Very Veggie Marinara Sauce

Very Veggie Marinara Sauce is easy, economical and full of fresh vegetables.

There’s something so satisfying about a plate of pasta with a hearty, flavorful marinara sauce. It’s a meal that can be put together in a hurry, when you’re low on groceries or have no idea what to make, and it’s inexpensive but still delicious. 

When my husband and I were dating, he pretty much lived on pasta. At the time, we were both waiting tables at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and they gave us a free plate of pasta every shift. I’m pretty sure he would have eaten spaghetti and pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. His Italian mama made him spaghetti at home, too, always with her homemade sauce.

Over the years, I’ve developed my own marinara sauce recipe, and I usually make it using the pressure cooker or Crock-Pot. My recipe uses carrots and celery in addition to tomatoes, onions and garlic, with a touch of extra virgin of olive oil. I love having this sauce on hand, to top pasta, grilled chicken or zucchini noodles, or to use as a dip for breadsticks. You can also use it for baked pasta dishes like Allie’s Baked Caprese Tortellini.

To start the sauce, puree the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a food processor with the olive oil. This veggie puree becomes a flavor base for the sauce.


Pureed carrots, celery and onion boost the flavor and nutrition of this Very Veggie Marinara Sauce

For years, I didn’t have a food processor, but if you don’t have one, you can put the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in a blender with a little water, process them until they are very finely chopped, drain them using a fine strainer, and then add them to the olive oil.

Put the veggie puree in a large pot, season with salt and black pepper, and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. This step is optional, but it helps develop the flavor of the other vegetables before you add the tomatoes. I made this sauce using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, so I used the sauté feature for this step, but you can easily do it on the stovetop.

Pureed vegetables saute in olive oil for Very Veggie Marinara Sauce

Once the veggies have softened and mellowed in flavor, add the crushed tomatoes. I like to buy crushed tomatoes in the huge #10 can from Costco, because for less than $3 I can get the equivalent of four 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes. If I buy a jumbo can of crushed tomatoes, I will use 3/4 of it to make a big batch of sauce, and store the rest in the freezer for another use. Alternatively, use three 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes.

Once the tomatoes are in the pot, you add dried basil, Italian seasoning, more salt, red pepper flakes, and a little sugar or agave syrup to counterbalance the acidity of the tomatoes. Doesn’t it look delicious already?

Basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper are added to marinara sauce before cooking in the Instant Pot.

The final step is to cook the sauce, either by simmering on the stovetop for 1 hour, cooking in the Crock-Pot for 4 hours on high, or pressure cooking for 20 minutes at high pressure.

At the end, you’ll have a huge batch of yummy sauce that you can use to create several no-fuss meals. This recipe makes the equivalent of three jars of commercially prepared marinara sauce, so what you don’t use immediately you can store in the freezer and know you have the makings of a spaghetti dinner ready to go.

Very Veggie Marinara Sauce is fresh, flavorful and easy to make using the stovetop, Crock-Pot or Instant Pot.

Very Veggie Marinara Sauce
 
Author: Marsha Maxwell, FoodLove.com
Serves: 10 cups sauce
Ingredients
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces, or about 15 baby carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, trimmed and washed, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or agave syrup (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Process the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a food processor until pureed.
  2. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor, put the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in the jar of a blender, and add 1 1/2 cups of water. Process until the vegetables are very finely chopped. Strain this mixture using a fine strainer, then add the olive oil to the vegetable mixture.
Pressure Cooker Directions:
  1. Using the saute feature of an electric pressure cooker or on the stovetop if using a standard pressure cooker, saute the vegetable/olive oil mixture on medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring often. If using the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker, [url href=”http://instantpot.com/faq/instant-pot-help-video/” target=”_blank”]adjust the heat of the saute setting[/url] to the second highest setting. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper during cooking.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar or agave syrup, Italian seasoning, dried basil red pepper flakes and an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and stir to blend.
  3. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. For the Instant Pot, use the “Soup” setting but [url href=”http://instantpot.com/faq/instant-pot-help-video/” target=”_blank”]adjust the time down from 30 to 20 minutes[/url].
  4. Allow the pressure to reduce using a natural pressure release, then remove the lid of the pressure cooker.
Crock-Pot Directions:
  1. Saute the vegetable/olive oil puree in a large skillet over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often. This step is optional, but it helps develop the flavor of the sauce. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper during cooking.
  2. Add the vegetable/olive oil mixture to the Crock-Pot, then add the crushed tomatoes, sugar or agave syrup, Italian seasoning, dried basil red pepper flakes and an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, stirring to blend.
  3. Cook on high for 4 hours. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick.
Stovetop Directions:
  1. Saute the vegetable/olive oil puree in a large pot over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper during cooking.
  2. Add the vegetable/olive oil mixture to the Crock-Pot, then add the crushed tomatoes, sugar or agave syrup, Italian seasoning, dried basil red pepper flakes and an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, stirring to blend.
  3. Simmer the sauce, uncovered or partially covered, over medium to medium low heat for 1 hour. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick.
 

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