Wednesday, January 23

Red Pasta Sauce (Make-ahead & Freezer friendly)

Wow.... what a busy week. When I have a busy week I usually reach for meals that are usually half already made in the freezer. Freezer meals and the crock pot have gotten me through many long weeks over the years. This morning I made some pumpkin french toast using some pumpkin puree I had saved last in the fall. Freezer meals rescued me again. 

This vividly red sauce is also a freezer helper. I also love it because...

1. Its easy and requires minimal tending. Cooking with a toddler ( i.e.... growing boy who is constantly saying mom I am hungry, in & out of the kitchen on hands and feet driving trucks all over the floors) is hard. I really try not to cook many recipes that need me to stand at the stove for half an hr stirring constantly. That's usually a recipe for disaster someplace else in the house. A quiet house is trouble.

2. Its full of veggies but doesn't seem to be full veggies. (Tomatoes can hide many things). If your family doesn't like certain veggies but you want those nutrients in them anyways - use this recipe. 

3. Its extremely versatile. I have used this recipe in at least four different ways at different times. You'll love this thing! Its like a transformer. You can even base the ingredients of the sauce on the season, and or whats on sale.  

Different ways to use this recipe: 
1. Sloppy Joes
2. Spaghetti
3.Pizza sauce
4. Stuffed Peppers
5. Chili
6. Chicken Parm
7. Meatball Subs

So grab your favorite bottle of red wine... For this recipe I usually pick a Cabernet something a bit earthy and mild. I grew up in Washington State so I am slightly partial to a winery up there. But pick your favorite and the more local the better so you can support your own local economy, and well you'll probably get a better price than some fancy out of the country thing. Yes a whole bottle. We are going to have some fun! 

The prep takes a little while you don't have a food processor but its so worth it. If you don't have a food processor the hands on cooking time will be approx 15 minutes for the whole recipe. You will need a blender at the end though or an immersion blender to smooth the sauce. I usually double or triple this recipe and make it a couple times a year. It freezes beautifully! 

1 zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 yellow or red pepper
4 stalks of celery
4 large carrots, peeled, 
1 32 oz can of crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 14.5 oz fire roasted tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 tsp kosher salt (course grind)
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
4 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp ground red pepper * 
1 tsp smokey sweet paprika blend or substitute with smoky sweet paprika
1 1/2 cup of red wine (approx half a bottle)
1/2 cup of water
gallon sized freezer bags**
quart sized freezer bags

*if you don't like spicy things halve the red pepper seasoning

**gallon sized are for bigger quanties of sauce like for using pasta and for keeping small quanties of smooth sauce in so they don't get lost in the freezer. The double bagging also ensures no leaking and better freezer protection. 


1. In a heavy pot heat the olive oil over medium. Start chopping all your veggies or using a food processor if they aren't already done. They don't have to be perfectly uniform just small enough it will cook and saute well. You'll blend it smooth later anyways. 

2. When the oil is hot, add the garlic to the pot & stir - let it sauté for just a minute. Don't burn = smells awful. Turn down the heat if you need to. 

3. Saute the veggies in the garlic olive oil.

5. Once onion is translucent (clear) add in everything else (wine, canned tomatoes, seasonings)

6. Simmer uncovered on low for 2-3 hrs - once its thick you can start cooling it down but I like to let the flavors hang out on the stove and develop for an extra hr & to let the wine cook out better)

7. Once sauce is cool, and you have tasted it and adjusted seasonings (usually just salt and pepper). Grab your food freezer storage bags and your blender/hand held immersion blender. I usually blend 3/4s of the batch a little at a time. 

Then decide how you how to want to save it and if you want a thicker sauce (chunky) or smooth. If you have Italian type foods regularly you probably can use it up in 1-2 months but having it in the right portions helps. I usually do a combo of small portions (1/2 cup for pizza nights) and large portions (1 1/2 cups) for subs and small toppings and then large (3 cup portions) for spaghetti, lasagna, & chili. 

Thicker sauce (less smoothly pureed) is perfect for spaghetti, chicken parmesan, meatball subs, & chili - anything that its okay if you see some of the chunks. I save portions of it in 1 & 1/2 cup servings & 3 cup servings first before pureeing everything else into velvety smooth consistency. 

The smooth sauce is an excellent sub for any recipe that requires can of tomato or pizza sauce. Most of the time a recipe calls for a can of tomato sauce I will just grab one of these bags from my freezer and throw it in the fridge so its ready to go. Sometimes I don't even defrost it first. I have found 1/2 cup of smooth sauce is perfect for one large pizza. 

There you have it... 
my veggie filled red magic sauce
from my Az kitchen to yours

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