Peggy’s Good All-Purpose Tomato Sauce with a Side of Gazpacho

Thick, rich tomato sauce ready for pasta.

Tomatoes abound in the garden right now and so do most other vegetables. We are wallowing happily in the abundance, though I will admit to the occasional panic about what to do with it all before it spoils. This time of year, we enjoy vegetable based meals with generous slabs of sliced tomatoes on the side with cucumbers, stir-fried assemblages of green beans, broccoli side shoots, and cauliflower, and lots of salad. We can stuff ourselves with vegetables and still have some left: half a pepper, a couple small onions, and a handful of green beans. What to do with bits and dabs of leftover vegetables and all those tomatoes?

My island neighbor Peggy Tirschwell has a great idea. She collects up all her leftovers, stray unused ones from the vegetable drawer, and the random bits from the garden, plops them in a roasting pan with tomatoes and dribbles over olive oil, roasts them until they are tender. Then she gives them a whirl in the blender or food processor. That yields a thick, rich sauce suitable for thinning with more tomato sauce if she thinks it needs it, and susceptible to seasoning with herbs and spices depending on whether she will make an Italian-inspired meal or Mexican one.

It was delicious when she used it in a lasagna. And the process reminded me of the tomato-based vegetable soup-starter I sometimes make to can or freeze for winter use.

An assemblage of vegetables suitable to roast for tomato sauce.

And then I thought about what to do with leftover tossed salad, or the five or six bits of carrot, pepper, or celery from the crudites platter. Certainly, we can add them to the roasting pan, too, but why not make a gazpacho-like soup by adding tomatoes and cucumbers to them and giving them a whirl in the food processor? A basic gazpacho, after-all, is mostly tomatoes with some cucumber, a bit of pepper, onion, garlic, and olive oil and vinegar if the tomatoes aren’t tart enough. I’ve always thought of gazpacho as liquid salad.

The group of vegetables perfect for gazpacho.

There is always a bit of tomato around here left from slicing one for a sandwich. The dressing on the inevitable leftover salad works perfectly as long as it isn’t a super creamy one (like blue cheese or Ranch) though if there wasn’t much of it, it might be fine, and balance of tomatoes to the rest of the vegetables is easily tweaked.

The group of vegetables perfect for gazpacho.

A spoonful of gazpacho.

So essentially, I have two more things to do with my random vegetable supply.

There is no actual recipe to follow for either of these. I will probably reserve leftover broccoli, greens beans, cooked chard, or summer squash for the tomato sauce. Use a 350 oven and plan on half an hour. Season with salt and pepper, and add herbs when you are ready to use the sauce.

Plan on salad-like leftovers—raw carrot, celery, peppers, cucumber—for the gazpacho. The key is more tomato than anything in both of these. Season with salt and pepper, and add a bit of olive oil and vinegar or hot sauce to give it some zip.

If you don’t have enough tomatoes, add tomato juice to the gazpacho, or canned or pre-made tomato sauce to the other.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.