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.


Bolognese Sauce (Vegan)

Vegan Bolognese

Vegan Bolognese with a gluten free (quinoa and brown rice) pasta.

I’ve been ‘playing’ with a pecan and mushroom pate recently (along with a vegan version of teff bread), and it temporarily morphed into this pasta sauce.

Pecan Bolognese

Paler version using more coarsely ground nuts.

It’s one of those recipes where you more or less throw everything together, and then let it do its thing while you potter around doing yours. The mixture is rich from the nuts, with a deeply savory flavor that I normally associate with meat dishes. If you grind the nuts fairly finely, then the color is also a rich dark brown. This totally threw me when it first happened, as the previous versions had been significantly paler. Note that, if anything, this tastes better the next day. The nuts soften even further, and the flavors marry. It even got the thumbs up from my husband!

1 tbsp garlic oil (or olive oil and 1 clove garlic)
1/2 large red/yellow pepper (~3 oz flesh), sliced/diced
3 medium mushrooms, cut into 1/2″ dice
4 oz pecans/walnuts, coarsely ground
1 cup diced tomatoes (including any juice, tinned OK)
4 spring onions, thickly sliced
2 tbsp coarsely minced sun dried tomatoes
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Braggs Aminos or gluten free soy sauce
8 fl. oz (1 cup) water
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the pepper and mushrooms until they have both completely softened.

Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, until the nuts have softened, and the tomato chunks have disintegrated to form a sauce thick enough to coat pasta (30-40 minutes). If necessary, uncover and simmer to thicken sauce to your liking.

Check seasoning, and serve under mashed potatoes, in a GF pastry crust, or with GF pasta with parmesano sprinkles, if desired.

Creamy Zucchini and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I made this sauce one evening when I wanted to make Rich Mushroom and Black Olive Sauce, but only had 1/2 the mushrooms I wanted and a child who, for stuffed jacket potatosome unfathomable reason, had decided that she didn’t like mushrooms! It has the advantage that it is more colorful than the original, but apart from that is similarly easy to knock together, and it has my husband’s seal of approval!

I have served it up on pasta, and as a stuffing for baked potatoes. It’s also good in the baked tofu shells that I recently figured out as Halloween fare ….. but this sauce is a little too bright and jolly to be served up on that holiday occasion.

These quantities are good for 8 oz of dried pasta (cooked) and 3 – 4 people.

4 oz (1 scant cup) raw cashews
1 tbsp margarine
4 zucchini (courgettes), quartered lengthways then sliced
4 large roasted red peppers, deseeded and cut into 1″ squares
3/4 cup (~40) black olives
1 tbsp light chickpea miso
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (for the sauce)
1/8 tsp black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Put the cashews into a blender with 1 cup (8 fl oz) water, and leave to soak, briefly.

Heat the fat in a large frying pan over a medium/high heat, then fry the sliced zucchini (courgettes), stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown.

Add the roasted red peppers and black olives, and allow these to warm through over a low heat.

Add the remaining sauce ingredients (miso, lemon juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg) to the cashews, and blend the sauce until completely smooth.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables, then use an additional 1 cup (8 fl oz) of water to rinse the blender out onto the vegetables.

Turn up the heat, and stir frequently until the mixture thickens.

Check for seasoning, and serve hot with pasta (this is sufficient for 8oz dry pasta, cooked), baked potato or baked tofu shell.

(Nearly) Instant Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta Sauce


Rich Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Sauce with GF Pasta

This pasta sauce is rich with a very pronounced taste of tomatoes. It’s one of those instantly ready ones that can be made in advance, but is still good enough for entertaining, along with a light, green salad of some description.

1/2 cup raw cashews
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup fresh or chopped tinned tomatoes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 large fresh basil leaves
extra basil and diced tomato for garnish

Blend everything together with 6 fl oz (3/4 cup) water until completely smooth.
Stir into cooked pasta. This amount is sufficient for 1 lb of dry GF pasta.

Gruyere Style Cheese Spread (and Pasta Sauce)

I had a flurry of enthusiasm for making faux cheese last week. My girls had reminded me that they liked the faux cheddar that I sometimes make (and not often enough, allegedly), and I’ve had a draft recipe for an appetizer requiring feta for about a year now, just waiting for me to figure the recipe for the feta before I post it. I’ve just about developed something that I like, but in the meantime, I had a go at something to replace Gruyere.

Pasta with Marinated Artichokes and Gruyere Sauce

A rich and delectable dish for entertaining. Pasta with marinated artichokes and rich ‘gruyere’ sauce (skip the cooking stage for the cheese).

The initial batch I made was with all water (too bland), so the second batch was made with all wine (too strongly flavored), but the next batch made with 1/2 water and 1/2 wine was great. I didn’t get as far as adjusting the texture to firm it up, as I couldn’t think of a use that I’d have for Gruyere where a spread wouldn’t work (and some where soft was preferable).

