Veggie Marinara Sauce (cheat)

I love Victoria marinara sauce (so does Chris). There are no scary ingredients (such as chemicals or sugar) in it, but there is olive oil and salt, the two ingredients that I try to avoid in the early stages of this nutritarian diet (I have just finished week 6 so now I can go back to olive oil as a treat! Yay!). This sauce is delicious, it’s the one food that I will not give up entirely.

I thought I would have some whole wheat pasta (I love DeCecco’s 100% whole wheat spaghetti) and wanted to sneak some veggies into the meal. The only hard part is limiting my portion to only 2 ounces of pasta… this is why adding more veggies is so important! Kids would definitely love this. It’s so yummy and you’d never know there was zucchini in it!


Next time I will definitely add spinach to it, I just didn’t have any on hand.

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced small
  • 1 large zucchini (or 2 small), shredded and drained
  • 2 containers cremini mushrooms (about 10 oz each), cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach (I didn’t add this but definitely will next time)
  • One 25 oz. jar Victoria marinara sauce


  • Grate the zucchini using the small shred holes of a box grater. Let it drain in a mesh sieve. While you’re waiting for it to drain, prep other veggies.
  • In a large pan saute (in a little water) the garlic and onion until it starts to get soft. You could also add some red pepper flakes here if you like your sauce spicy.
  • Add the shredded zucchini and cook some of the water out.
  • Then add sliced mushrooms and cook down further, until you don’t see water in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add 1 jar of sauce and simmer on low for 10 minutes until it thickens.
  • Then add baby spinach, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes or until leaves are wilted.

Serve over whole wheat pasta with a big romaine salad on the side. Yum!


Zucchini, onions and mushrooms cooking down


Simmering away…

UPDATE 10/7/13: Tonight I heated up some of the remaining veggie sauce and sauteed 2 bunches of swiss chard with some shallots and then heated them together. This on top of a serving of whole wheat pasta (2 oz dry, 5.2 oz cooked) was sooo delicious! The chard made it  even better. Next time I’ll use three bunches of chard to make a full batch. The sauce really thickened up in the fridge, I guess the zucchini and mushrooms really soak up that liquid, but I liked it even more. I don’t like watery sauces.


Sauce and paste before I mixed them together. Yum!


The red stems and green leaves also add great color to the dish. The zucchini kind of fades during cooking so you don’t see much green from that.




Mushroom Ragu (from Giada’s Everyday Italian cookbook)

Yummy! This is a mushroom lover’s dream.  🙂  Really fresh tasting with the parsley in it too. It was a perfect chance to use the wild mushrooms I bought at Wegman’s. I love that store! I’m so hooked.  🙂

Chris and I were drooling the whole time it took to cook (45 minutes!), but he was a great sous chef, chopping everything up so that I could cook it as quickly as possible. Especially helpful since I worked late and we were starving. This even works well for calorie counters, especially since I followed this recipe from her cookbook, which omits the cream, but the Food Network website uses cream (Chica, I added the recipe to Livestrong). I’m sure the cream would have made it super creamy and thick, but better for us that I didn’t use it!

I served it over strozzapretti pasta** (fun). I think it will be even better tomorrow (this is a picture of of the leftovers that I’m saving for tomorrow since I forgot to take a picture of our plates).


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake) chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Marsala [I used 1 cup following her cookbook recipe]
  • 2 cups chicken broth [can use vegetable broth of course]
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream  [Oddly enough, her cookbook omits this ingredient, so I cooked without it!]
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan [Cookbook calls for 2/3 cup]


In a large skillet heat the oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for 1/2 hour until the sauce has reduced by half. Add heavy cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh herbs and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.

My note: Giada says it serves 6 but it is intended to go over a whole pound of pasta, so I consider that serving 8 (a pound makes 8 cups of pasta). It’s really filling too. I had just 1/8 of it and I was stuffed, but it’s sooo yummy and nothing bad for you anyway, except all of the salt from 2/3 cups of grated cheese! I used pecorino romano.

**Interesting Note: strozzapretti means “priest choker” in Italian!  🙂 Really!