We eat a lot of tomato sauce in our family – Spaghetti is Laura’s all time favourite meal and Lasagna is probably number 2. Spaghetti used to be the best thing to make because you simply sautée some meat and veggies, add a can of sauce and off you go!
Now that we are eating a real food and reduced sodium diet, we have gotten into the habit of reading the nutritional information on all pre-prepared food. Yikes!! Store-bought tomato sauce has a MINIMUM of 500mg of sodium for 1/4 cup of sauce. Don’t be taken in by the promise of vegetable servings in these pre-made sauces. Yes, you will get your vegetable servings but you’ll also get so much junk!
Here is my solution to this problem:
Note: I have used fresh tomatoes and canned no-salt added diced tomatoes and they both turn out very similar.
Heavy bottomed pot OR slow cooker
Immersion blender OR food Processor OR blender (the Immersion blender is SOO much easier than the other options and they can be purchased for as little as $30).
Serving size : approximately 2 quarts of sauce 🙂
2 cans of no-salt added diced tomatoes OR 1 quart of cooked tomatoes*
2 yellow onions – diced
2 medium sized carrots – peeled and grated (Necessary – without them you will have very acidic, tomato…ey… sauce)
2 red bell peppers – diced
2 cups mushrooms – sliced (optional)
3 cups fresh packed spinach (optional)
1 TSP minced garlic
1 TBS fresh or freeze-dried oregano
1/2 TBS fresh or freeze-dried Basil
1/2 TBS fresh or freeze-dried Thyme
1/2 TSP Sea Salt (Sea salt contains less sodium than regular table salt and tends to have more flavour)
1/2 TBS Cavender’s No Salt Greek Seasoning (this is SUPER NECESSARY! Go buy some – it’s amazing)
1 TSP MS Dash Original no-salt Seasoning (optional but adds a bit more flavour)
1/2 TSP Red Chilli Flakes (optional)
(I use my slow cooker so that I don’t have to babysit the sauce. If you want to cook it over the stove just be sure to use a really heavy-bottomed pot so you’re not stuck stirring all day)
- Sweat onions, peppers and garlic in a frying pan.
- In your crockpot (or saucepan), add tomatoes, sweated veggies, and spices.
- Set slow cooker to high and let cook for 3-4 hours.
- Blend ingredients with immersion blender. If using a regular blender or food processor you will have to cool the sauce mixture first.
- Add mushrooms and chopped, packed fresh spinach to pureed sauce if desired.
- Cook for another hour or more.
- Adjust spice quantities according to taste. I end up adding an extra 1/4 tsp of salt occasionally
- I usually add ground meat to the sauce to make spaghetti or lasagna. Lean ground pork tends to have more flavour than lean ground beef. When using pork I add crushed fennel seed to add a sausage flavour. I always brown the meat in a frying pan with Worcestershire and salt (about an 1/8th of a tsp) and pepper.
The Sodium content of this sauce is 780mg for the entire pot if using 1/2 tsp of salt and 1160mg if using 3/4 tsp of salt as per your tastes. This ends up being between 150-300mg of sodium per serving as opposed to the 500-700mg of sodium in store-bought stuff.
*How to cook down your tomatoes:
You can’t really use your slow-cooker for this process as the liquid will not cook off enough due to the lower heat of the slow cooker.
I usually do all my tomatoes at once and can them halved for later use 🙂
- Clean and halve tomatoes and toss them in a large stock-pot
- Add roughly chopped onions, shredded carrot, and minced garlic (you won’t have to add them separately later in the recipe.
- Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and let boil for 2 hours covered
- Uncover and let boil another 3-5 hours (this is going to depend on the moisture content in your tomatoes – boil until there is very little liquid left) stirring occasionally
- Can tomatoes in quart or pint sized jars by adding 1 TBS of lemon juice and leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Be sure to sterilize your jars and lids and then process the filled jars in the pressure cooker or boiling water bath for 15 minutes.