Chunky Vegetable Pasta Sauce Recipe

This garden vegetable spaghetti sauce recipe is something I like to make a big batch of every couple of months. It is loaded with bright tomatoes and plenty of vegetables.

I then freeze batches to have on hand for healthy, quick, and easy meals. This easy homemade pasta sauce tastes so much better than jarred sauce and because it is homemade I know exactly what is in the sauce. Don’t be afraid of the long cook time. Most of that time is pretty hands-off.

Homemade pasta sauce is surprisingly uncomplicated and easy to make. This pasta sauce is filled with vegetables like carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, onion, and tomatoes. Along with plenty of herbs and garlic for tons of flavor.

If you love simple homemade sauces try my recipe for Spinach Pesto.

pasta sauce in a white bowl

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pasta sauce ingredients on a white background

Ingredients

All of the additional chopped vegetables mimic the texture of ground meat creating a low cost hearty meal.

Pasta sauce can be as simple as simmering some tomatoes and maybe adding some herbs and olive oil. My goal with this sauce was to add as many additional vegetables as possible and also limit the amount of added sugar. Store-bought pasta sauce can have a lot of added sugar this sauce is sweetened without any additional sugar.

carrots shredded in a food processor

Carrots: Because we are trying to reduce our refined sugar intake, shredded carrots provide a natural sweetness to this sauce. Personal tastes and tomato acidity can vary so you may need to add a little sugar once the sauce has simmered but it will be less than the amount you would have added without the carrots.

Caramelizing the added vegetables by slowly sauteing them over low heat will also help to sweeten the sauce. Caramelizing vegetables helps to intensify and concentrate their natural sugars.

Vegetables: My favorite vegetables to add to this pasta sauce are onions, mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini. But feel free to add whatever vegetables you have on hand. This is a great recipe to use up your end-of-summer vegetable and herb harvest. Try adding bell peppers or spinach.

While chopping all of these vegetables may seem like a lot of work the end result is completely worth it. The best part is once everything is in the pot all you have to do is stir the pasta sauce a few times while it simmers away.

Tomatoes: This pasta sauce recipe calls for 87 ounces of canned diced tomatoes. I prefer the fire-roasted ones. You could also substitute canned whole tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, or tomato purée.

Anchovies: Anchovies add some umami flavor giving this pasta sauce a deep complex flavor and no your sauce won’t taste like fish. The anchovies melt away as the sauce cooks you won’t even know they were there.

Herbs: I typically use oregano, basil, and parsley. You can substitute fresh herbs for the dried herbs but you will want to double the quantity.

Baking Soda: Baking soda neutralizes acidity. Adding baking soda will change the pH of the tomato sauce, making it taste less acidic.

Equipment

Cutting Board: I always suggest using a large cutting board. I hate feeling cramped when I am cutting up a large number of vegetables. I like this cutting board from OXO because it has rubber grips around the edges and has a channel to catch juices before they run onto the counter.

Sharp Knife

Vegetable Peeler: This Y peeler is sharp and comfortable to hold. It makes peeling produce quick and easy.

Box Grater: Grate the carrots on a box grater or make the job really easy with a food processor.

Large Stockpot: This recipe makes a large quantity of sauce. Once all of the ingredients have been added my 12-quart stockpot is filled almost to the very top.

Instructions

sauteed onions, garlic, and anchovies

Saute Aromatics: In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat for two minutes. Saute the onion, garlic, and anchovies until the onions begin to soften. Approximately 5 minutes.

sauteed carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini

Saute Vegetables: Add the carrots, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, stirring occasionally. Approximately 15 minutes.

Simmer Tomatoes: Add the tomatoes, herbs, and baking soda. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring occasionally. Once the sauce reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 2 hours. The longer you let it simmer the fewer chunks there will be. Stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the stockpot.

Adjust Seasoning: Depending on the acidity of your tomatoes you may want to add additional sweetener. You can use granulated sugar or brown sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve: Use the pasta sauce immediately or allow it to cool completely before transferring the pasta sauce to freezer-safe containers. Keep a container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to six months.

Frequently asked questions

How do you sweeten spaghetti sauce without sugar?

Shredded carrots provide a natural sweetness to this sauce. Personal tastes and tomato acidity can vary so you may need to add a little sugar once the sauce has simmered but it will be less than the amount you would have added without the carrots.

Caramelizing the added vegetables by slowly sauteing them over low heat will also help to sweeten the sauce. Caramelizing vegetables helps to intensify and concentrate their natural sugars.

