It can be difficult for most of us to get enough vegetables in to our diet, but it's even harder if you don't like vegetables at all. This slow cooker hidden vegetable pasta sauce has the vegetables all blended up in to it, so you won't even know there are there. 5 different vegetables, easy to adapt, vegan, and freezes well too.
When it comes to pasta sauces, I am a firm believer in low and slow. It allows all the flavours to really fuse together and putting it in the slow cooker means you don't have to keep a an eye on it like on the hob. Or have the sauce splattering up your cabinets.
You can have this vegetable pasta sauce bubbling away in your slow cooker and then when you get home all you have to do is put some pasta on and blend up the sauce to stir through. Simple comfort food that is packed full of vegetables.
Why you will love it
- Veggie packed - We have put 5 different vegetables into this pasta sauce, but you would never know as it is all blended up and hidden.
- Easy to adapt - Got other vegetables in your fridge that need using up? This is a great recipe to put them in and make sure that nothing goes to waste.
- Vegan - Although you can add some cheese on top of the vegetable pasta sauce if you want, the sauce itself is totally vegan.
- Freezes well - This vegetable pasta sauce freezes SO well, so make sure to make a big batch to keep in the freezer for quick and easy meals.
- Kids love it - My kids think they are having pasta with a plain tomato sauce, so they love it. I love knowing they are getting lots of vegetables.
- No added sugar like store bought pasta sauces - The best thing about homemade pasta sauces is that you can control exactly what goes in to them. No need to add any salt and you can add just a little pinch of salt if you want to, or just leave it out.
- Aubergine - You can use a large aubergine, or even a few baby aubergines. These do give the sauce a little bitterness, so leave them out if you don't like that.
- Bell pepper - We used a red and yellow bell pepper, but orange and green work well too.
- Courgettes - This vegetable pasta sauce is a great way to use up a glut of courgettes if you have them growing in your garden. Yellow or green courgettes work.
- Carrot - Although this is a root vegetable, the long cooking time will make them nice and soft and easy to blend.
- Leek - This makes a nice change from using onion, although you could swap it for onions or shallots if you prefer.
- Garlic - Save yourself some time by using a teaspoon of lazy garlic.
- Chopped tomatoes - try to use the best quality tinned tomatoes that you can find, as you will taste the difference. Cheap tinned tomatoes can be really watery, and you don't want that for the sauce.
- Balsamic vinegar - just like the tomatoes, a really good quality balsamic is important, as it will have more of an intense flavour.
- Vegetable stock - you can use chicken or mushroom stock instead.
- Dried herbs - we used dried oregano, however you could use a mixture of oregano, basil and thyme.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to cook Vegetable Pasta Sauce - Step by step
One: Put all of the ingredients in to a food processor using the chopping attachment and chop them up. You can chop by hand, but a food processor will save you time.
Two: Put all of the ingredients, including the chopped vegetables (except the pasta, rocket and parmesan), in your slow cooker bowl and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
Three: Leave the sauce to cool and then pour it in to food processor in small batches and blend the sauce until smooth, or leave chunks if you prefer.
Four: Mix half the sauce in to the cooked pasta and serve with rocket and shaved Parmesan (Put the other half of the sauce in a freezable container and put in the freezer).
Why hide vegetables in a sauce?
Whilst I am a firm believer in also serving vegetables whole (or chopped in the manageable sizes), instead of just blended, to continually expose more fussy eaters to foods they don't love, hidden vegetable dishes have so many benefits. Hidden vegetable pasta sauces like this can give a meal a really nutrition boost, if all the veggies on the side get picked around.
It's so important to still serve vegetables on the side, and encourage kids (or even fussy adults) to try new things. But, if you know they are going to avoid it, and you want them to have a nutritious meal, then sauces like this can save your sanity as a parent and avoid any food battles. For some parents, these kind of sauces are the only way to get vegetables in to kid's diets.
The best thing about this recipe (apart from how easy it is in the slow cooker) is that you can adapt it to suit your tastes, the season, or whatever you have in the fridge that needs using up.
We went with aubergine, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, courgette and leeks, but you could use some of them, none of them or all of them. Get creative and use different vegetables every time.
Other options when it comes to vegetables are:
- Green beans
- Butternut squash
Store: You can keep this hidden vegetable pasta sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days to use on various pasta dishes.
Freeze: This sauce freezes really well. Just make sure that it has totally cooled down first and then portion it out in to freezer bags and then you can lay them flat in the freezer to save space. They will keep for up to 3 months.
