding hands, wearing woollen mittens.

But realistically I need to put dinner on the table and my children do not know how to ice skate. So I need to think practically and the best thing to do this time of year is try and get as many vegetables into our diet as we can. After all, in a few weeks a barrage of selection boxes and tins of Danish cookies will be vying for our attention.

My daughter needs to be weaned off chocolate coins every January, so this year I’m determined to slow down the inevitable avalanche of sugar, before we get snowed in. I have lots of stock made for soups. Planning ahead is the secret to healthy eating. Batch cooking is also key. If you’re keen to learn more about cooking in quantity then Susan Jane White’s book Clever Batch is a good read.

This vegetable-packed sauce has featured on my family’s dinner menu all year round. It’s so easy to make and guarantees that dinner will be packed full of vegetables and flavour.

As a family of five, this amount of sauce usually covers three dinners. I keep a large jar in the fridge and freeze the rest. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used in a myriad of ways from spaghetti bolognese to lasagne, or just fold it through freshly-cooked pasta.

While the pasta cooks, I usually make some quick garlic bread by toasting slices of sourdough then rubbing them with a halved garlic clove. Spread with butter and serve right away. I sometimes sprinkle a little Parmesan on too and pop it under the grill for a minute until golden. It really does make the nicest garlic bread.

Use your own favourite vegetables for this, I sometimes add cauliflower too, it makes it creamier, and it is so good served with plenty of Parmesan.

HIDDEN VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Serves 12

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1-2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 sticks celery, chopped

6 mushrooms, roughly chopped

100ml white or red wine

2 tbsp herbs (thyme, oregano, basil etc)

2 x 400g tins whole plum tomatoes

600ml stock or water

½ tsp brown sugar or honey

Sea salt

Black pepper

Method

1 Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-based pan. Add the onion and sauté over a medium heat until it is beginning to soften. Add the garlic and stir well. Cook for a minute before adding the remaining vegetables. Cook for five minutes, stirring every few minutes.

2 Next add the white wine and stir everything well. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock. Season with the herbs, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer then lower the heat and leave to simmer gently until the vegetables are all well cooked, 15-20 minutes.

3 Leave to cool a little then blitz the sauce until very smooth using a stick blender or in a blender jug. I find the blender jug gives a smoother sauce. Taste for seasoning.

4 Portion out the sauce. This is enough for 12 servings, so I usually pour it into 500ml jars. Leave a little space at the top if you plan on freezing it. 

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