This home-made pasta sauce is not challenging to throw together. It is plant-based, oil free, and vegan. Because I use canned tomatoes and (mostly) dried herbs, it’s a snap to assemble the ingredients, simmer for a bit and just like that, you have homemade pasta sauce you can be proud of.
Hey, I’m all for taking a short-cut or two with some food items – and pasta sauce would be one of those short-cuts I often take! I always keep a few jars of store-bought pasta sauce on in the cupboard. But sometimes you just need the aesthetics of making your food from scratch. It can also be a challenge when trying to eat a whole-food plant-based diet to find a pasta sauce that is oil free and sugar free. Making your own can solve this challenge.
The first step in making this oil-free pasta sauce is to sauté your onions and garlic using a little vegetable broth. You don’t, I repeat: you do not need the oil to sauté vegetables. It helps to start with a non-stick pan. In this picture you can see that I’m not using a non-stick pan; but that just means I need to closely attend to the pan so that my vegetables don’t stick. I start with 1/2 cup vegetable broth but watch the pan carefully and add a little extra if needed.
Another trick I have is to used garlic that is already minced and comes in a jar. Really, I do. I’ve tried it both ways – fresh and jarred – and my palate cannot tell the difference. Using bottled garlic saves me the trouble of peeling, chopping, and dealing with stinky hands. If using fresh garlic appeals to you, then more power!
After the onions have sufficiently softened, I just add the other ingredients, including a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and canned tomato paste, some seasonings, cover and simmer for about an hour.
This recipe uses dried herbs except for the basil. Taste aside, using chunks of fresh basil in your sauce really shows that it is homemade and adds to the aesthetics.
When I use fresh, I like to use “living herbs”. They make me feel (almost) as if I grew them myself. Yes, I’ve tried…and failed.
Another trick is using tahini paste. Tahini does have fat in it but not added processed oils (check your label to make sure). The only reason we need to cook with oil is for a full “mouth-feel”. Using tahini still gives us the mouth-feel but doesn’t add processed oil. As an added bonus, tahini also lends a full robust taste to our sauce.
Jarred pasta sauce usually has added sugars (at least the ones that taste good). When you make your own pasta sauce, you still need to add a little sweet. Adding sugar cuts down on the acidic taste you often get with a tomato sauce. Do read the label of the canned tomatoes you use though and make sure they don’t already have added sugar in them. If they do, then skip this step or you’ll get an overly sweet ketchup-y tasting sauce. If you want a truly plant-based sauce then don’t add sugar but make a date paste.
Use Medjool dates. Remove the seeds and soak in hot water for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how fresh they are.) Put in a food processor and pulse until you have a paste. You might need to scrape the sides and re-direct the dates to the blade.
Using four dates will yield almost 1/4 cup of date paste. That’s perfect for this recipe.
Pasta Sauce - Homemade (Plant-Based)
- 4 Medjool dates de-seeded and soaked
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth or use more as needed
- 2 onions diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes with no added sugars or oils
- 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons tahini paste
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce low sodium
- 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- Take the seeds out of the dates and put into very hot water. Let sit for about 20 minutes. They should be softened and almost falling apart at the end of this time. If you started with drier dates then you will need a little extra time.
- (You can begin sautéing your onions and garlic and chopping the fresh basil while the dates are soaking . Directions for this will be in a step below.)
- After dates have soaked and are softened, put into a food processor till they form a smooth paste. If you don't have a food processor then you could use a high-speed blender along with a little water. You will need to cook the extra water out of your sauce for a few minutes with the lid off. Your yield from the dates alone will be a scant 1/4 cup.
- Chop the onions, garlic and fresh basil. I use pre-chopped bottled garlic to save time.
- Line a non-stick medium sized sauce pan with vegetable broth. Add your chopped onions and garlic and sauté for 7-10 minutes. Watch your pan carefully and add a little more vegetable broth if necessary to keep from sticking.
- Once the onions have softened, add the other ingredients. Cover and let simmer for about an hour to nicely blend the flavors together. Make sure to fetch out the bay leaf!
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.