31 January, 2008

Happy Birthday !

To commemorate the birthday of Vegetable Japan and one solid year's worth of writing for me, a minor miracle if there ever was one, I offer this little recipe for the Best Tomato Sauce on the Planet. Now that's a big claim, I know, and maybe just a bit capricious since I haven't tasted every sauce in the world. But I have tasted quite a few, and even made a few hundred kilos, or close, when I worked in the kitchen of a small Italian restaurant /deli a few years back. So I have some idea of the claim I'm making. And it's not my brainchild, but adapted just a bit from the Foods of the World Italian Cookbook, one of a series which in my opinion are still genius cookbooks. I collect every one I can get my hands on, which is less easy as they've been out of print awhile. And now you know too.

You can trust me when I say this one is good. Perfect for tossing on any shaped pasta from capellini to rigatoni -- fresh pasta, dry pasta, any good pasta will

And it's not complicated. It doesn't take exotic ingredients or hours of simmering, which some insist on, but I feel is overkill. It can be made with canned tomatoes in the winter and still be quite a treat.

It's fabulous on pizza.
You can dress it up by adding any sauteed ingredients you like. A few mushrooms, some eggplant, zucchini, or a spoon or two of cream. You can certainly top it with some parmesan or other cheese, and it goes well in a lasagna or casserole.

It would be equally good smeared on a bit of bread, topped with a smidge of cheese and toasted to make a quick snack. In other words, it's versatile as all get out. There's only one thing to remember about it; it's fairly concentrated in flavour so don't use too much. Be judi
cious and then add more if you like.

Now to tell the truth, today I had the hankering for pasta, some nice gluten-free brown rice spaghetti sent over awhile back by the lovely and generous Seamaiden of Book of Yum, which is also having a first birthday this week. Happy Birthday, Book of Yum and Sea
maiden! May the good food, and you, continue long and prosper.

On a day like this, the only thing better than one pasta is two. So while I had a Pasta Vesuvio, with tons of garlic, dried hot Japanese peppers, shitake mushrooms, baby eggplant and potatoes cooked up in olive oil for brunch, I found that was none too hard to take and I felt like even more pasta for supper. So I made this sauce with some fresh tomatoes I was lucky enough to find at the farmer's market this week. I'm sure they must be the very last ones in Kagawa. Topped with just a bit of grated parmesano reggiano from the Le Plaisir shop around the corner and a slurp of good-tasting olive oil from the same place (about the only two imported things I use now, when can't get local) it made the meal into a celebration.

So here you are, a gift from Vegetable Japan to you on this blog birthday. Add it to your stand-by recipe arsenal, and lean on it in good cooking times and bad. It can stand up to that. It's always been a rock for me.

Tomato and Garlic Sauce
Combine and cook, stirring until the onions are soft and only lightly browned:
3 Tb olive oil (I use extra virgin in this sauce)
1 cup or thereabouts small-chopped onions
Add and cook, stirring for about a minute:
1 Tb or 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped finely
Add 4 cups fresh, blended tomatoes or 4 cups canned Italian-style with juice, chopped
1 - 6 oz. tin of tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
1 Tb salt
1 tsp dry basil
1 Tb. dry oregano
1 bay leaf
freshly ground pepper
Simmer for about 30 minutes or less until the flavours combine and mellow. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Enjoy in any creative way you can imagine, once or twice a day.


pohanginapete said...

Happy blog birthday, VJ. The world's more interesting — and tastier — for your writing.

Lucy said...

Congratulations on tweleve months of solid writing - and thanks for a recipe well worth sharing.

Lucky us, I say.

vegetablej said...

Thanks so much, Pete! Are you doing any cooking yet? :)

vegetablej said...


Thanks. I'm hanging in there hoping to improve. Love YOUR blog, by the way. Cheers!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora VegetableJ,
Tonite I made the sauce for my wife and I, and it was beautiful and so simple. I sauteed some broccoli, zuchini, pumpkin seeds and black olives and served it over penne pasta with a few dollops of the sauce. Yum! Thanks again. I am really enjoying renewing my cooking skills. Have a great day.
Ka kite,

russ said...

seems like a lot of salt in there!! Is there any good substitute for that, which would still give a real nice sauce?
(I quite like gomasio but I'm not sure that would work for this...)

congrats on the blogging ! Thanks for keeping it up, giving me something to read in my lunch hour.

Autumn Moon said...

Happy Birthday, I'll be trying this recipie this summer when I have fresh tomatoes!

vegetablej said...

