20 August 2012

Veggie-full Vegan Red Sauce

Tonight was "advisee dinner" night here at school. All new students (first-years and transfers) were supposed to go to dinner with their faculty advisors. Advisors can choose to take their students out to dinner, bring in a catered meal (think Stouffer's Lasagna), or cook. In addition, advisors are encouraged to team up with other faculty members and their new students. I decided to team up with two of my colleagues in the psych department and we brought all of our first-year students over to Shana's and my house for dinner, socializing, and games.

In trying to decide what to feed such a large crowd (not to mention a crowd we'd not ever met when we were doing the planning), we decided pasta and red sauce, salad, and garlic bread were the way to go. I think of this meal as one of those American stand-by dinners when you're just not sure what anyone will enjoy. Thus, I think it's also a meal that can be uninspiring and over-used.

When most people think pasta with a red sauce, they usually envision something that has meat in it. Or, the few times they've had pasta with marinara sauce, it's almost flavorless. Luckily, that doesn't have to be the case at all! Vegan red sauces can be filled with all sorts of flavorful ingredients! The recipe below is one I made up when I made dinner for my in-laws one night and I tried to sneak some extra veggies past the kids. They ate this up, so apparently it worked. Tonight, the kids ate this up as well (plus some meat sauce, salad, bread, cupcakes, and cookies); so much so that there was barely enough for Shana's lunch tomorrow.

See that bread? My friends made that!

Veggie-full Vegan Red Sauce
Ingredients
1, 29 oz. can of tomato sauce (pick a general one, no added spices needed)
1, 15 oz. can of tomato puree
2 T. tomato paste
3 small onions, diced finely
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced finely
2 small carrots, diced finely
2 1/2 T. Italian seasoning
1 T. basil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. white sugar, optional

Directions
1. In a bit of olive oil, saute the onions until they start to get soft.
2. Add the garlic, carrot, and pepper, saute another 3-5 minutes.
3. Add all other ingredients, stir to combine.
4. Simmer over low or med-low heat (depending on your cook top) for at least 20 minutes, but see Helpful Hints.

5. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Helpful Hints
  • As with all red sauces, this one tastes better the longer you let it cook. The longer you give it, the more time the flavors have to meld together. I actually made this the day before our dinner, then put it in my crockpot insert in the fridge. A couple of hours on high before the party and it's at the perfect temperature and the flavors have melded wonderfully. I have also sauteed the veggies and then dumped everything into a crockpot, cooking for 8 hours on low. 
  • Because of the chunks of veggies, I prefer to use a pasta other than spaghetti, like a rotini. 
  • Tomato sauce and puree can both be used in the recipe. Canned tomato sauce (with the diced tomatoes and such) often has added salt, so use all puree if salt is an issue for you.
  • This is a soy-free dish and can be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta.
  • You can certainly use three 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce/puree for this recipe and it will still work out fine. 
  • After you make it, you can freeze smaller batches of this sauce to reheat later. 
  • This sauce is pretty mild (as I made it first with kids in mind). Thus, the sweetness of the tomatoes and carrots really shine through on the palate. If you like spicier things, up the red pepper flakes, add some diced hot peppers, or any other thing you'd like!
  • Another fun thing to do is keep the bay leaf in the sauce. Then, whoever gets it (no fair fishing for it!) is king/queen for a day! 

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