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The Best "No-Mato" Sauce - Autoimmune Paleo Marinara

The Best "No-Mato" Sauce - Autoimmune Paleo Marinara Sauce #AIPaleo #autoimmuneprotocol

Last week I started following the autoimmune paleo protocol. It is part of my approach to heal my recently-diagnosed leaky gut. Briefly, in addition to the already restricted grains, legumes, and dairy on a strict paleo diet, the autoimmune paleo protocol also excludes eggs, nuts, seeds (including seed-based spices) and nightshades. What makes me the saddest to exclude from my diet are the nightshades, which include some of my favorite foods -- potatoes, peppers (all types, hot or mild), eggplant, and tomatoes. I grew up loving to eat tomatoes picked fresh from my Gramma's garden, and the perfectly ripe, juicy tomato, sliced thick and topped with a dash of coarse Celtic sea salt and a bit of freshly-cracked black pepper is truly one of life's simple pleasures.


Who knew that beets could be disguised as tomatoes in a marinara sauce? 

Who knew that beets could be disguised as tomatoes in a marinara sauce? 

So, given my love of tomatoes, one of the first things I knew I had to do upon starting AIP was to find a good tomato sauce substitute. I'd seen recipes for "No-Mato" sauce before but never tried making one because, well, why on earth would anyone want to do that if they didn't *have* to??

I spent some time reading all the recipes for tomato-free marinara sauce that I could find. There are several out there, ranging from quite simple (just beets and a mirepoix with little additional seasoning) to ones on par with mine below. However, mine has two additional ingredients that I think really seal the deal on making this recipe taste so authentic that my husband said "are you sure there aren't tomatoes in this?" when he tasted it. 

Knowing that tomatoes have a strong umami  quality (one of the 5 basic tastes, along with salty, sweet, sour, and bitter) I wanted to see if I could add anything additional that would help boost the overall umami quality of the recipe.

Umami refers to the "meaty" or "savory" quality in a dish and comes from things like aged/cured meats, hard cheeses, shellfish, tomatoes (especially sun-dried), and seaweed. While reading lists of foods high in umami compounds, I saw that olives were on the list. Bingo! That's the perfect addition to a tomato-less marinara sauce for the autoimmune paleo protocol.

Carrots and celery also add umami, so I used more of both of those than I saw in other recipes. 

If you're interested, you can read more about umami here and here

Another quality of tomatoes that I wanted to try to replace in my recipe was their acidity. Adding fresh lemon juice made a huge difference in the taste of the sauce! And if you are strict AIP, it's one of the safer acid choices -- some people are sensitive to red wine vinegar, for example. I was surprised to see many recipes that added no acid to the sauce. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! I look forward to making this a few more times as I stick to the AIPaleo protocol. I'm planning on using it (or a variation of it) to make an AIP-friendly version of my beloved (and reader favorite) Slow Cooker Cuban Ropa Vieja. Check below the printable recipe for a bonus mini recipe for "zoodles" (no spiralizer required!) and this No-Mato marinara sauce. 

"No-Mato" Marinara Sauce - Autoimmune Paleo Protocol

Recipe by Amanda Torres

A hearty and satisfying nightshade-free marinara sauce, suitable for the autoimmune paleo protocol.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 40-55 minutes

Yield: about 8.5 cups


  • 2-4 Tbsp fat of choice (I used bacon grease)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pound carrots, chopped (about 8 average carrots, about 2 cups)
  • 3 medium beets, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 4-8 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • unrefined salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Cooking liquid. Can use all bone broth or a mixture of broth and filtered water if desired. Use only enough to just barely cover ingredients in pot; use less for a thicker, less watery sauce.
  • 15-20 kalamata olives, drained

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat fat of choice in a large pot over medium low heat for several minutes.
  2. Chop vegetables and add celery and onion to pot and cook, stirring a few times, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add beets and carrots and allow to cook several minutes longer, stirring a few times.
  4. Add broth and/or filtered water, using just enough to cover the ingredients (or less for a thicker, less watery sauce).
  5. Add dried herbs. I used the upper end of the suggested amounts and made a VERY flavorful sauce. You can start by adding half and adjust to taste after pureeing if you like.
  6. Add lemon juice and bay leaves 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 about halfway through cooking.
  7. This is optional: place pot in an ice bath to cool it down before blending. I do this to avoid the leaching of chemicals from the plastic in my Ninja blender. If you do not cool your pot first, BE VERY CAREFUL to avoid splattering and follow your blender's instruction regarding blending hot liquids.
  8. Add the secret ingredient to the pot: kalamata olives (for extra umami). Be sure to REMOVE your bay leaves, too.
  9. Work in batches if necessary to thoroughly puree.
  10. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings if desired.
  11. Use in any recipe that calls for a marinara style sauce. Goes great with zoodles! (zucchini noodles). Bonus mini recipe below.
SERVING SUGGESTION: Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with No-Mato Sauce

SERVING SUGGESTION: Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with No-Mato Sauce

For the longest time, I thought you had to have a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles. Well, it turns out you can make them with a simple vegetable peeler!

Here's what I did: First, I peeled off and discarded the green outer peel. Then, I peeled lengthwise strips until reaching the seedy core of 2 zucchinis. (I saved the cores and quickly pan-fried them in bacon fat as part of breakfast the next morning). I tossed the zoodles with about 3/4 tsp salt and put them in a colander. I placed a small plate on top and put a heavy glass bottle on top of the plate so it would press the water out. I let them sit for an hour, gave them a final squeeze with my fists, and found that an entire cup of liquid had been pressed out of them! I *very briefly* sauteed them with a splash of olive oil, just long enough to warm them up a bit. Then I topped them with my No-Mato sauce and had a lovely autoimmune paleo lunch!

Autoimmune Paleo Marinara "No-Mato" Sauce #autoimmuneprotocol #AIPaleo

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