Great to hear, Robb! The pumpkin seeds sound interesting! I love that you're cooking for your family. Keep up the great work, and so happy you liked the sauce. :)

You have a great day, too!

vegetablej said...


Hi. Glad my blog goes well with lunch. :)

You need the salt to make good flavour. Don't worry about it; it makes a lot of sauce and you don't need that much. The amount you are getting in one serving or even two is way less than you would with any commercial sauce.

Gosmashio is just as salty and I wouldn't think so good for this. I use sea salt in mine. If you try it, let me know how you like it. :)

Happy vegan cooking. I took a look at your blog and I'd like the recipe for those chocolate cupcakes. They look good!

vegetablej said...

autumn moon:

Thanks! Let me know if you like it. :)

Ginger said...

Happy Birthday!!!! i shall celebrate this weekend over good pasta!

Aside from the bay leaf, which sounds like a great addition, this is almost identical to my simple sauce recipe...if you can call it a recipe. i usually just throw it together.

it never takes long to put together and it's the best sauce ever. you're not lying J.

Thanks ~

Martin J Frid said...

Omedetto!! Looking forward to your posts each time. Cheers (and stay warm) - Martin

vegetablej said...

Hey Ginger:

Thanks for the birthday wishes. :)

This sauce sounds the same as many, and uses all the same ingredients, but there's something "magic" about the proportions. It just works (unlike many computer systems with the same motto).

Glad to hear you make a mean tomato sauce, too. Cheers for the support on the taste. Have a great celebration! :)

vegetablej said...


Domo arigato. I'm looking forward to your visits and comments, and of course, reading your blog too. :)

TRYING to keep warm and occasionally succeeding. :)

Megan said...

My boyfriend and I love making tomato sauce. I'm going to try your delicious looking recipe soon!
Congrats on one year of great blogging!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora VegetableJ,
Thanks for stopping by and the kind words which I appreciate. Just wanted to let you know the sauce was a huge hit, and enough left over that I have been coming home this week and having healthy and yummy lunches of a little pasta boiled up quick, and or quickly stirred veges. Great! Is this sauce suitable to freeze? Have a great day.
Ka kite,

vegetablej said...


Thanks so much! Glad to hear you like cooking with your boyfriend. Let me know how it goes. :)

vegetablej said...

Ohayo gozaimasu, Robb:

Glad to hear you are getting some mileage out of the recipe. Just what is's great for! I should think it would freeze fine. I haven't tried it because I usually use it up first, but we used to freeze similar sauces (using canned tomatoes) at the Italian restaurant all the time. Why don't you give it a try and let me know.

You might need to add a splash more olive oil or seasoning or water if it's gotten too thick. Heat it up and see.

Love all the feedback, thank you, and glad it's working for you so far.

I'm thinking you might also like the Minestrone soup with pesto recipe.( It doesn't have pasta but you can add any kind of cooked pasta, broken up if long). The pesto is also great on pasta with or without tomatoes, lasts a long time in the fridge and can be frozen. And it makes a mean topping for toasted bread (bruschetta) or pizza, kinda like basil-y garlic bread. :)

Sea said...

What a lovely post and thank you! Otanjoubi Omedetou! I love your blog for its recipes and the variety. Your blog is inspiring not just for meal-time but for life, and I appreciate that tremendously. I hope you keep blogging even when you leave Japan! We'd miss you!

I'm always looking for some killer tomato sauce and I can't wait to try yours. :)


vegetablej said...


Thank you so much! Congratulations to you on your blog birthday, too!

Thank you for your comment about the variety. I sometimes worry about it being a bit scattered, but then since I'm trying to bring some of my passion to the blog, I figure that I have to write about what moves me.

As much as an attempt for me to try to learn how to write, this writing is to help people appreciate good vegetarian food and cooking, and encourage them to know how that is something anyone can do, can love, and become healthy and care for the ones they love at the same time.

I got a lot healthier this year after I cut out gluten and healed from lifelong allergies. It's been a great gift, one that I never expected. I got that gift from reading the Gluten-free Girl blog and stumbling upon something that actually worked.

This blog is my attempt to celebrate that and help spread the good. You might say I'm paying it forward. :)

soundofpaper said...

hi there!

I'm an English teacher living in Japan, trying daily to eat as healthfully as possible. The pasta sauces I was making here kept coming out too sweet. Tried yours tonight and it was ABSOLUTELY MARVELOUS! I am over the moon and will be making this at least once a week. Thanks so much for having this blog!


vegetablej said...

Hey, Jennifer,

So glad you like the sauce! It always warms my heart when I know I can add a bit of homey comfort to hard-working English teachers there!

And thanks for the thanks!