Almost Instant Pizza Sauce


…. and no, my daughter didn’t get the wine!

My daughter and I developed this pizza sauce after she ‘suffered’ a craving for take-out pizza after a particularly frustrating day at school. A little analysis of what it was that made the pizza what she wanted revealed a need for oily, cheesy fare, with a sauce that was pureed rather than chunky, and flavored with a hint of fennel. I’m pretty sure the original had tarragon rather than fennel in it, but since I was out of tarragon, fennel hit the mark … after a bit of time spent adjusting the seasonings, stirring, tasting, and conferring.

This recipe makes enough sauce for pizza to serve about 12 people generously, and is crazy fast to make for those emergency pizza moments. Pair it with pan fried pizza base and some dairy-free cheese.

1/2 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
28 oz tin tomatoes (whole/diced in juice)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fennel powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato puree or similar volume of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1/2 tsp chili flakes, or to taste

Blend all ingredients together until fairly smooth, then use to sauce pizza as required.


Marinara Pasta Sauce for Grown-ups

Marinara and pastaThis isn’t your run of the mill marinara sauce that gets trotted out to kids as a standard in restaurants all over the U.S. The sun-dried tomatoes and black olives make this somewhat more sophisticated.

1 tbsp Earth Balance vegan margarine, olive oil, or oil used to store the sun dried tomatoes
1/2 large or 1 medium sized onion, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic
1 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes (crushed in tomato puree also works)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, minced
1/2 cup black olives, drained and cut in half
1-3 tbsp of sugar, depending on tartness of the tomatoes

Marinara sauce

This sauce is good with pasta and as a pizza sauce, if you’re looking for something a little different.

Warm the fat in a large saucepan, then gently fry the onion over a medium low heat, until it has completely softened and started to brown (~10-15 minutes)

Add the garlic, and allow to warm through for a couple of minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 30 minutes until the tomato chunks have started to disintegrate, and the sauce is thick and rich.
Check seasoning, and add more sugar or salt as necessary.


This is a vegan version (that I made up years ago) of pasta puttanesca, which apparently translates to ‘whore’s pasta’. I read somewhere that it was so quick to make, that the aforementioned lady could whip it up between customers. Personally, I think such fast preparation results in a pretty uninspiring dish. I like to cook the onions slowly to make sure they’ve properly browned before adding the remaining ingredients which should then be cooked long and slow enough to concentrate the flavors. Don’t rush it.

Veganesca served on hot GF pasta.

Veganesca served on hot GF pasta.

Puttanesca normally contains anchovies. It is a strong tasting tomato sauce for serving with pasta; this version is also a great alternative to pizza sauce.

I was concerned that using a cast iron pan rather than a stainless steel pan could affect the flavor of this dish. Although cast iron is usually my pan of choice, here the tomatoes are in contact with the iron for so long, that their acid leaches iron out of the pan, which I understand is good for your health, but I was worried we might not care for the flavor change. Having said that, I have just made this in cast iron, and daughter #1 told me it was delicious and had to be shoo’d out of the kitchen before she ate it all out of the pan. Go figure!

1 tbsp oil or Earth Balance
1 medium to large onion, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
2 x 28oz tins of chopped tomatoes in juice
8” square of a sheet of seaweed ground into 1 1/2 tbsp ground seaweed
1/2 cup (~24) black olives, pits removed, and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Don't even think about progressing with the recipe until the onions are AT LEAST this brown.

Don’t even think about progressing with the recipe until the onions are AT LEAST this brown.

Heat the oil/margarine in a large frying pan or saucepan, and fry the onion until it browns.

Add the garlic to the onion and allow it to warm through for a minute.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, uncovered, and stirring occasionally, or until the tomato juice has boiled off, and the flavors have intensified.

Check for seasoning, and serve hot over pasta.

Medeterranean Orange Spiked Tomato Sauce

This is a chunky, slightly sweet, fancy tomato sauce for dinner parties. The slightly sweet orange tang adds intrigue rather than an obvious orange flavor, and in keeping with that, the sauce shouldn’t comprise the major part of the dish, by which I mean I wouldn’t use it as a sole sauce for pasta. It contrasts well with creamy sauces in moussaka, lasagna, and rollatini. It freezes well, too, both in and out of prepared dishes.

Orange Spiked Tomato Sauce served here with mushroom stuffed galette.

Orange Spiked Tomato Sauce served here with mushroom stuffed galette.

1 tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine (e.g. Earth Balance)
1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
5 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large tin (28 oz) chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 – 2 tbsp marmalade
1/2 cup black olives, quartered
salt to taste

In a large frying pan, gently sauté the onion (if using) in the margarine until translucent.

Add the garlic and ground black pepper to the margarine, and allow to warm through and become fragrant.

Stir in the chopped tomato and black olives, and simmer until the tomatoes have broken down slightly, and the juices have reduced to form a thickened sauce between the chunks of tomato.

Stir in the marmalade, and check for seasoning.