What takes the bitterness out of spaghetti sauce?

Baking soda is a base and neutralizes acidity. Adding baking soda will change the pH of the tomato sauce, making it taste less acidic.

How do you make tomato sauce less chunky?

If you prefer a smoother sauce, use a stick blender, food processor, or blender to puree the sauce. You will probably need to do this in batches due to the large volume of sauce. 

Can I make this sauce vegetarian?

Yes, simply omit the anchovies. You may want to add a little grated Parmesan cheese to mimic the anchovy’s umami flavor.

Tips

  • This recipe makes a big batch of pasta sauce meant for freezing to use for quick meals in the future. I recommend only making 1/3 of the recipe if you want to use it for just one meal.
  • For an extra kick of flavor, add a parmesan or romano rind to the sauce as it simmers. I keep some in the freezer just for this purpose.
  • For a thicker sauce, simply continue to simmer the sauce for longer until it has reduced to your liking. Be sure to continue stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. The more it reduces, the lower the heat should be.
  • Simmering pasta sauce for a long time allows it to develop a lot of flavor. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving it on the stove, transfer it to a slow cooker. Cook the sauce on high for 4-5 hours.
  • For a smoother sauce, puree with an immersion blender after cooking.

Variations

Feel free to add some browned hamburger or Italian sausage to turn this into a Bolognese or meat sauce. Sometimes we also add chopped pepperoni to the sauce for a fun twist.

Serving suggestions

Using this sauce to make spaghetti and meatballs is probably the easiest way to get dinner on the table quickly. I like to add a simple side salad and garlic bread.

ravioli casserole in a glass baking dish on a white wood background

Some nights I boil frozen ravioli instead of spaghetti noodles to change dinner up a bit. Or try this Baked Ravioli Casserole from Midwest foodie.

This sauce also tastes great in my Four Cheese Stuffed Shells or Four Cheese Lasagna and makes a great substitute for pizza sauce.

pasta sauce in ziploc bags on a cutting board

Storage

This sauce can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

To Freeze

  1. Pour the completely cooled pasta sauce into a zip-top bag. Make this process easier by using this bag holder to hold the bag open.
  2. Label the bag with the contents, date, and amount.
  3. Lay the bag flat in the freezer to freeze.

This pasta sauce will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Thaw the pasta sauce overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat in a pot over medium heat.

More dinner recipes

pasta sauce in a white bowl

Homemade Vegetable Loaded Pasta Sauce

Yield: 20 Cups
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes

This garden vegetable spaghetti sauce recipe is loaded with bright tomatoes and veggies. It also makes a huge batch perfect for freezing.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Onions - Chopped
  • 12 Garlic Cloves - Minced
  • 8 - 12 Anchovy Fillets
  • 32 oz Shredded Carrots
  • 2 Zucchini - Chopped
  • 1 Eggplant - Peeled and Chopped
  • 16 oz Mushrooms - Chopped
  • 87 oz Diced Tomatoes (6 - 14.5 oz cans)
  • 1 - 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 tbsp Dried Parsley
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat for two minutes. Saute the onion, garlic, and anchovies until the onions begin to soften. Approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, stirring occasionally. Approximately 15 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and baking soda. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring occasionally. Once the sauce reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 2 hours. The longer you let it simmer the fewer chunks there will be. Stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the stockpot.
  4. Depending on the acidity of your tomatoes you may want to add additional sweetener. You can use granulated sugar or brown sugar.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. For a smoother sauce, puree using an immersion blender.
  7. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  8. Use the pasta sauce immediately or allow it to cool completely before transferring the pasta sauce to freezer-safe containers. Keep a container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to six months.

Notes

  • This recipe makes a big batch of pasta sauce meant for freezing to use as a quick meal in the future. I recommend only making 1/4 of the recipe if you want to use it for just one meal.
  • If using fresh herbs instead of dried double the quantity.
  • This pasta sauce recipe calls for 87 oz of canned diced tomatoes, but you could substitute canned whole tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, or tomato purée.
  • If you have one add a parmesan or romano rind to the sauce as it simmers.
  • For a thicker sauce, simply continue to simmer the sauce for longer until it has reduced to your liking. Be sure to continue stirring occasionally so that it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan. The more it reduces, the lower the heat should be.
  • For a smoother sauce, puree with an immersion blender after cooking.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 40 Serving Size: 1/2 Cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 64Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 173mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 2g

This information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from an online calculator. Although raspberriesandkohlrabi.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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