Cooking Together

‘Cooking Together’: Holiday Pasta with Festive Red and/or Green Sauce

Holiday Pasta with festive Red and/or Green Sauce 

By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Family and friends like to gather during the holidays. Eating together is undoubtably one of the activities that will be included for such gatherings. And pasta is an easy item to work around any menu. Home-made sauce for the pasta with fresh ingredients can be an added attraction. I usually keep these sauces in my refrigerator or in the freezer so I can make a meal in a pinch.  

Home-made sauces are usually tastier and can be more nutritious if you prepare them with right ingredients.  Once the sauce is made, it can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for a longer period. 

The main ingredients used in the marinara sauce are tomatoes. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A, C, E and K, all of which are helpful in fighting diseases. In addition, the phytonutrients in tomatoes protect us from damage done by excessive sun exposure. Basil used in the pesto sauce provides us with some micronutrients, such as vitamin K and some antioxidants which are helpful in eliminating harmful free radicals from our bodies.

Photo by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff.

Italian-Style Marinara Tomato Sauce

I love to make this sauce in summer when fresh heirloom or Roma tomatoes are abundant. If fresh tomatoes are not in season, canned organic tomatoes also work well for this sauce. 

4 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes or 32 ounces of canned tomatoes; diced or in chunks 6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup bell pepper (any color), finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely grated (optional)
1 tablespoon each of fresh, minced oregano and basil leaves, 
or 1⁄2 teaspoon each dried, oregano and basil leaves 
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves 
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
¼ cup red wine or vinegar 

If using fresh tomatoes, boil them in a large pot of water for a few minutes until their skins split. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water and, when cool enough to handle, remove the skins. Place the tomatoes on a cutting board. Chop them into chunks, collect their juices and put them in a bowl. If you are using canned tomatoes, set them aside along with their juices. 

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until soft. Next, add the bell pepper and stir-fry for a few minutes. Then add the garlic and sauté for a minute. Finally, add the tomatoes, the optional carrot, herbs, parsley, salt, and pepper and stir to mix. Add the sweetener and wine or vinegar. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly, to thicken the sauce. Use this sauce right away on top of your favorite pasta. (As in the penne pasta recipe below).  Or, cool it to room temperature, transfer to a jar, and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. 


Marinara Sauce with Tofu 

Cut ½ pound of firm tofu into slices. Crumble the tofu into small pieces and drain some liquid out. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet. Stir fry tofu for 5 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Combine the tofu into the tomato sauce.   

Pesto Sauce 

Pesto Sauce is an Italian classic. It may be served on hot pasta as an entrée with grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top, or it can be mixed with cold pasta and vegetables to make a picnic pasta salad. 

1 cup firmly packed chopped, fresh basil leaves
1⁄2 cup curly or broad-leaf Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped pine nuts or walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (omit for a vegan recipe)

Place all ingredients in a blender to puree. Pesto can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for future use. 

Note:  I usually do not put the grated Parmesan cheese in the pesto. It can be served later on the dining table so that the diners can take in the amount s/he wants.

Penne with Red or Green Sauce

This is my go-to recipe when I come home from a short trip or need to make a meal in a hurry.

1 lb. penne noodles
2 to 3 cups of Marinara sauce made using the recipe above


1/3 to ½ cup frozen or freshly made pesto sauce
A bowl of Parmesan cheese for garnish

Boil plenty of water (4 to 5 quarts) in a large pot of water. Add ½ teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of oil.  When the water comes to a brisk boil, add the penne noodles and stir them gently. Cook them uncovered for 10 minutes. Pinch with your fingers to check doneness. If “al dente” pasta is preferred, stop cooking while the pasta is still firm (about 10 minutes). Allow to cook for additional 2 minutes for softer noodles. Drain right away using a large colander. Place the cooked pasta in a mixing bowl and add marinara or pesto sauce, just enough to coat the pasta. Do not drench the pasta with too much sauce.  

You can place additional sauces on the table along with a bowl of shredded Parmesan cheese for the diners. 


  Recipes by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff  copyright 2022. 

Shanta is a Sunset District resident and the author of “Cooking Together” and “Flavors of India,” 

both available at Other Avenues Food Store on 3930 Judah St. Shanta writes recipes and articles 

on food and nutrition. She also teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes and shares recipes

via videos via YouTube. 

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