Defrost: Allow the to defrost thoroughly in the fridge. It should take a few hours.
Reheat: You can heat through the sauce in a pan or the microwave.
Vegetarian slow cooker recipes
People usually think about meat when it comes to slow cookers, but we are here to show that there are so many vegetarian dishes you can do in it too. And delicious ones too!
Our new book, The Healthy Slow Cooker, has over 50 vegetarian slow cooker recipes in it, like Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff, Butternut Squash Risotto, Lentil Ragu and Greek Potatoes.
That's right, we have a new book out! The Healthy Slow Cooker has 100 delicious slow cooker recipes in it (over half are vegetarian) that will show you how to get so much more out of your slow cooker than just stews. There are breakfasts, side dishes, desserts and drinks.
This sauce goes perfectly with pasta. We like to use spaghetti, tagliatelle or pappardelle, as a thick pasta allows for the sauce to really cling to it. It makes a great pizza sauce too.
You can use this sauce to replace the marinara in a spaghetti bolognese or lasagna to give it a vegetable boost too. Sometimes we stir it in to rice for the kids if we want to give it a veggie boost.
If you didn't want to have just vegetables, then you could top it with some grilled chicken or salmon before serving. You don't have to use this for pasta either, you could stir it through rice or put it on top of a baked potato.
If you don't want to cook this in a slow cooker, then you could roast up the vegetables and cook the sauce on the hob. Add all your chopped vegetables to a large baking tray (you may need to use two trays if the veg is too close together) and drizzle with oil and mix well. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 for 40 minutes. Then add the vegetables to a large pan with the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes and then blend.
This recipe is naturally vegan, just make sure you use a vegan alternative if you are going to top it with cheese.
This is a great recipe for kids, and to get more vegetables in to their diet. We have served this to our kids from 6 months as a pasta sauce, pizza topping and even a chunky soup. Just make sure that you leave the salt out and use a reduced salt stock or swap it for water.
If you want a creamy vegetable pasta sauce, then you could add some cream cheese to it just before serving.
Yes, as long as you use gluten free stock and make sure there is no cross contamination, then this is gluten free.
• Get creative and use a selection of different vegetables based on personal preference, season or what you have in the fridge.
• You can use a stick blender, jug blender or food processor to blend this. If putting in a jug blender or food processor, make sure it is cooled first, as hot sauce can cause it to explode. You may need to blend it in batches, depending on how big your jug is.
• If you don't want just vegetables, then top the dish with grilled chicken or salmon before serving.
• This sauce would go well with rice or on a baked potato too.
• If making this for kids, use reduced salt stock (or just water) and don't add any extra salt. There will be enough flavour from the vegetables, that it won't miss the salt.
• If you don't need a lot of sauce, or don't want to freeze the leftovers, then you can halve this recipe.
More slow cooker recipes
Slow Cooker Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce
- 1 Aubergine (eggplant) - small; diced
- 2 Bell peppers - diced
- 2 Carrot - diced
- 1 Courgette (zucchini) - diced
- 1 Leek - sliced
- 4 Garlic clove - crushed
- 800 g Chopped tomatoes - canned
- 6 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- 200 ml Vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoon Dried oregano
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 8 portion Cooked pasta
- Rocket (arugula) and shaved parmesan to serve - (Optional)
- Put all of the ingredients in to a food processor using the chopping attachment and chop them up. You can chop by hand, but a food processor will save you time.
- Put all of the ingredients, including the chopped vegetables (except the pasta, rocket and parmesan), in your slow cooker bowl and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
- Leave the sauce to cool and then pour it in to food processor in small batches and blend the sauce until smooth, or leave chunks if you prefer.
- Mix half the sauce in to the cooked pasta and serve with rocket and shaved parmesan
- Get creative and use a selection of different vegetables based on personal preference, season or what you have in the fridge.
- You can use a stick blender, jug blender or food processor to blend this. If putting in a jug blender or food processor, make sure it is cooled first, as hot sauce can cause it to explode. You may need to blend it in batches, depending on how big your jug is.
- If you don't want just vegetables, then top the dish with grilled chicken or salmon before serving.
- This sauce would go well with rice or on a baked potato too.
- If making this for kids, use reduced salt stock (or just water) and don't add any extra salt. There will be enough flavour from the vegetables, that it won't miss the salt.
- If you don't need a lot of sauce, or don't want to freeze the leftovers, then you can halve this recipe.