Gruyere cheez spread

GF baguette loaded up with vegan Gruyere cheese spread, cooked until thickened to a paste.

Like Gruyere, this is a moderately strong tasting cheese, and the initial flavor is very similar to the dairy variety. The aftertaste, however, has a bit of a tang due to the wine that isn’t present in regular Gruyere, but that can be driven off, to a certain extent, by cooking it. As an erstwhile lover of cheese fondue, I have to admit to liking the tang, and I’m not in a hurry to get rid of it!

Daughter #2 consumed quite a quantity of this stuff on crackers, so it’s been put through its paces! Personally, I like it on pasta. About 1 tbsp of cheese per ounce of dried pasta, stirred into the drained, cooked pasta for an almost instant supper. If you figure on any other ways to use this, do let me know.

8 oz (2 scant cups) blanched almonds
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a chardonnay)
1 tbsp dark colored miso (I used Sweet Tasting Brown Rice Miso)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) melted coconut oil

Put the almonds and dry white wine in a blender, along with 1/2 cup (4 fl oz) water, and leave to soak for at least a couple of hours.
Add remaining ingredients, and blend until completely smooth. This might take a couple of minutes or so, and if your blender can’t handle such a dry mixture, add a tablespoon or two of water, which you can then cook off.


Texture of cooked cheese.

If your mixture is a bit thin, scrape it into a small saucepan, and heat, stirring frequently until the mixture turns stiff like cream cheese.

Adjust flavoring if necessary.

Store, covered, in the refrigerator.


Pasta with Rich Tomato and Grilled Aubergine (Eggplant) Sauce

Pasta with aubergine sauceIf you have any love of aubergines (eggplant) at all, do try this. My husband loves aubergines, but the taste is easily lost in strong flavors. This tomato sauce is fairly simple, but it is pretty assertive. To help the aubergine hold its own in the sauce, I use plenty of it, and stir it into the tomatoes at the last minute before serving, so that the flavors remain distinct.

Serve hot with a light, chilled, Lambrusco.

Serves 4-6 with 12-16 oz GF pasta

1 large aubergine/eggplant
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 (28 oz) tin of diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 basil leaves
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes cured in oil, drained and chopped
2 tsp sugar (optional, for acidic tomatoes)
1 cup black olives, stoned and cut in half

Cut the aubergine into 1/4″ thick rounds, and cut any of those rounds which are too big for one mouthful into 1/2 or 1/4s.

Spread the slices out in a single layer on a couple of baking sheets.

Pour 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil into a cup, and use a pastry brush to brush the top side of the aubergine slices. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.

Grill for a couple of minutes under a high heat for about 2-3 minutes or until the slices are turning slightly brown.

Turn the slices over, and repeat.

Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a large saucepan, and gently fry the onion until translucent.

Aubergine and tomato sauceAdd the garlic to the onion, then the tinned and sun-dried tomatoes, and the olives. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and the tomato chunks have broken down.

Check seasoning, and add sugar if necessary.

Add the basil and aubergine, and warm through for 2 minutes. Serve with pasta and a chilled red Lambrusco.

Creamy Pesto Sauce (Dairy Free)

This creamy pesto sauce is remarkably rich for being vegan, and almost all the fat comes from the pinenuts (there’s no added oil, as there is in regular pesto). This is much better for my poor tummy that can’t cope with high fat pesto. It’s also very quick to make, so I start making mine after putting the pasta water on to boil. The first time I made this version of the sauce, I blended the basil along with the other ingredients, and although it tasted good, it was a very vivid green, surprising enough for Halloween! I think the little flecks of basil look good in the sauce, which is why I now add the basil after the other ingredients have been thoroughly blended.

As a last note: don’t try using the basil stems in this dish. I was just a little too pleased with my new Vitamix a few months ago, and tried making pesto using stems and all. It didn’t work. I couldn’t get the stems to blend up smoothly, and ended up throwing the whole lot on the compost heap. I was not a happy bunny!

Creamy Pesto

This amount of sauce generously coats 8 oz of dried GF pasta.

1 cup pinenuts
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp chickpea or other light miso (optional)
20 large to medium, fresh basil leaves (no stems)

If you’re using this sauce for pasta, put the pasta on to boil, first.

Blend all ingredients (except basil) together with 1 cup of water in a blender until completely smooth.

Add the basil leaves, and blend until the sauce is pale green with flecks of basil.

Transfer to a saucepan (with cooked, drained, pasta, if using), and heat (stirring frequently) until thickened (~1 minute, if tossing with hot pasta).

Variation: Dice 2 medium sized tomatoes, and stir them into the sauce when thickening it. The fresh tomatoes are a nice counterpoint to the rich sauce.