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Transform Your Sauces with Vegetables at the Core

Last Updated: June 25, 2024

Imagine a salad with no dressing or a stir-fry with no teriyaki. A good sauce ties a meal together, by enhancing the flavor, adding moisture, and scoring points for presentation. Without it, the food might end up being bland and uninspiring.

Yet, due to the convenience and wide variety, it is hard not to rely on store-bought sauces. But a reliance on these means we have no control over the type of ingredients used, which could be a wasted opportunity. As sauce has the potential to be both nutrient-dense and delicious, one way to achieve this is by incorporating vegetables.

Long gone are the days of serving boiled vegetables at dinner time. Instead, blend them into a silky-smooth sauce that not even the fussiest eater will pick up on. I will provide a snapshot of the best vegetable-based sauces you can enjoy mixed through pasta, served over rice and enjoyed as a dip.

Key Takeaways

  • Sauce is essential: a good sauce is indispensable without them we miss out on amazing flavour, moisture and visual appeal.
  • Vegetables at the core: pack in the nutrients by making vegetables the foundational element in your sauces
  • Featured recipes: Red pepper sauce perfect for pasta, butternut squash sauce to be served over rice and zucchini sauce as a dip.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

This sauce is a take on the Spanish sauce romesco, with the omission of roasted tomatoes to highlight the sweetness of the peppers. It works perfectly as a pasta sauce, just mix with a dash of pasta water and combine with the pasta of your choice. Time to use that pepper for something other than a stir-fry! 

Ingredients

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Generous glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup almonds (whole or flaked)

Instructions

  • Step 1 Heat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 C) and lay your red peppers on a tray, baking for   20 minutes or until the skin has patches of black
  • Step 2 Set the peppers aside in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap until cool enough to peel off all the skin and deseed
  • Step 3 In the meantime, toast the almonds over a low heat for 4-5 minutes. Peel your garlic and prepare the other ingredients for blending
  • Step 4 Combine the peeled red peppers with the rest of the ingredients and blend until you are left with a creamy and smooth sauce (if you want a glossier finish, add extra oil)
  • Step 5 Taste your sauce and adjust seasoning if needed

TIP: Add silken tofu to the sauce if you are looking to increase the protein content and want a creamier finish. 

Creamy Butternut Squash Sauce

The tough exterior of a squash may discourage you from picking it off the shelf, as the thought of chopping it seems like more effort than it is worth. But when roasted, the sweetness of the squash has the potential to create the base of a creamy, flavorful curry sauce. Enjoy with optional extra veggies, the protein of your choice and rice.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Thumb size amount of fresh ginger (if powdered 1 tsp) 
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • Oil for frying and roasted
  • Seasoning 

Instructions

  • Step 1 Heat the oven to 400°F (200 C), place diced squash in a roasting tin, and combine well with oil and salt. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes
  • Step 2 Heat oil in a pan and fry the sliced onion with a pinch of salt until translucentAdd finely chopped ginger, curry powder, and chopped garlic with the onions with more oil so the mixture isn’t dry from the powder. Fry for 5 minutes
  • Step 3 When the squash is soft, combine with the onion mixture and add to the blender with coconut milk. Blend until smooth
  • Step 4 Adjust flavor for seasoning if needed

TIP: Instead of blending with coconut milk, combine with garlic, cream and vegan cheese of your choice to replace the classic bechamel in your favourite meat free lasanga.

Smoky Zucchini Sauce

You may have heard of babaganoush, a well-known Mediterranean eggplant dip, but did you know you can swap out the eggplant for zucchini to make an equally delicious dip? Serve with bread or veggies as a snack or starter.

Ingredients

  • 2/ 3 zucchini (depending on size)
  • 3 tbsp Tahini
  •  Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  • Chilli flakes (optional)

Instructions

  • Step 1 Heat the oven to 400°F (200 C) and place zucchini whole in a roasting tin rubbed in olive oil and salt. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft
  • Step 2 Add all the ingredients apart from the zucchini in a blender, slowly add small amounts of water until you have a thick paste (you do not want to add too much as the zucchini has a high-water content)
  • Step 3 When zucchini is fully cooked and softened, blitz it slightly in a blender so it is still chunky (if you want a smoother finish, combine all ingredients in the blender instead)
  • Step 4 Mix the tahini mixture with the zucchini and adjust for seasoning

TIP: If blended until smooth this would also make an excellent pasta sauce.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A sauce has the power to be packed full of nutrients and free from additives and preservatives. The most exciting thing is that these recipes are just the beginning of the combinations you can create at home. Vegetables like cauliflower, beetroot, and so many others make delicious sauces. It is time to start experimenting with the vegetables you would otherwise avoid!

About the author, Em

editor

Hey, Im Emma a previous chef with a masters degree in public health and nutrition. I am a lover of good food with an emphasis on quality ingredients, I hope that my work inspires others to cook more and experiment with new flavours and ingredients.

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