Summer Vegetables in Red Sauce

$8.15 recipe / $1.36 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
5 from 5 votes
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One of my favorite things about summer is all of the colorful vegetables. I pack my plate with as many vegetables as I can this time of year because I know that six months from now they won’t be nearly as delicious or inexpensive. Simmering a medley of vegetables in a simple jar of pasta sauce makes a really quick, filling, and inexpensive meal that you can spoon over a bowl of polenta, a plate of pasta, or even a hearty piece of toast. Simple and delicious!

Close up overhead view of vegetables in red sauce over polenta with a fork.

What Vegetables to Use

Whenever I make a recipe with multiple vegetables, I always try to make sure to get a variety of colors. So today I used eggplant (dark/purple), zucchini (green), red bell pepper (red), and yellow onion (white). But here are some other vegetables that would also work well in this recipe:

  • Carrots
  • Yellow squash
  • Green bell pepper
  • Spinach or kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus

Red Sauce Options

To keep this recipe extra simple, I just used a jar of store-bought pasta sauce, but just about any red pasta sauce will work here. If you prefer to make your own instead of buying pre-made sauce, you can try my quick weeknight pasta sauce, or a deeper slow cooker pasta sauce.

What to Serve with Vegetables in Red Sauce

I whipped up a quick Parmesan polenta to serve as the base for these vegetables and sauce, but they would be equally good over pasta, mashed potatoes, or even a sturdy piece of toast.

Overhead view of vegetables in red sauce in the pot.
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Summer Vegetables in Red Sauce

5 from 5 votes
Colorful summer vegetables simmered in a red sauce and spooned over warm polenta make a hearty and inexpensive summer meal.
Close up overhead view of cornmeal and vegetables in red sauce in a bowl with a fork on the side.
Servings 6 1 cup vegetables each
Prep 10 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 40 mins


Vegetables in Red Sauce

  • 1 yellow onion ($0.32)
  • 4 cloves garlic ($0.32)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 1 eggplant ($1.49)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning ($0.10)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper ($0.03)
  • 1 red bell pepper ($1.50)
  • 1 zucchini ($1.47)
  • 1 24oz. jar pasta sauce ($1.50)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish) ($0.10)

Parmesan Cornmeal (optional)

  • 5 cups water ($0.00)
  • 1 tsp salt ($0.05)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal ($0.40)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.22)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.36)


  • Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add the onion, garlic, and olive oil to a large pot. Sauté over medium heat until the onions have softened.
  • While the onion and garlic are cooking, dice the eggplant into ½-inch pieces. Add the eggplant to the pot with the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, and continue to sauté over medium heat.
  • Dice the red bell pepper. Once the eggplant has softened, add the diced bell pepper to the pot and continue to sauté.
  • Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch thick quarter-rounds, then add them to the pot. Continue to sauté just a couple minutes more, or until the zucchini just begin to soften.
  • Add the red sauce and 1/4 cup water to the pot and stir to combine. Let the vegetables simmer in the sauce for 5-10 minutes, or until they reach your desired level of tenderness.
  • While the vegetables are simmering, bring a separate pot of water to a boil.
  • Once boiling, stir in the salt, then pour in the cornmeal while whisking. Continue to cook and whisk until the cornmeal thickens (this should happen quickly).
  • Once the cornmeal has thickened, stir in the butter until melted, then add the grated Parmesan. Stir to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
  • To serve, spoon ⅔ cup cornmeal into a bowl then top with one cup of the vegetables and red sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.



Other serving options include serving the vegetables and sauce over pasta, a hearty piece of toast, or even a baked potato!


Serving: 1servingCalories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 7gFat: 12gSodium: 1143mgFiber: 8g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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A bowl of summer vegetables in red sauce over polenta with a fork in the center.

How to Make Summer Vegetables in Red Sauce – Step by Step Photos

Garlic Onion and Oil in the pot.

Dice one yellow onion and mince four cloves of garlic. Add the onion and garlic to a large pot along with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sauté over medium heat until the onions have softened.

Diced eggplant added to the pot.

While the onion and garlic are cooking, dice an eggplant into ½-inch pieces. Add them to the pot with 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, and continue to sauté until the eggplant have softened.

Diced bell pepper added to the pot.

Dice one red bell pepper, add it to the pot, and continue to sauté.

Chopped zucchini added to the pot.

