Tomato-Free “Marinara” Sauce

This is such a cool recipe! I have not made it in a few years, in fact I forgot about until I made a post and referenced a disease called Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE). Sam used to have a playmate with EE and I got the opportunity to play around with different combinations of foods that never would have occurred to me in a million years! Several recipes would have made my stomach churn just by reading the ingredients and this is one of them!

It was trick-or-treat night in 2005 and Sam and his little buddy we’re going out for the first “real” time to beg for goodies (I say “real” time because I took him out the first time when he was 18 days old, but I don’t think that counts! 🙂 ). We wanted to make a little party of it and pizza sounded like a great idea, never mind the fact that this little boy could not have tomatoes, dairy, beef, pork, mushrooms… you name it. If it was a “classic” pizza topping, it was pretty much off limits. Of course, I was too stubborn to just give up there! I made the following sauce and we made pizza with just the sauce and added chopped black olives, no cheese or anything else and it was really good! Think Bruschetta on a pizza crust.

Nothing warms my heart more than to see little sets of eyes light up, especially when those eyes belong to little ones that battle such serious medical issues. Children such as these, who have been through more in one short lifetime than most adults ever go through in 40+ years, remind me of the pure and true joy in life. To make a child a pizza that consists of the following ingredients and to get a reaction greater than if you had bought them the latest “it” toy, is priceless.

I don’t remember where I originally found this recipe but Living Without Magazine has it on their website here. One of the reasons I am making it again is not because I need to stay away from nightshades, but it is a really great way to “sneak” some very powerful vegetables in my family’s diet. While I love pumpkin, beets are another thing altogether! When I see a beet, especially those from a can, all I can think of is going to MCL Cafeteria (Ohio), as a kid with my parents and seeing all the “mature” patrons eating pickled beets with eggs. UFTA!

Ever see these? How does one come to LIKE these??

Please forgive me if you love pickled beets, I am not picking on anyone. 🙂 It’s funny to me how an experience from childhood can still have such a powerful impact on your acceptance of a food! Or even how our food memories of childhood can make a later-in-life celiac diagnosis all the harder to accept (especially if you are “asymptomatic,” like I was, and are not motivated by pain to make the necessary dietary change). I have even tried roasting fresh beets and they still make me think of pickled beets… they (pickled beets) smell like sour dirt to me, plain and simple. Regular beets just smell like regular dirt though. 😀 Never one to give up, and trying to practice what I preach to my kids, “eat them, they are good for you!” I am now applying the same rule to myself. Before, when they would ask why I didn’t eat certain foods that I made them eat, I would just say, “I am done growing so I don’t need (“insert yucky vegetable here“). But now that Sam is 6, he is on to me. I think I actually use the Deceptively Delicious cookbook more for me than my kids! I need to hide certain flavors and smells in order to get them down. This is one of those types of recipes, if you can get past opening the can of beets (think clothespin on your nose).

Tomato-Free Marinara Sauce

1 Onion, finely chopped

1 Clove Garlic, finely chopped, (optional) (I used 2 cloves of garlic)

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice

1 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar (in the end, I ended up adding a little more, maybe a tsp.)

1 (8-ounce) can Beets*, drained (reserve the liquid) (Get your clothespin or hold your breath! 😉 )

1 (14-15 ounce) can Pumpkin Puree (make sure it is not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2-3/4 cups gluten-free Chicken or Vegetable broth (I used Kitchen Basics Chicken Stock)

1 tsp. Coarse Salt

24 grinds Fresh Black Pepper

1/3-1/2 cup Chopped Fresh Basil (I used 1/4 cup dried Basil, plus I added a couple of Tbs. dried Oregano)

1 ½ tsp. Cornstarch or Arrowroot, moistened with 2 Tbs. reserved beet juice

  • Sautee onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent and slightly brown.
  • Add lemon juice and vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Puree beets until very smooth. (I did this in my food processor, but a blender would be fine too. You will a little liquid to help the pureeing process: use some beet juice or water, maybe 1/4 cup or so)
  • Add pureed beets, pumpkin puree, salt, pepper and basil to pan. Stir until combined.
  • Whisk in the broth. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not over-cook; beets discolor with prolonged cooking. If sauce is too thick, add a little more broth to thin.
  • Whisk in the moistened cornstarch (or arrowroot). Cook for 1 more minute. Taste and adjust seasoning.

*TIP: If you prefer, you can use fresh beets. Roast them in the oven until soft and puree them in a food blender before adding to recipe.

TIP: If the sauce seems too acidic, add a teaspoon or two of sugar. (I added about a tsp. of Agave Nectar instead of sugar)

Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil.

Add balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except the beet juice slurry).

I had to include this photo, the colors were so pretty!

In case you are new to cooking: Never add a starch (cornstarch, tapioca starch, potato starch, arrowroot or sweet potato starch) directly to hot liquid! You will get unsightly little balls of starch: not good. 🙂 Make a slurry first with cool or room temperature liquid, then add to the hot ingredients.

Now the starch is ready to be added to the hot mixture.

Voila! This is a beautiful deep maroon color, with not a peep of beet flavor in it! YEA!!!

This is really good, all my guys liked it too, and could not guess what was actually in it! WOO-HOO! I am going to use this sauce for a couple of things this weekend and will hopefully get the recipes up next week!

I found some really interesting stuff on Nightshade allergies, so if you are interested, check out this.

9 Responses

  1. Nice! I had no idea you could make tomato-less marinara!

  2. Wow! This looks amazing! We may have to link to this from our blog too…it is right up our alley. We are a newer blog that has recipes that are all GF, free of the top 8 allergens, and vegan…check us out if you get a chance. We will add your great blog to our list and feel free to add us to yours! All the best and happy cooking!

  3. I tried this recipe once jusst to see if I could tell the difference and honestly it was really really good. Thank you for posting it since I have wanted to try it again to work into the family diet.!!

  4. Wow, I love beets and can’t wait to try this – mostly to freak my family out.

    Hubby says that beets taste too much like dirt to him too but I don’t get the dirt taste at all. My kids won’t eat them either so if I want any, I have to eat the whole can (not a problem). But I am definitely going to try this.

    • Christi,

      LOL! I think the dirt thing is much like how some people love Brussels Sprouts and others hate them, there is just no in-between! Maybe some of us (the beet and Brussels sprouts haters) lack certain taste buds or something. 🙂 They are really good for you though, so I am on a never-ending journey to find a way that I can eat them without gagging! 🙂 I hope it works out for you!

  5. […] One last thought, if you are allergic to or avoid Nightshades, I think this recipe would also be great using zucchini slices instead of eggplant and replacing the tomato based spaghetti sauce with this tomato-free marinara sauce. […]

  6. […] long, you may recall the Great Brussels Sprouts Caper, or my reference to what I call the “dirt vegetables,” like beets. I am the product of the foods I grew up on, canned or boiled veggies, processed foods like Kraft […]

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