I always look forward to making tomato sauce. It can be made a thousand different ways yet each method yields a delicious result. I prefer tomato sauce on the thicker, heartier side, almost like a tomato stew. Mom likes it that way, too, so I couldn’t wait to make it for her on this most recent Meatless Monday. Mondays are the one night per week that Dad’s away at band practice so Mom and I can satisfy our more adventurous palates.
This recipe is for vegetable lovers and those of you who always order the red sauce on your seafood pasta, never the white. It’s for people who like to sip on something rebellious while simmering something delicious on the stove. It’s made for spoon-lickers and pinkie-dippers, and those of us who find peace in watching steam rise from a skillet on a cold February evening.
This sauce is great on spaghetti but it’s downright fun on spaghetti squash. I used to be skeptical of using vegetables as a replacement for pasta, but I am now a spaghetti-squash convert. When roasted with olive oil and salt, spaghetti squash turns tender and buttery, and separates into strands that you can twirl around your fork. I will not argue that it tastes like pasta. It does not. It tastes like spaghetti squash, and that’s a very good thing. The light, golden strings of the vegetable complement the richness of the sauce, and give incentive to add plenty of parmesan cheese on top.
Hearty Vegetable Tomato Sauce
What you need
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 12 oz portabella mushrooms, cubed (same size as eggplant)
- 1 eggplant
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1.5-2 cups dry red wine
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1-2 TB red wine vinegar
What you do
-If you’re making this on a weeknight, prep onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms ahead. Don’t prep the eggplant, it can get brown if chopped too far in advance. If you don’t prep, you will spend an hour washing and chopping vegetables and will be too weak to proceed to the next step. Learn from my mistakes.
-Now that all your veggies except eggplant are prepped, heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and cube your eggplant, spread out on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Microwave your spaghetti squash 3-4 minutes until it’s easier to cut through. Halve it lengthwise, then rub the insides with olive oil and salt. Roast both vegetables at the same time, they’ll both take about 40 minutes.
-While the eggplant and squash are in the oven, heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet and add all your pre-chopped onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Season with salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the onions start to stick to the skillet and look translucent and a bit gooey. They should also smell amazing at this point.
-Add garlic, oregano, and tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes, until it smells even more amazing in your kitchen. Pour 1/2 cup wine in the skillet, cook another 1-2 minutes until almost all wine has been absorbed. Add your canned tomatoes, season with salt.
-Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover, stir, add another 1/2 cup of wine and taste to adjust seasoning. Do you want it saltier, sweeter, herby-er? Cover and let simmer another 10 minutes. Uncover, stir, add final 1/2 cup of wine and taste again. Trust your instincts. You’re going to want to cook this sauce for 30-40 minutes total, stirring, tasting, and adding 1/2 cup red wine (up to 1.5-2 cups total) every 10 minutes. For the final 10 minutes of cooking, add in the eggplant. Cover. Off heat, stir in 1 TB of red wine vinegar. Taste, add more salt, vinegar, or herbs to your liking. If you want it sweeter, add a pinch of sugar. When you take your final taste, you should immediately exclaim: “MMMMM!” If you don’t, keep adjusting.