Mediterranean Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a traditional, rural French stew. The ‘right’ way to make it depends on whose kitchen you’re in. I find it odd that I tend to regard it as a rather austere dish, and yet when I make it, I revel in the flavors. I think part of that can be attributed to the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and olives that enrich it.

Ratatouille served with mashed garlic cauliflower and potato, and grated faux cheez.

Here in my kitchen, the quantities of the various vegetables in ratatouille are approximate since this is a very forgiving dish and can be varied depending on the cook’s mood or the availability of produce. The finished dish can be frozen since the vegetables are all cooked until they are on the verge of terminally relaxing together anyway, though it is better fresh.

If you’re not familiar with eggplants (aubergines), know that you want to pick one that feels heavy for its size, and is shiny. As they mature, eggplant seeds get darker and harder, and holes start to appear in the flesh, which also gets pithier. Mature seeds are rather unpleasant to eat. Another feature of eggplants, is that they absorb oil like the proverbial sponge. To get around that problem, you can either avoid frying them (and cook them in the tomato liquid – the easy option, and my preferred method), or you can salt them for 1/2 hour before cooking. I believe the traditional method of making ratatouille, is to fry everything individually before combining. Personally, I couldn’t stomach the fat involved, and am happy to accept the mixing of flavors that must happen when the ingredients are cooked together.

These quantities make about 6 servings. I like to serve it up in baked potatoes (coleslaw on the side), with garlic mashed potatoes, with garlic bread, in a gourgere, or with GF pasta (and grated cheez).

1 large eggplant (aubergine), stem removed, chopped into 3/4″ dice
2 tsps salt (used for salting the eggplant – optional)
2-6 tsps oil (This can be oil from the sun-dried tomatoes if you are using them, and the quantity depends on how rich or low calorie you want the dish to be.)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2-6 zucchini (courgette), either thinly sliced, or 3/4″ dice
2-4 red/yellow/orange bell peppers chopped into 1/2″ thick strips (frozen works well).
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped/minced
1 large (28oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dried or in oil) (optional, but recommended)
1/4 – 1/2 cup (12-25) black olives, Greek brined, not Californian (optional but recommended, adds richness)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried) OR 5 fresh basil leaves (or to taste – optional)
salt to taste
1 tsp thyme (if not included in your sun-dried tomatoes)
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1 tbsp of sugar, if required to counteract acidic tomatoes

Initially, the tomato doesn’t appear to be quite enough for the stew, but the dish becomes moister, as the vegetables soften.

Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large saucepan.

Add the onion, sauté for 2-4 minutes.

Add the zucchini (courgette) and peppers, sauté for 2-4 minutes.

Add all the remaining ingredients, except for fresh basil (if using).

Stir, cover, turn the temperature down for a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have released their juices: about 15-20 minutes.

Add the basil, if using, and season to taste.

Remove the lid and cook until excess juices have evaporated and the ratatouille is a thick stew (or however you like it).

Variation: Vegetable Tagine

Ranchero Sauce

Ah yes, a ranchero sauce for us gringos. There’s enough heat to make the sauce interesting, but not enough to be painful! Very tasty; even Our Kate of the Sensitive Mouth ate it. I confess that I normally double up the recipe and freeze some for later. My frozen peppers come in 16 oz packets, and I’d rather not have 1/2 tin of tomatoes left in the fridge afterwards. Its flavor is remarkably ‘fresh’ despite the tinned ingredients. Even the jalapeño is tinned, which I buy ready roasted and chopped in small cans from the supermarket. I guess for hardened Mexican food eaters, this is a reasonable quantity to use up in a short amount of time. We, however, only eat small amounts, so whenever I open a tin, I tip the rest into a small freezer bag, and freeze (flattened out so it’s easy to break off small pieces) for later use.

Ranchero sauce before blending.

We love this sauce for breakfast over refried beans. It’s also an interesting addition to layered bakes such as Potato Layer Bakes, Mexican Lasagnas, Eggplant Layer Bakes, and it makes an excellent alternative for marinara sauce as a pizza topping.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups; 3-4 servings

1 tbsp oil or margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1/2 cup onion (~1/4 of a large onion), diced
2-3 cups (8 oz) mixed sliced peppers (frozen is O.K.)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 1 jalapeño chili, seeds removed and flesh minced
1 tsp dried oregano, or equivalent of fresh
14 oz (1/2 large tin) chopped tinned tomatoes, with juices
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsps of sugar if necessary to counteract acidic tomatoes

Ranchero sauce after blending. Note that the sauce isn’t smooth. I like my sauce slightly lumpy, but if you want yours smooth, go ahead and blend for a few more seconds.

Melt the margarine in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat, and gently cook the onion, peppers, garlic, and chili for about 10 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for a further 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Either transfer the sauce to a full size food processor or use a stick blender, and pulse to reduce all lumps to no bigger than a pea, but do not puree.
Return to the pan (if you used a processor) and simmer until the sauce has thickened (~5 minutes).
Check seasoning, and serve hot.