Vegetable Tomato Sauce

Sometimes recipes become traditions a little later in life – or we add them on from other family members as we go. For me, a vegetable-tomato sauce is one of those recipes.

My husband’s grandmother – Marianna – who unfortunately passed away earlier this year at 92 years old, shared many recipes with us. In fact her little black book of recipes is one of my husband’s cherished items. Even before we were married she would recite recipes from memory to me at the kitchen table. She grew up in Italy with five brothers and would help her mother prepare food each day to sustain them all, including bread batches so large that when she was a little girl she had to knead the dough with their feet just to keep up. When she came to Canada with her husband, she did her best to cook wisely and on a budget and this included making traditional tomato sauce with a twist. Whenever she had extra vegetables from the garden, she would throw these into the pot as well, making a sauce that was healthy, yes, but also sweeter and lighter. And it also meant that nothing went to waste.


Soon after she told me this, I gave it a try and I love vegetable sauce, in fact sometimes I even prefer it. The first time I had it, I also paired it with homemade pasta with a new pasta extruder so I could make short shapes of pasta. Now that I have a child (who eats pretty much nothing but pasta) vegetable sauce has been the perfect way to get more nutrients into him. We bottle it, freeze it and make it last minute even during the winter. In honour of Nonna, here’s her vegetable sauce recipe.


It’s so easy, here it goes:

Vegetable Sauce
Tomatoes or Tomato Passata
Any other vegetable you have from the garden or in the refrigerator. I’ve used beans, spinach, kale, eggplants and hot peppers depending on the spice level you like.



By |19/10/2017|Recipes, Salse (sauces)|0 Comments

Jarring your own tomato sauce base (passata) – the Italian way!


If you’ve seen a few neighbours toiling away late at night over a pot of tomato sauce in their garage, you know it’s tomato season.

Every year, Italian families gather together to get the key pantry staple for their house ready for the winter. Canned, or jarred, tomatoes. If you don’t do this often, this massive undertaking seems a bit mysterious and I’ve been asked by friends and neighbours, “how” and “why??” for years. Here’s a bit of insight into how it’s done:

Italians take their food ingredients seriously: freshness and seasonality are two key tenets to this. When vegetables, or meats, are in season they need to be preserved for the winter so we always have that taste of fresh tomatoes whenever we put a pot of sauce on (or the multitude of other dishes that tomatoes can be used for).

There’s a few different ways that tomatoes can be preserved in jars. My preferred method is plum tomatoes: taking heirloom tomatoes, seeding and peeling them, jarring and boiling the jars. When used later these tomatoes need to be broken down through cooking or blending. Some people also put fresh small tomatoes in jars and bake the jars. (I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m told it works).


Below though, is the most common process, using San Marzano tomatoes. These small tomatoes are treasured for their flavour and “meatiness”, that is that they have a lot of flesh so you don’t loose a lot of vegetable when you remove the core and seeds. In this process, the base to tomato sauce (passata) is made by cooking the tomatoes, crushing them and jarring. These jars can rest in a cool place for up to 2 years and when broken open are used to make sauce for pasta, though you’ll add in meat or other vegetables and continue to slow cook until you get a thick and flavourful sauce.


While Italians do this by the bushel-ful, the same process can be used for any number of tomatoes, so even if you only want to make a few jars.
Here’s what you’ll need:
– San Marzano tomatoes
– Fresh basil leaves
– sterilized glass mason jars and lids
– a large pot (and heat source like a stove or outdoor burner)
– a few large bowls
– a tomato crushing machine
– knives, funnel, ladle, jar handler
– towels, lots of towels


Wash all of the tomatoes and lay them out on old towels or tablecloths to dry a bit. Using a paring knife, core tomatoes, remove any seeds (this can add a sour taste to your sauce) and cut the tomatoes in half or quarters. The more people you have, the faster this process is.

Cook the tomato pieces in a large pot (do not add any other ingredient or any water, they will make their own as they break down), for about 30-45 minutes.


By |04/09/2015|Recipes, Salse (sauces)|3 Comments

Sal’s Meat Sauce

meat sauce recipe

I do a lot of cooking for our house, but the one thing I don’t do with any frequency: make sauce. Sure I do quick tomato sauces (what people call marinara or arrabbiata sauces), but those long-boiling, Sunday-dinner, one huge pot of gold sauce (sugo) – that’s really my mom’s and my husband’s domains. They do it well, really well, so I don’t bother to challenge them on it.