Slice one zucchini into 1/4-inch thick quarter-rounds. Add the zucchini to the pot and sauté just until the zucchini begins to soften.

pasta sauce being poured into the pot.

Add one 24oz. jar (3 cups) red sauce and 1/4 cup water to the pot and stir to combine.

Simmered vegetables in red sauce in the pot.

Let the vegetables simmer in the red sauce for about 10 more minutes. Taste and season with salt to taste.

Cornmeal being poured into a pot of boiling water with a whisk.

If you’d like to serve the vegetables over polenta, bring 5 cups of water up to a boil. Once boiling, stir in one teaspoon salt, then add one cup of cornmeal while whisking. Continue to cook and whisk until it thickens (this only takes a minute or two).

Butter added to cooked cornmeal.

Stir two tablespoons of butter into the thickened cornmeal.

Grated Parmesan being sprinkled over the cornmeal.

Finally, Stir in ¼ cup grated Parmesan. Taste the cornmeal and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Close up overhead view of cornmeal and vegetables in red sauce in a bowl with a fork on the side.

Add about ⅔ cup of the cornmeal to a bowl and top with 1 cup of the vegetables in red sauce. Top with a little more Parmesan and some chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy!

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  1. This one’s a keeper! Adapts really well to using up leftover bits of things — I tossed the last of a jar of roasted red peppers and a tiny bit of ground beef. Added mozzarella to the polenta and not only did I have a delicious dinner but I cleared out my fridge too!

  2. This is the kind of dish I like to make and eat!! I’ve not worked with eggplant at all and am curious if this dish would freeze well? 

    1. Hi Amber, freezing will affect the texture of both the polenta and the veg BUT with a little finessing you can get decent results. Freeze the veg in the sauce in individual portions. As for the polenta, it the dairy will separate from the cornmeal as it freezes. So cook it with just water and salt, allow it to cool, and then freeze in individual portions. When you are reheating, add the parmesan and butter (and a touch of water to loosen it up!). Hope this helps! XOXO -Monti

  3. Recipes like this are why I love this site. Lots of vegetables, so versatile, great meal for a great price. I think I’ll put it on crusty bread. Thanks so much

  4. I have never made polenta before but i have ingredients and will try it,
    Seems like 5 cups water mafes a fairly big batch.
    How well does this store?
    Love your recipes. You are inspiring.

  5. Love this! We ended up roasting the veggies then throwing them into the sauce it was excellent

    1. Hi Sara, A Pesto is a raw sauce and becomes bitter when cooked for an extended period of time. It’s best to stick with the red sauce for the braising. XOXO -Monti

      1. Thanks, makes perfect sense!

        I ended up making it nearly as written, and it was delicious. The last of the leftovers will be my lunch today. :)

  6. So yummy. Loved how veggie packed it is. I used carrots instead of eggplant and added some red pepper flakes and a little lemon. Served with the polenta and some crunchy bread (💜 carbs). It was a hit!

  7. I made this last night and it turned out really well. I used the sauce recipe from “Pasta with 5 Ingredient Butter Tomato Sauce” because I didn’t want to go to the store for a jar nor did I want meat from the weeknight sauce recipe suggested above.
    The best part, though, just may have been when I used some of the leftovers this morning as an omelet filler. So good.

  8. This looks great. You mentioned maxing out fresh veggies in season – perhaps a helpful new topic for your blog would be exploring how buying in bulk and preserving in low-overhead methods can be a budget-friendly (and eco-friendly and local economy friendly!) way to enjoy vegetables all year. Freezing is cheap and easy of course, but canning isn’t that expensive if you get a simple pressure canner and use it for hot water bath canning too. These are lost skills but very valuable ones! Especially in the days of supply chain troubles.  

  9. This great vegetable stew is a version of ratatouille. While homemade tomato sauce is wonderful, a good jarred sauce is a real timesaver and many are both inexpensive and delicious. I love your idea of pairing it with polenta, which I’ve never done–but plan to try. I often use it as a topping for bruschetta (rub a fresh garlic clove over toast, add a smear of goat cheese–or cream cheese–and a big pile of the veggies to have another easy and delicious summer meal–and good use of the leftover stew. You can up the flavor by adding chopped green or black olives (I like kalamata) or capers. Cold, this stuff is a great snack–I dip sturdy corn chips, like Frito Scoops! Or what the hay–just use a spoon.