As soon as I feel and smell that first crisp day of fall, it hits me – the “nesting” instinct. I don my colorful apron, wield an over-sized wooden spoon and brew large pots of hearty soups and sauces that launch me into comfort food overdrive.
Even in sunny California, one can feel fall in the air and although I cook year – round, autumn has a way of transforming me into a vegan (and Italian) Martha Stewart. My go-to meal often contains pasta in one form or another so be prepared for a semolina storm coming your way in my next few weeks’ worth of recipes.
Some people are surprised when they learn that many pastas are vegan. Most of the dry pasta you find on the supermarket shelf – with the exception of egg noodles – are vegan, made primarily with semolina flour and water. The pasta in the dairy section, laden with fat and cholesterol, is the one to avoid.
If you’re over 40, you might have a deep-seated fear of pasta – or any carb. But when you consider the fact that in a vegan diet, you are giving up the calories, fat, and cholesterol that come with meat and dairy, it becomes clear that a vegan diet is primarily carbohydrates – which, by the way, our body needs for energy. Having said that, most of our carbs after 40 should come from fruits and veggies but don’t eliminate pasta altogether. Simply have a smaller serving and load up with a side of spinach, broccoli or other non-starchy veggie.
Finally, marinara sauce is like penicillin to me. When I’m feeling under the weather, I crave it. Probably because the Vitamin C and lycopene do wonders for the immune system. You can always buy a jar of quality marinara – my favorite is Classico brand Tomato and Basil. But, you might be surprised how easy it is to create your own.
This basic marinara is delicious as is, or you can use it like a blank canvas and build on it. Some people like to add oregano – I never do because I think it makes the sauce taste like a pizza sauce rather than a spaghetti sauce, but it’s your call. And, you can use this same recipe for pizza – just add dried oregano and use it to top a store-bought or homemade pizza crust.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 1 T. olive oil
- ¾ c. chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 t. dried basil
- 1 t. salt
- 5-10 grinds of fresh black pepper
- 1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
- 1 t. agave nectar or maple syrup (optional)
- ½ c. fresh basil, cut into ribbons
- 16 oz. dried pasta – any style – check the label to make sure it does not contain dairy
- Heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about five minutes. Lower heat and add garlic, being sure not to burn the garlic as it will cause bitterness. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and increase temperature again until simmering. Keep simmering for 15-20 minutes. Sauce will reduce slightly. Some people find the tomatoes to be bitter. My grandmother used to add a shredded carrot to add sweetness and reduce the bitterness. This is a great option – you can also add a touch of agave nectar if you like a sweeter sauce.
- The sauce will be thick and chunky. You can leave it this way, or if you prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender or regular blender to pulse the sauce until it is the desired thickness.
- Cook pasta according to package directions – add some salt to the water once it is boiling. Drain pasta (do not rinse with water – you want the starchiness of the pasta to help the sauce “stick” to it). Top with pasta sauce and mix. Add fresh basil ribbons on top and serve immediately.
Hope you enjoy this Italian classic – let us know if you create any variations.