And I have to say, there’s nothing like walking into a house where tomato sauce has been bubbling away all day. The warmth and the pure, sweet smell generates hunger pangs right away. I once had a doctor suggest I was allergic to tomatoes and that I should cut them out of my diet to be sure – I couldn’t fathom it and I still haven’t tried it. For Italians, tomato sauce is the ultimate comfort food and it’s no wonder that I get requests for tomato sauce recipes from readers and friends.

Everyone has their own take on tomato sauce and no one way is correct – they are all perfect in their own way. Each has a special touch from the sauce maker. This recipe was originally called “Sal’s Nonno’s Sauce.” That is, it comes from my husband’s grandfather. But truth be told, it’s actually a mixture of his grandparent’s recipes (from both sides) that make up this awesome sauce. True to form, it really is Sal’s own recipe now that he’s perfected it. And it always gets rave reviews. The shredded meat makes this sauce perfect for huge pasta shapes like rigatoni or a lasgana or pasta al forno.

Many thanks to my husband for pausing long enough for me to take photos and our good friend who spent the day with us making sauce, reminding me to take photos and write this recipe down finally.

nonno's sauce recipe

Meat Sauce
500g (1 pound) total of three types of meat. (Either a mixture of pork, veal, and goat OR three different cuts of the same type of meat)
Salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cloves chopped garlic
2.8kg (100 ounces) of peeled tomatoes
6 cups room temperature water
Fresh basil and parsley


By |13/09/2013|Recipes, Salse (sauces)|0 Comments

Garlic Scape Pesto (two ways)


All the rain in our area has been a curse on my garden. Don’t get me wrong – a little water goes a long way. But A LOT of water turns your tomato plants yellow and drowns your peppers. One thing a lot of water does, though, is make my lettuce, onions and garlic pop up in a big way. So the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to use my first garden harvest: garlic scapes. In honour of this #pastatuesday, I turned those garlic scapes into a pasta accompaniment: garlic scape pesto.

Most of the times on this blog, I stick to old recipes, tried and true from my family. Once and a while, I try something new. I made garlic scape pesto for the first time last year and loved it. It has a strong garlic flavour, but if you like it a little weaker, it’s easy to balance out with nuts and cheese. Garlic scapes, for those new to the ingredient, are the curling tops of the garlic plants that are edible and should be picked before the flowering part opens.  To eat them raw, you should pick them when they begin to emerge from between the main garlic leaves, even before they start to curl, when they are still tender. Washed and chopped up, they are great in stir-frys or salads, offering a lighter garlic flavour than garlic bulbs. Mixed with classic Italian ingredients to make pesto, they are great on pastas but also on bread, brightening up crostini or sandwiches easily.


Here are my recipes for garlic pesto, two ways. The first is with pine nuts, a take off of the classic basil pesto. The second (my favourite) is with pistachios which makes a great emerald green pesto. You can reduce or add ingredients to your taste, as long as your end creation is easily spreadable. If you find it too thick, add a bit more olive oil. These recipes make enough for two small glass jars each – or about four meals of pasta for two.
Garlic Scape Pesto with Pine Nuts
10 garlic scapes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste


By |05/07/2013|Recipes, Salse (sauces)|5 Comments

Parsley Lemon Pesto

Parsley Lemon Pesto Recipe





Frost has been coating our roof and backyard lately, the chill is in the air here. I’ve been lucky to be able save the last of our summer harvest to still enjoy as the nights get colder. Our third collection of parsley from our herb garden, wrapped well in paper towels to keep them fresh, were begging to be used this weekend after spending a few weeks in the fridge. I wanted a way to keep the flavour of parsley for the winter in a refreshing way, so I mixed it with citrus to create a  parsley lemon pesto. This recipe works well fresh or from the freezer. Now I’ve got a couple of jars to get me through the winter.

Parsley Lemon Pesto
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs (store bought are fine, but the large homemade kind are even better)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Salt to taste


By |20/11/2012|Recipes, Salse (sauces)|5 Comments