Penne with the Ultimate Vegetable Sauce

Our girls have all inherited my Italian heritage, and would happily eat pasta most days of the week.  This chunky vegetable sauce is one of their favourites, but for fussier eaters you could blend the sauce down to make it smooth.  Make double (or more) quantities of the sauce at a time and pop portion size bags in the freezer, for when time is short or you need a good healthy comfort food boost.  Plenty of portions of your 5 a day too!

We often add other veggies, such as broccoli, asparagus or broad beans to this dish, just cook separately and stir through at the end.  A few handfuls of frozen peas often make their way in with the olives too.  If you have leftovers, re-heat on the stove the next day, eat cold, or grate cheese over and bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes.

Penne with the Ultimate Vegetable Sauce

Serves 4


2 red onions, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 courgettes, halved lengthways and sliced
10-12 sun-dried tomatoes (dry ones preferably, such as Merchant Gourmet - Lidl's are very good), chopped
2 good handfuls of pitted green olives
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml passata
1 tsp sugar
400g penne pasta
fresh basil to serve


1. Using 2-3 tbspn olive oil, or the oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, fry the onion, carrots and celery until soft and the onion is translucent.  Add the courgette after 5 minutes cooking time.

2. Stir the dried herbs through, then add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives.  Season well.

3. Stir the chopped tomatoes, passata, tomato puree and sugar through the vegetable mix, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.  (The sugar helps bring out the flavour of the tomatoes.)

4. Check the flavour five minutes into cooking, and add more herbs or salt/pepper as required.

5. Cook the penne according to packet instructions, drain, then add to the sauce.

6. Serve with a sprinkle of torn basil leaves, and a grating of Parmesan, if desired.

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