Loaded with vegetables and the perfect seasoning blend, this Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is a delicious way to sneak in a few servings of veggies! The sauce requires little effort (just roast then blend) and can be batched and frozen to use on those days that you just don’t know what to make. This veggie pasta sauce is also the ideal use for any vegetables that are on their way out, wilted, or getting wrinkly – we love recipes that help with food waste around here!
When the height of the summer hits, the garden vegetables just keep coming. And when you’ve canned, frozen, and eaten what feels like about as many Tomato Cucumber Salads as you can – then what? Then it’s hidden veggie pasta time, that’s what!
To come up with this recipe, I used some food scientist skills to think about how I could make the vegetables work smarter, not harder. Roasting was the answer!
Pasta sauces often include a small amount of sugar, but cooking the vegetables means you don’t need any extra sugar. Rather, roasting vegetables brings out the natural sweetness and makes any wrinkled skins obsolete. And for my other tricks, you’ll have to keep reading to find out what else I did to hide the veggies in this sauce!
Why you’ll love it
- A hands-off recipe, meaning you just have to get the vegetables on a pan and then everything gets blended up.
- Uses up produce that’s on its last leg and stuck in the back of the fridge or pantry.
- Can be batched and frozen. You can double or triple this recipe, depending on how many vegetables you have, freeze it, and then thaw it on a rainy day.
Ingredients for Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
Really good pasta sauce has a great depth of flavor. And by that I mean, layers of flavor (like an onion – any Shrek fans? No?). To get these layers, we need a variety of vegetables and a good spice mix. The beauty of this is that you can use pretty much any vegetables you have on hand!
- Tomatoes: Most good pasta sauces need tomatoes. I prefer to use Roma tomatoes that are medium in size and sweeter in flavor. But, you can use pretty much any kind of tomato.
- Button Mushrooms: These mushrooms are the most commonly available at the store and have the most mild flavor. Mushrooms add earthiness and are the trick to developing the base of the flavor layering thanks to their savory umami notes.
- Red Bell Pepper: Red bell peppers are the sweetest of bell peppers which helps the sauce bloom in flavor. Another pepper will work but the final color may be less than appealing.
- Red Onion: This adds tang and a little more sweetness but you can use white or yellow onion too!
- Zucchini: Zucchini is super mild but loads of vitamins and fiber to the sauce. It’s also usually the garden vegetable that is most abundant.
- Garlic: Roasting the whole garlic bulb keeps it super simple! You can use as much or as little of the roasted garlic as you like.
- Olive Oil: A little goes a long way! This is just to help those vegetables roast and not dry out.
- Seasoning: I’m using the McCormick Flavor Maker Pasta Topping Seasoning, which already has salt, pepper, and flavors so you don’t need anything else!
- Feta Cheese: Feta helps the sauce become creamy and adds salt. We love ingredients that are workhorses! If you don’t have feta, you may be able to find an appropriate substitute in our post on substitutes for feta cheese.
- Heavy Cream: When you are not simmering a pasta sauce for hours to develop flavor, cream comes in handy. It helps the sauce come together and provides that final layer of flavor.
In the spirit of reducing food waste
As I mentioned this sauce is perfect for using up vegetables. This also means you can customize the sauce to what vegetables you need to use up. Have cucumbers and butternut squash? Use those. Have shallots and celery? Use those! Not sure if a veggie will work? Drop a comment below – I personally respond to comments every day!
How to make Veggie Pasta Sauce
To make this sauce you need a roasting pan, a blender, and a few minutes. I will say, you can roast the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet, but I’ve found that roasting directly on the pan develops a better flavor. Either way will result in a tasty sauce!
- Prepare the vegetables by dicing, chopping, and tossing in oil and seasoning.
- Roast everything until tender.
- Make the pasta while the vegetables cook, reserve that pasta water!
- Blend all the vegetables with the feta, cream, and some of the pasta water.
- Combine the smooth sauce with the pasta!
Why add pasta water?
Adding a splash of the pasta water – which is full of starches from the pasta – into the sauce will help make the sauce stick to the noodles better!
To store leftover pasta sauce, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If storing in the freezer, I recommend putting it into a plastic bag, laying that flat on a plate or tray, and freezing it. Once frozen, label with the name and date transfer to wherever. Freezing it flat just makes it much easier to store.
Why this Recipe Works
This recipe is almost foolproof but in case you weren’t sure, here are a few more reasons why this recipe works so well!
- Customizable with whatever vegetables you have on hand. Just keep in mind the color will change but the flavor will be delicious!
- Roasted vegetables bring all the flavor and some! The heat helps enhance their natural sweetness so you get more flavor with less work and fewer ingredients.
- Versatile because it can be paired with gluten-free pasta, normal pasta, with ravioli, enjoyed as soup, the possibilities are endless!
This is the blender I use and adore!
Can I adjust the texture of this sauce?
Yes, everyone likes their pasta sauce a little differently. Start with a small amount of pasta water to see how you like the consistency and then slowly add little by little until you reach the desired thickness.
Can I scale this recipe up or down, depending on what I have?
Certainly! Just use the slider bar in the recipe card to make as much or as little as you want.
Can this be made on the stovetop?
Yes, but you won’t get the same depth of flavor that roasting provides. And, you would need to dice everything very small to cook evenly.
how to serve pasta sauce with hidden veggies
While the typical serving is pasta and clearly (see photos) I enjoy that! But, here are a few other unique ways to use pasta sauce.
- As a pizza sauce substitute for my Easy Naan Pizza!
- Layered into this Easy Vegetarian Baked Ziti Recipe
- As a dip for this Flavor-Packed Vegan Garlic Bread!
- 4 tomatoes
- 8 oz button mushrooms sliced, 226 g
- 1 red bell pepper cut into chunks
- 1 red onion cut into chunks
- 1 zucchini cut into chunks
- 1 head garlic
- 2 to 4 Tbsp olive oil 30 to 60 mL
- 2 tsp McCormick® Flavor Maker Pasta Topping Seasoning
- 8 oz feta cheese 226 g
- ½ cup heavy cream 120 mL
- ¼ to ½ cup pasta water reserved water from your pot of pasta, 60 to 120 mL
- To serve: your pasta of choice
- Prep: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Chop all veggies as directed in the ingredients section. Trim the top off the head of garlic to expose the top of each clove. Toss veggies onto a large baking sheet then drizzle with oil and sprinkle with the seasoning, tossing to evenly coat. Pour oil over garlic so that it seeps into the cloves.
- Roast: Transfer baking sheet to the oven and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until veggies are tender and a bit charred (if garlic doesn't start to turn golden brown after about 20 minutes, wrap the head of garlic in foil and return it to the oven).
- Pasta: When veggies are almost finished cooking, prepare your desired pasta. When finished, reserve some of the pasta water.
- Blend: Transfer roasted veggies to a blender. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out and add them in (you can add as many or few as you want). Add feta cheese, cream, and ¼ cup of the pasta water. Blend until smooth, adding more pasta water as needed to reach your desired consistency. Mix into pasta and serve warm.