Paprika Pomodoro

Store-bought pasta sauce is tempting because of the convenience factor but this tangy, delicious and vegetable-infused paprika pomodoro is so easy to make that I bet you won't be as tempted at the grocery store once you've tried it. You can add whichever veggies you choose and puree for a smooth texture. We use it with whole grain pasta, over portobello mushroom or regular pizzas and even as a substitute for ketchup! 

Science Corner
Kids love tomato sauce and luckily, tomatoes are bursting with nutrients. Rich in vitamin C and biotin, anti-oxidants like lycopene (released on cooking) and a boatload of phytonutrients, tomatoes have heart and bone health-boosting as well as anti-cancer properties. Paprika contains a potent anti-inflammatory compound called capsinoid. The strongest scientific evidence for paprika is for its anti-obesity effects - researchers from Penn State University observed significant increases in antioxidant status and decreases in insulin and triglyceride levels in human subjects after a meal laced with a spice blend (containing 30% paprika) versus the same exact meal without spices. 

Yield
500 g / 4 toddler pasta sauce servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 celery sticks finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
2 cups tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
salt and pepper to taste
splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, warm the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and sautee for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and sautee for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and sautee until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and paprika and give the sauce a good stir. Cover and cook on a low flame for 15 minutes until the veggies are softened stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. You can also add zucchini, spinach etc (which will alter the color of the sauce) if you like. Once the veggies are cooked, season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. If you like more acidity, you can add the vinegar at this point. Remove the bay leaf and puree for a smooth texture or leave it chunky, if you prefer. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days for a quick and delicious option in a pinch. Serve it with whole grain pasta, in mushroom pizzas or as a healthy alternative to ketchup!