Pasta Sauce with hidden vegetables

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Pasta Sauce with Hidden Vegetables

Pasta sauce with hidden vegetables is a brilliant way to get kids who are fussy eaters to have some of their five-a-day.

And as a mother of a child who will not touch a whole vegetable, I have discovered a slow cooked pasta sauce is even better because it lets you cram in even more hidden vegetables than you would think possible in one sauce!
Over the years I have developed this version which combines a classic Neapolitan sauce with a garlic, celery and carrot base and Elizabeth David’s take on a Provencal ratatouille plus a few random touches of my own πŸ™‚

It produces a really rich thick sauce which is super easy to bulk cook and freeze and can be used in all sorts of different quick meals.

I regularly use it in lasagna and pizzas, as replacement ketchup, an accompaniment for white fish in the winter and as I have to cook for meat eaters and veggies the base for a rich ragu with separately cooked meat.

I’ve given below the ingredients which I think are ideal for a really rich sauce but you can obviously adapt to taste. The trick is all in slow cooking it for as long as possible.

If I can, I give it 2 hours in my Le Creuset. But it only needs any attention for the first 20 minutes and can then be left to look after itself for most of the rest of the time.

If you are looking for more great slow cooked recipes do check out the brilliant links from other bloggers at the end of this post and feel free to share your own …

Pasta Sauce with Hidden Vegetables Recipe


  • 440g / 15oz can of tomatoes
    2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
    A couple of cloves of garlic
    A stick of celery
    1 or 2 small carrots
    1 large / 2 small aubergine / egg plant
    3 or 4 courgettes / zucchini
    1 or 2 red peppers
    4 or 5 tomatoes (plum are great but not essential)
    Young spinach
    1 or 2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar
    A splash of balsamic vinegar
    250ml / 1 cup good vegetable stock (only used if needed)


  1. Peel & crush garlic
  2. Thinly slice celery and carrot
  3. Roughly chop aubergine, courgette and red pepper into chunks
  4. Skin, de-seed & roughly chop tomatoes
  5. Thoroughly rinse and roughly rip up spinach leaves
  6. Heat the olive oil and gently cook the garlic, celery and carrot until soft
  7. Add the aubergine and after a minute or so the pepper and after another a minute or so the courgette
  8. Stir around and add the oregano, a little sugar and balsamic vinegar
  9. Cook gently with the lid on for about 15 to 20 minutes just stirring occasionally as needed (Elizabeth David’s useful tip here is to remember that you are not frying the veg, more steaming them in oil)
  10. Throw in the tomatoes and stir around for a few minutes before adding the can of tomatoes
  11. Put the lid back on and leave on gentle heat for about an hour
  12. Add the spinach and if it has got too thick or is sticking very small amounts of vegetable stock
  13. Put back on gentle heat for another 30 minutes
  14. Just before it’s ready throw in some basil leaves but hold some back for garnish for grown ups who will happily eat whole green things
  15. If you’re eating immediately blend thoroughly in small amounts, (so it doesn’t go all over the kitchen!), or if you’re going to freeze, leave to cool and blend
  16. Serve and watch even the fussiest child consume 3+ portions of veg in one sitting πŸ™‚

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