Sometimes the battle to get a picky eater to eat their vegetables is just too much to bear. Whether you’ve got a fussy toddler who doesn’t like green, or an awkward teenager who daily changes the list of foods that they do or do not like, it makes mealtimes so very boring.
I use my secret hidden vegetables sauce recipe in all sort of dishes, from standard spaghetti, through lasagne to chili-non-carne and all sorts of enchilada and burrito arrangements. Wherever any kind of tomato sauce is called for this all purpose hidden veggie sauce can be put to use.
I tend to make up a big batch of secret vegetable sauce in one go, using the slow cooker, often when I have a lot of leftover vegetables at the bottom of the refrigerator looking for a home and I’m not in an End Of The Month Scramble mood. It freezes really well, so you can simply use it in place of jars of spaghetti sauce when you need it, knowing that you’re sneaking extra vegetables in.
You can be a bit flexible with the ingredients, depending on what you have available. Be careful not to let one type dominate or the flavor will come through. Pumpkin, squash and zucchini can all go in, but skin the zucchini first or the green flecks in the final sauce are a real giveaway. They can be additions or substitutions for anything except the tomatoes and tomato paste.
- Prep time:
- Cook time:
- Ready in:
- Yields: Lots
- One large onion or two red ones
- Two large carrots
- Two Peppers – red/yellow/orange – not green
- Two or three sticks of celery
- Four cloves garlic
- One chili pepper
- Two 14oz cans of chopped tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes if you have them
- Large bunch of basil
- 12 oz jar of tomato paste/puree
- Two cups vegetable stock
- Chop the onions and peppers
- Slice the carrots and celery
- Finely chop the garlic and chile
- Chop any squash you are using
- Throw them all into a slow cooker
- Add the canned tomatoes and vegetable stock
- Stir and make sure all the veggies are just covered by liquid, if not add a little more stock.
- Set the slow cooker to low for 5-6 hours and go about your day
- Add the basil leaves and stir in
- Check your veggies have softened, they shouldn’t be mush, think al-dente
- Use a stab mixer to liquidize the veggies in the crock-pot. If you don’t have a stab mixer you’re missing out in life, but you can still hide your veggies by spooning them into a blender, liquidizing them, then popping them back into the slow cooker. You might need to do this in batches.
- The sauce will likely be orange at this stage, and is fooling no-one
- Now put your evil plan into action
- Add half the tomato paste and stir in, along with a couple of table spoons of olive oil
- It will turn redder. Add more tomato paste until you get the right color
- I often add smoked paprika, paprika and cayenne pepper at this stage, because I like a little “pow” in my sauce, and these add color too, but you can leave seasoning until you decide what meal to put your secret sauce in.
I had two slow cookers. I did not think through my purchasing plan.
I loved them both. One was great for just two or three of us, but when everyone is home, and over the holidays, it was no use. That was annoying because that’s the time I most wanted to throw some things in the slow cooker after breakfast and spend the day with people, rather than cooking. So I got a big one, which is brilliant. I handed off the small one to an older couple, and they love it, so that worked OK.
Using and Saving Your Sauce
I use mine with:
– veggie “meatballs”, adding some crushed fennel seeds and oregano to the sauce and popping back in the slow cooker for another hour or two
– veggie lasagne, mixed with sweetcorn and with a cottage cheese and egg layer too
– veggie enchiladas with quorn mince
– chile non carne with veggie mince