Food & Recipes

Use Your Veggie Scraps to Make Tasty Homemade Tomato Sauce for Pasta Night

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Most of my weeknight meals involve fridge staples like onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Because of this, I usually have an abundance of leftover veggie skins and peels that I just throw away. But I learned that those veggie scraps are actually flavorful enough to make a tasty homemade tomato sauce!

What You Can Do With Vegetable Peels

From turning veggie peels into crispy chips or a base for homemade broth, these odds and ends can be given an edible second life. I recently came across a new way of cooking with veggie scraps on a blog called The Environmentor, which suggests using them when making tomato sauce.

“Things like tomato tops, carrot and onion peels, and broccoli or cauliflower stalks are all great additions to making a flavorful pasta sauce,” author Mia McBryde writes.

This food hack also saves you money, because you’re adding extra flavor to the sauce without using an entire onion or carrot. So this trick may really come in handy, especially with the rising grocery prices (get more bang for your buck!).

My Homemade Veggie Scrap Tomato Sauce Recipe

Getting creative in the kitchen, I decided to riff on this veggie scrap tomato sauce idea and make my own version. McBryde recommends using a blender or food processor to finely chop the peels before adding them to the sauce.

But with my pile of scraps, I choose to leave them whole and strain the sauce later on instead, for a hearty but smooth consistency.

Vegetable scraps (before)
My pile of veggie scraps including onion skins, carrot peels, and celery tops.Alexandria Brooks

(Note: The measurements listed in the ingredients section are all approximate. When trying this recipe out at home, taste as you go and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Also, add in your favorite herbs or spices to make this sauce your own! This recipe makes about 3 cups of sauce.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans (14 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups veggie scraps
  • 1/2 yellow onion, skin-on and roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed whole with the peels on
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning 
  • 1/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • A pinch garlic powder
  • A pinch onion powder
  • Generous pinch of salt and pepper (more to taste)

Directions:

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Place veggie scraps and garlic cloves into the saucepan. Continue cooking for an additional minute.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and let the mixture cook for one minute. Then, pour in the crushed tomatoes. (Fill the empty cans about halfway with water, swish to get the leftover tomatoes from the sides, and add to the saucepan.)
  4. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning into the sauce. Mix, reduce the temperature to medium-low heat, and simmer for at least 30 minutes covered.
  5. Remove the lid and stir again. Gently strain the sauce into a large bowl — pushing the liquid through the strainer. Discard the excess veggie scraps.
  6. Pour the strained tomato sauce back into the pot over medium heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until it’s thick and hearty. Add in the sugar, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder. Also, season with more salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  7. Serve alongside a box of cooked pasta — allowing everyone to spoon the desired amount of sauce over their portion of pasta. Enjoy!
Veggie scrap tomato sauce with pasta
My final pasta dish garnished with Parmesan cheese and basil.Alexandria Brooks

My Taste Test

After taking the first bite, I could immediately taste the sauce’s rich tomato and herb flavor. The veggie scraps added more depth, and hints of sweetness from the onion carrot peels really shined through. This complemented the slightly tangy flavor from the balsamic vinegar, which I also loved.

At first, I was hesitant about using veggie scraps to make tomato sauce. But from now on, I’ll be storing those leftover peels in a plastic bag in my fridge to take weekly pasta night to the next level!

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