If there is one thing my family can eat 365 days a year, it’s pasta! My kids adore pasta, and although personally I’m not a fan, I do find it pretty easy to whip it in a jiffy, especially if a jar of sauce is readily available. Be it pasta or Pizza, the real taste, of course, lies in the base, which is the Tomato sauce.
This is a simple vegan sauce recipe with a hidden veggie, making it healthy too. The key ingredient is tomato, and you need to ensure that you have the freshest produce for this to get the right taste and color. This recipe is something I usually eye ball and cook, so don’t worry if you don’t have a precise set of ingredients, what’s important is the first 4 ingredients which are key, the rest you can easily adapt with what you have. For example, if you don’t have fresh Italian basil in your country, use parsley or cilantro as the final garnish; it’s absolutely fine. I’ve even added finely chopped green bell peppers to this as a garnish since they add a delicious crunch, flavor, and nutrition to my pasta dish. So there you go. The beauty of this recipe is that you can personalize it based on your convenience. And this tomato sauce can be easily used in many other dishes like stews, shakshuka, baked beans, chicken parmesan, or just as a dip!
1 stick celery (roughly 50- 60 grams)
1 medium onion
1 8/10 cloves of garlic
1 slice Pumpkin (roughly 150- 200 grams)
3 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 tsbp dried oregano
1-2 tbsp Himalayan salt
1 tsp onion powder (optional)
1 tsp crushed red chilli flakes (optional)
1 tbsp freshly crushed black pepper
1 cup warm water or vegetable broth
A handful fresh basil leaves
First up, we prep the ingredients. The traditional method is to blanch and peel the tomato, but the skin of a tomato has higher levels of nutrients compared to the pulp so it’s important for me to consume the whole tomato. The garlic can be sliced or chopped; it doesn’t matter since we are going to blend it all up in the end. Chop the celery and onions; most recipes don’t use this, but for me, they are the flavour boosters. My hidden ingredient is the ‘pumpkin’ (peel and chop it small), It’s a wonderful veggie that had tons of nutritional value, adds volume to this sauce and is naturally sweet so we can skip the white sugar entirely, which is usually used for this recipe. If pumpkins aren’t in season, add a carrot or a red bell pepper. The main colour you need to work with is either orange or red veggies with a neutral flavour, so it blends in well with the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the oil in a deep saucepan, and to this, add the chopped garlic. Let it fry to a beautiful golden hue, then add the red chili flakes, celery, onion, and salt. Stir-fry until it’s all well incorporated and translucent (DO NOT brown the onions). Now add the chopped tomatoes, mix it well, and cover it. Let this cook for exactly 5 minutes, and we can add the pumpkin, 1 cup of warm water or broth and the remaining spices like black pepper, onion powder, dried oregano, and 1 sprig of basil. Mix it well until it bubbles up, and then reduce the heat and let it simmer. This needs to slow cook (for a minimum of 30 minutes) until the tomatoes and pumpkin are well softened and you attain a chunky stew-like consistency. Now turn off the heat, remove the basil leaf, and blitz it in a food processor, not a blender. The texture of this sauce is entirely up to you, you can blend it up smooth, or if you’re like me, blend it halfway so you get tiny little chunks in your sauce which I absolutely love! Also a thicker sauce is just perfect for your pizza base.
This blended sauce goes back to medium heat, and here’s when you do a taste test. Add more salt, pepper, or even water or broth if that’s needed. Turn off after a few minutes, garnish with your greens (chopped basil), and now you can easily use this to make a beautiful red sauce-based pasta or as your pizza base.
If you store it in an airtight container, it can last up to a week in the refrigerator, or you can store it in ziplock bags and freeze them for up to 6 months.
Tip- This sauce is also your quick fix idea as a shakshuka base, chicken parmesan base and even when I make homemade based beans, this is exactly what I use. For a longer storage in the refrigerator, just lace your storage container (preferably a glass jar, upcycle an old jam jar or pickle bottle) with some olive oil, this really helps it elongates the fridge life. Another tip incase you don’t have access to fresh basil , substitute with 2 tbsp dried basil.