Vegetarian Pasta Sauce

5 from 1 vote
1 hour 45 minutes
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Craving that long-cooked red sauce flavor but short on time? This Vegetarian Pasta Sauce starts with jarred marinara sauce, then is made better with a few simple ingredients for a harmonious blend of convenience and freshness in every bite!

Veggie Pasta Sauce in white enamel cast iron skillet with serving spoon garnished with fresh basil.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

We don’t rely on jarred marinara sauce because I prefer to make my own. However, I like to keep a jar or two in the pantry for those nights when even a personal chef could use a helping hand.

Canned tomatoes vary greatly in taste and acidity, so I find nothing wrong with using your favorite jarred marinara as the base for a pasta sauce. Adding fresh herbs such as fresh basil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes for some heat takes this vegetable pasta sauce up a notch and freshens the flavor.

Inspired by my super popular ratatouille recipe, this indulgent Vegetarian Pasta Sauce’s lively color palette and hearty texture make it an ideal match for any pasta shape. Best of all, it’s super easy, and you can make it with things you may already have in your pantry!

Start the flavor party with good-quality jarred marinara, add fresh tomato taste with crushed tomatoes, a touch of red wine for depth, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, garlic, and fresh herbs.

Even though it’s now officially fall, many people are still harvesting stray veggies from their gardens. Zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, and eggplant are considered summery vegetables, but they’re available all year round, so you can make this vegetable pasta sauce any day of the year.

Whether you’re a dedicated vegetarian, a health-conscious foodie, or simply someone looking to add more vegetables to your diet, this Vegetarian Pasta Sauce delivers!

This vegetarian pasta sauce recipe is:

  • Easy!
  • Flavorful!
  • Versatile!
  • Make-ahead!
  • Freezer-friendly!
Veggie Pasta Sauce in white enamel cast iron skillet with serving spoon garnished with fresh basil.

How to Make a Vegetarian Pasta Sauce:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this Vegetarian Pasta Sauce recipe, along with how to prep the ingredients. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Prepped ingredients for Veggie Pasta Sauce in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Bell Peppers: I used a combination of red and yellow, but you can use any combination of sweet bell peppers. Avoid using green bell peppers if possible because of their bitter and “green” underripe flavor.
  • Zucchini and Yellow Squash: I used zucchini and yellow squash, but all zucchini and/or yellow squash will also work.
  • Eggplant: Large eggplant tends to take on a more bitter flavor, so use a small, young eggplant. It won’t require salting and draining, which takes additional time.
  • Red Onion: I like to use red onion in tomato sauce because they’re both mild and sweet.
  • Dry Red Wine: Use a good-quality wine you enjoy drinking. NON-ALCOHOL SUBSTITUTE: Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • Marinara Sauce: Use a high-quality marinara sauce such as Rao’s or Victoria’s. Using purchased marinara sauce in this vegetable pasta sauce recipe adds a long-cooked flavor without the long cooking time.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes are made by peeling and seeding whole tomatoes, then crushing them.  Tomato puree is usually added. Crushed tomatoes have a slightly chunkier texture than canned tomato sauce or purée, and their flavor is slightly more concentrated. Because of the consistency, they’re a good choice for pasta sauces. For this roasted vegetable pasta sauce recipe, they add a fresh tomato taste!

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil, spread onto a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until softened. Stir in garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
Cooked red onion in white enamel cast iron skillet.
  • Add dry red wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  • Add pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes for flavors to blend.
  • Stir in roasted vegetables, fresh basil, and parsley. Heat through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a pinch or two of sugar if necessary.
Veggie Pasta Sauce in white enamel cast iron skillet with serving spoon garnished with fresh basil.

Ways to Use a Vegetarian Pasta Sauce:

  • Over pasta or spaghetti squash.
  • Toss with pasta and cheese, then place in a baking dish. Bake when ready for a bubbling hot vegetable pasta bake!
  • Replace the meat sauce in this spaghetti pie.
  • As lasagna or spooned over cheese-stuffed pasta shells.
  • As the base for eggs in purgatory.
  • Flatbread pizza.
  • Serve over lightly breaded and fried chicken scallopini, similar to my Chicken Milanese.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • Bump up the flavor of this vegetable pasta sauce recipe even more by grilling the vegetables for a smoky edge.
  • Using a shallow pan such as the one shown here will speed up reducing the wine. Also, more water from the sauce will evaporate faster, producing a thicker sauce faster.
  • MEAT LOVERS:  This Vegetarian Pasta Sauce is just as good made with beef or a combination of beef and pork! 
Veggie Pasta Sauce in white enamel cast iron skillet with serving spoon garnished with fresh basil.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How far ahead can a roasted vegetable pasta sauce be made ahead?

This one can be made 2 to 3 days ahead of time. Cool completely, then refrigerate. Reheat on the stovetop in a heavy saucepan or in the microwave.

Can roasted vegetable pasta sauces be frozen?

This vegetable pasta sauce works perfectly for freezing. Cool completely, then place in an airtight container and freeze for 3 to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator in the microwave, then reheat on the stovetop in a heavy saucepan or in the microwave.

Veggie Pasta Sauce in white enamel cast iron skillet with serving spoon garnished with fresh basil.

Storage:

  • Store any vegetable pasta sauce leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer. Consume within 5 days.

Make it a meal with:

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Veggie Pasta Sauce in white enamel cast iron skillet with serving spoon garnished with fresh basil.

Vegetarian Pasta Sauce

5 from 1 vote

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
An array of garden-fresh vegetables is the focal point of this vibrant, healthy Vegetarian Pasta Sauce. It starts with jarred marinara sauce, then is made better with simple ingredients for a harmonious blend of convenience and freshness in every bite!
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Pizza and Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6
Calories 147 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large red bell pepper - cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper - cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini - cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow squash - cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 small eggplant - cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil - plus 2 tablespoons (or as needed)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small red onion - finely chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic - finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 jar (24-ounce) marinara sauce - good-quality, such as Rao's
  • 1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes - or to taste and tolerance
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil - thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley - plus more for garnish, if desired
  • Pinch of sugar - if needed

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Toss bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil, spread onto a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and lightly caramelized.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook for 5-6 minutes or until softened. Stir in garlic and cook for 15 seconds.
  • Add dry red wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  • Add pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes for flavors to blend.
  • Stir in roasted vegetables, fresh basil and parsley. Heat through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a pinch or two of sugar if necessary.

Notes

MEAT LOVERS:  This Vegetarian Pasta Sauce is just as good made with beef or a combination of beef and pork.
MAKE AHEAD:  This vegetarian pasta sauce can be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Cool completely, then refrigerate. Reheat on the stovetop in a heavy saucepan or the microwave.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  Cool completely, then place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 to 4 months. Thaw in the refrigerator in the microwave, then reheat on the stovetop in a heavy saucepan or the microwave.

Nutrition

Serving: 6 | Calories: 147kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 16mg | Potassium: 530mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1395IU | Vitamin C: 111mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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  1. i just wanted to thank you for the recipes you provide. also i wanted to let you know how much i appreciate the Print button and it only being 1 page! you make it very easy to copy and print……………judy