In an ideal world, none of us moms would need tomato sauce with sneaky veggies. All our kids would eat green vegetables without resorting to purees, deep-frying and dipping in ranch dressing.
Before I had kids, I talked about how ridiculous it was to hide vegetables from your kids (a la Jessica Seinfeld). I wasn’t going to stoop to such measures because I would start my child out early, with whole vegetables, cooked properly and served at every meal. He’d eat what we ate and no special meals. (I can imagine every parent rolling their eyes right now.)
And then I had Pete. As a nine-month-old, he ate everything in site. Avocado, sautéed zucchini, lemongrass turkey meatballs, vegetable frittata, and really anything I cooked at home. I was SO proud and so sure I had cracked the code.
Fast forward to sixteen months, and he will eat NOTHING. OK, not nothing. He will usually eat fruit, goldfish, yogurt, chicken tenders, and pizza. So now I try to sneak vegetables in wherever I can. And so this tomato sauce with sneaky veggies is one of my weeknight staples.
The key to creating a sauce with rich flavor that isn’t watery, is to cook the sneaky veggies until they are completely broken down and caramelized. This adds depth of flavor and sweetness to the sauce, and it also makes the veggies easy to blend into the sauce. That means no green flecks to give anything away!
I prefer an immersion blender because you can puree directly in the pot. But you could easily use a food processor or blender. Just make sure to cool down the sauce before you transfer it.
The best part is that you can make a big batch and freeze it in individual containers. Fill small ones for pizza sauce, large ones for pasta, and jumbo containers if you’re making lasagna for a crowd. Your little ones will never know you’re sneaking veggies into their nightly meals. And you have my permission to feel ZERO mom-guilt over that. They have the rest of their lives to eat vegetables.
Sneaky Veggie Tomato Sauce
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 red bell pepper*, seeds and ribs removed and diced
3 medium zucchini**, diced
3 medium yellow squash, diced
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- Preheat a deep soup or stock pot over medium heat.
- Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot.
- Add the onions, garlic and red bell pepper along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are softened.
- Add the zucchini and yellow squash along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the veggies are softened and beginning to caramelize.
- Add the basil, oregano and crushed tomatoes along with a 1/2 cup of water. Let the mixture simmer on low at least 15 minutes or up to one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and puree the red sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve as you would use any jarred tomato sauce – with spaghetti, in a pasta bake, in lasagna or as a pizza sauce.
*You can substitute any color bell pepper.
**You can do all zucchini, all squash, or any combination of the two.