No-Mato Marinara Sauce with Zoodles

I’ve seen recipes for “no-mato” marinara sauce floating around the Internet, so after reviewing various tomato-free recipes, comparing and contrasting the differences between them, I came up with this version. I chose to use golden beets instead of red. Many of the recipes that I reviewed were pretty basic, often just beets and an onion, or sometimes with carrots too. I took it a step further, adding lemon juice to replace the acidity that you’d get from tomatoes, and the addition of kalamata olives for a little bit of umami (salty, sweet, tangy).

I have to say, this actually tastes like tomato sauce! Really fresh and delicious. I served today’s no-mato marinara sauce with zoodles (zucchini noodles) garnished with sautéed mushrooms. This is definitely a kid-friendly recipe and they won’t even know they’re eating vegetables. Plus, who doesn’t like saying “zoodles”?!

no-mato sauce with zoodles


3 tablespoons fat of choice (I used duck fat, but bacon grease would also be good)
1 large onion, chopped
5 stalks of celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
7 small beets, chopped (or 3-4 medium to large)
4-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (basil, oregano, garlic and thyme)
Celtic sea salt to taste
Cooking liquid: use bone broth, chicken or beef broth or a mixture of broth and filtered water
18 kalamata olives, drained


Prepare the Zoodles (recipe below) so they can sweat while you’re making the marinara sauce.

Chop all of the vegetables.

Heat fat of choice in a large pot over medium low heat for several minutes. Add celery and onion to the pot and cook, stirring a few times, until onions are translucent. Add beets and carrots and cook several minutes longer, stirring a few times.

Add broth and/or filtered water, using just enough to barely cover the ingredients (use less if you want a thicker sauce). Add dried herbs – you can use 1/2 teaspoon each of herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and marjoram if you don’t have Penzey’s. Add lemon juice and stir well to combine everything. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Let simmer about 30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Stir halfway through cooking.

Carefully transfer ingredients into a blender. Add the kalamata olives and a generous teaspoon or more of salt. Pulse and then taste sauce and adjust seasonings if desired. Work in batches if necessary to thoroughly purée.

Use in any recipe that calls for a marinara-style sauce. Makes 6 cups of sauce, extra sauce can be frozen for other meals.

Update: I used some of the leftover no-mato sauce for a shrimp curry. I added some curry powder to the no-mato sauce, and topped zoodles with shrimp and the warmed sauce. It was delicious.

Zoodles (zucchini noodles)

Peel two zucchini and discard the outer skin. Still using the peeler, peel lengthwise strips until reaching the seedy cores. Toss the zoodles with about 3/4 tsp salt and put them in a colander to sweat. Place a small plate on top and put something heavy (like a can of soup) on top of the plate so it will press the water out. Let them sit for 30-60 minutes, give them a final squeeze by pressing down with the palm of your hand.

When your no-mato marinara sauce is done and you’re ready to eat, briefly sauté the zoodles with a splash of olive oil, just long enough to warm them up a bit. Then top them with your No-Mato sauce for a fresh, tasty meal.


If you make this recipe, snap a pic of your dish and hashtag it #kellylenihancooks. I'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

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