Feeding oneself well is one of the biggest secrets to a happy and healthy life. Nothing makes me feel crankier than being tired and hungry and having to eat out or rely on more convenient, less-homemade options too many times in a week. During the busiest weeks, when I feel like I have little time or energy to cook, I find relief in knowing that I can still come home and eat something that I made with care out of good ingredients when I had the time. I’ve been on a kick of making this mega veggie sauce and other meals that freeze well in MEGA batches for the past year or so. I love investing long hours in the kitchen when I have time to help make life easier later.
The kitchen is one of the few places where I’m motivated in this way. Other things, like dates and deadlines get pushed out of my mind till the very last minute. Uh oh, dinner guests are coming over. Clean the house, quick! Oh no! My 20 page educational psychology paper is due tomorrow! Must stay up all night and write it, then attend a full day of classes tomorrow. Believe me, future me did not thank past me for waiting till the last minute on that one (even though I got an A). Disorganized perfectionism is tricky business.
When I set out to make this sauce recipe, I was after an amount that would feed a family or would leave enough leftovers for freezing, but would still be doable for someone with a reasonable sized saucepan. It was supposed to be a scaled-down version of the mega-batches I normally make. After spending all day making and photographing the ingredients for this sauce I went to cook it, and found it would only fit in the massive pot that the Mister uses to brew beer. I shook my head and laughed at myself.
These were still not normal home kitchen quantities. Rather than direct my readers to a restaurant supply store for an industrial-sized saucepan, I decided I needed to make a normal sized batch that could be made in a more standard-sized pot. The Mister looked at the gigantic vat of delicious sauce wide-eyed and chuckled at me as I explained that I needed to make another batch of the very same sauce that evening so I could test the proportions for people who maybe don’t own a pot that big. Don’t worry, he’s used to this.
It’s just the Mister and I (and a very fluffy muppet dog) in our house, but I love making gigantic batches of meals and freezing them for easy dinners. I always say that future me will thank me later, and I do. I’ve scaled this recipe down to what is still plenty for a family of 6-8, or for a smaller family to freeze for later. If you’ve got a touch of the insanity and a ridiculously large pot, feel free to double the recipe for a MEGA batch of sauce.
This is one of my go-to sauce recipes. All of the different veggies give it a complex ratatouille-like taste, and when I eat it I feel like I’m getting a–you guessed it–mega dose of phytonutrients. Blended, it can be used like a marinara sauce for pasta or pizza. I’ve used it as a dipping sauce for appetizers like these ricotta-spinach bites, and spooned over the top of a veggie calzone. I also love to leave the sauce chunky, as every bite has a different texture and bursts of flavor from the zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper and carrots.
As I’m sitting in my house after work with a clean kitchen and the smell of homemade pasta sauce simmering on the stove, I say, “That past Jenny, wasn’t she clever to have made this for us so we could enjoy it today?” Aww self, you’re welcome. For all my foibles and procrastinations, my messy house and unfinished projects and the things I do that drive me a little nuts, past Jenny sure does know how to feed a girl well.
- 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (2 regular and one fire-roasted if desired)
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon Italian herb mix
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, to taste
- ½ to 1 teaspoon-crushed red pepper, to taste
- pasta of your choice, gluten-free if desired
- fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into narrow strips
- vegan parmesan cheese for serving, optional (here is a great easy recipe)
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a couple pinches salt and sauté until browned and tender. Remove the mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, red and green bell pepper, celery, carrot and zucchini and a couple generous pinches of salt and sauté for 4-6 minutes, or until onion is translucent and other vegetables are crisp tender. Add the mushrooms back in, and stir in the crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, Italian herbs, oregano, salt and crushed red pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for about an hour, or until flavors are melded and vegetables are softened. Season to taste with more salt if needed.
- If serving with pasta, cook according to package directions during the last 20 minutes of sauce cooking time. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and garnish with the basil and parmesan if using.