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.

Alfredo Sauce

Being gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian tends to make it difficult to eat when going on vacation. When we headed off to Florida at the end of May, we stayed in a condo, so I could cook if necessary. One of the dishes I went prepared to make was this cashew based pasta sauce, because it’s fast, easy to make, and requires little in the way of fancy kitchen equipment. I took a few supplies which could have been tricky to get hold of (including nutritional yeast), and was delighted to find that the condo was equipped with a cheap blender which had probably only previously been used for making margaritas …. except that it didn’t work, and it took housekeeping nearly an hour to get a replacement, so the cashews got to soak for quite a while before I blended them. You won’t need to wait for so long, but if you have the time to soak the cashews, it certainly wouldn’t hurt!

This recipe is an adaptation of one from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese. The recipes in this book look gorgeous, but I’ve only managed to execute one of them so far, as most of the others require an ingredient called rejuvelac, which I’ve attempted to make 4 times, but not been confident enough about the outcome to use. I’m not giving up, though; I’m just starting.

Anyway, the adaptations I made to this recipe were because a) I don’t have a high speed blender, so I have to be more careful about how I tackle blending sauces, and b) as a relative newcomer to nutritional yeast, I tend to need to moderate recipes developed for/by seasoned vegans. Nutritional yeast is an acquired taste. It’s quite delightfully addictive after a while, but I haven’t yet got to the stage where I want to use 1 tbsp per serving in a recipe. I fed this alfredo sauce to some of our omnivorous friends yesterday, and they liked it too.

Be sure to use fresh garlic. If your garlic is starting to stink, it will be really obvious here.

As a last aside: make sure that you like the wine you use for this. If you wouldn’t drink it for pleasure (or at least find it acceptable), then you probably won’t eat it for pleasure either! I know this from experience!

Cashew Alfredo

Pasta with alfredo sauce, served with Lima Bean Salad

Alfredo Sauce

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup dry or medium dry white wine (or water plus 1/4 tsp salt)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
4 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp salt
shake of black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender with 1 cup of water.

Optionally, allow to soak for 1/2 an hour before continuing.

Blend until the mixture starts to thicken. Keep blending, and gradually add another 2 cups of water as the mixture continues to thicken, adjusting to keep it thick, but not so thick that the blender can’t do its job. Continue until all the water has been added, and the sauce is smooth.

Scrape the sauce into a saucepan, and gradually bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and creamy. Check seasoning.

This sauce is sufficient for about 1 lb of dry GF pasta, cooked, and serves 4-6.

Variation: Thickly slice 1lb of mushrooms, and fry in 2 tsps oil or margarine, sprinkled with 1/4 tsp salt until brown. Either stir into the sauce before serving, or pile on top.

I’ve also enjoyed pasta with alfredo sauce on a bed of lightly steamed (~ 2 minutes and then well drained) chard. About 1 – 1 1/2lbs of fresh chard would work for this amount of sauce and pasta.

alfredo sauce


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.

Rich Mushroom and Black Olive Sauce

I originally designed this rich, thick, mushroom sauce to be wrapped in a British style pancake (or a French galette), much like a weird burrito (and eaten with knife and fork), but we’ve since found that it is also an excellent topping for baked potatoes or chunky pasta.

This dish contains a chickpea miso which I think is marvelous. Miso is a diversely flavored ingredient. Some misos are very strongly flavored, some are salty, and some (like my favorite chickpea miso from South River) are mellow with a wine-y richness that I generally associate with cheese. I should tell you that I buy mine at the local health food store, as the shipping costs from buying it on line can be prohibitive. Obviously, the miso that you choose will have a major effect on the final flavor of the sauce.

4 oz (1 scant cup) raw cashews
1 tbsp margarine
1 lb mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 tsp salt (for the mushrooms)
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1 tbsp light chickpea miso
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt (for the sauce)
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of pepper/ cayenne pepper

Put the cashews and 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) of water into a blender, and process until the cashews have all been chopped. Put the mixture aside to allow the cashews to soak (for at least 1/2 hour, if possible).

In a large frying pan, melt the margarine, add the mushrooms, and sprinkle them with the 1/2 tsp of salt to draw out the juices. Fry the mushrooms over medium high heat until just softened (you might need to do this in 2 batches).

Add the black olives to the mushrooms in the frying pan.

Add the remaining ingredients to the cashews in the blender, and blend again to get a smooth, thick, sauce.

Stir the sauce into the mushrooms with another 4 – 8 fl oz (1/2 – 1 cups) of water. Bring the lot to a simmer to thicken the sauce, and serve.

Sufficient for 4 people when served with 12 oz of dried pasta, cooked.