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I can’t get enough of Dad’s pasta sauce, I like it any which way it comes, which could be vegetarian, with ‘premium’ mince, carrots, fresh tomatoes, or canned, delivered to my house by way of mum or as part of a family get together. It’s always in our life somewhere, in the freezer, on the stovetop or on a list of what Dad needs to bring to the table for every family occasion. Using Dad’s sauce as inspiration – this is not a sauce that needs improvement! – I have simply tweaked it a bit to my tastes. I was even influenced by Mike from The Food Truck, after we spent a day filming the TV Show Family Recipes. He added smoked paprika, which gave his sauce a real gutsy kick. Dad’s sauce is not a traditional Italian sauce, in fact it’s got strange ‘non Italian’ ingredients such as curry powder and soy sauce, so I figured Spanish smoked paprika will only add to its eclectic flavor. I used to be ‘a little bit’ vegetarian – Vanessa would have called me fussy, but I wasn’t big on red meat – although since I have had children, my tastes have totally been reprogrammed. I have always enjoyed Dad’s vegetarian sauce which came about to satisfy my vegetarian period. I added aubergines to my sauce which are great for soaking up flavors. I was stoked when the sauce turned out like Dad’s – as when Vanessa and I tried to recreate Dad’s sauce on the Family Recipes TV Show, it wasn’t quite Dad’s sauce – instead of time being an improvement for the sauce, the takes and retakes, meant we over-stirred, and added an extra packet of mince which made it more of a bolognese sauce. It still tasted great, but it wasn’t Dad’s. Enjoy

Ingrid’s smoky vegetarian pasta
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A rich, hearty and comforting pasta sauce.
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Modern Italian
Serves: 4-6

What you need
  • a good slug of vegetable oil
  • 2 red onions, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 whole eggplant, chopped into cubes – fry until golden
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
  • a dash of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cans 400g tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can 400g tomato puree
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

How to make
  1. In a large pot on a medium heat, add a slug of vegetable oil and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft and clear.
  2. Add chopped eggplant, season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir frequently until it begins to soften – around 10 minutes. Add red pepper.
  3. Add a dash of soy sauce, curry powder, dried oregano and smoked paprika.
  4. Add a pinch of salt and cracked pepper
  5. Turn up the heat and add leftover red wine (AS IF!!!!) Add bay leaves.
  6. Let it sizzle and then reduce heat and simmer until liquid reduces to half
  7. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir
  8. Simmer over an hour, adding water slowly as the sauce reduces.
  9. Taste taste taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.
  10. Add a tablespoonful of brown sugar (it takes the acidity out of the tomatoes.)
  11. It should be saucy (not watery)
The sauce tastes better the next day!
Serve with fettucine



Ingrid and I have different taste buds! I prefer the strong flavours of salt, anchovies, chili, olives, stinky cheese and rich meaty meals. She likes the vegetarian option (used to be a flexitarian) and often goes for the lighter and fresher things (don’t get me wrong, although its probably healthier – she does have a wicked sweet tooth). I can’t imagine being a vegetarian, I think I would really miss meat. Thankfully for me dad Rino has similar taste buds. Mum often comments that he puts way too much salt and olive oil in his pasta sauces, I wink at dad and know nothing is going to change! Having the opportunity to do the Family Recipe show was the perfect chance for Ingrid and I to force/hold down/brine LOL I mean bribe dad to give us the recipe. We both make our own versions of the sauce but it’s never and I mean never as good as dads. Dad’s sauce has evolved, it’s never the same but always amazing. Seriously I have never tasted a dud one – now thats pretty impressive. Every visitor to the Opera household including ex boyfriends, extended family, exchange students, family friends, friends of friends and their kids gets a tea-towel  around their neck and encouragement to tuck in with gusto. Pasta is often eaten on your lap, perched on the couch, sitting on a step outside, at the awesome huge bluey purple picnic table on the deck or sitting on the floor in the lounge. One portion is never enough, dad always makes enough for seconds or thirds and we always get a container to take home. The issue now is our kids love it so much, they usually end up eating it before we get the chance! My version of dads sauce reflects my taste, its flavoursome, rich and meaty. If you’re an anchovy hater, don’t worry they really just add depth to the dish, it definitely doesn’t taste fishy! It’s a bit like dads secret ingredients (there are actually 2 we were very surprised about!) – they add that little bit extra, are hard to pinpoint but boy do they make the sauce something special.

Vanessa’s rich and meaty sauce
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Inspired by our Dad Rino’s famous pasta sauce
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4

What you need
  • 1 onion chopped.
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped.
  • 2-3 tablespoons oilve oil.
  • 500g beef mince – we use PREMIUM.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes.
  • 1 tube tomato puree.
  • 1 can water or more if needed.
  • 4 anchovies – use the ones in the glass bottles rather than the fresh brined ones at the deli.
  • 1 cup olives – any will do and its better without stones.
  • ½ cup capers or halved caper-berries.
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder or 1 fresh chili chopped finely.
Pasta or rice to serve it on top of.

How to make
  1. Saute the onions and garlic till soft and clear
  2. Add the mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon but not too much.
  3. When the mince has browned and created colour to the bottom of the pan, add a bit of the water to deglaze. (this means you scrape the delicious bits from the bottom as they add to the flavour of the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, puree and extra water and simmer (quite low) with the lid on for about 40 minutes.
  5. Check the sauce and add more water if it’s becoming too thick.
  6. You can simmer it for quite some time, just make sure you check and add more water so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  7. After about 40 minutes add the anchovies, olives, chilies and capers.
  8. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Simmer for a further 10 minutes
You can use the sauce straight away but it tastes even better the next day.
Serve with your favourite pasta or even on top of rice.


Tell us your favourite

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