Tomato Red Pepper Marinara Sauce


When I was a teenager, I made a lot of pasta at home for my parents. They were great at cooking Chinese food but didn't have a clue about other kinds of foods. They got their Canadian food from me. But when I was 12 or so I bought jars of Ragu or Prego sauce and then added fresh vegetables like onions, mushrooms, green peppers and ground beef to it for a chunky pasta sauce. Everyone loved it! It was different and it always smelled so good in the house. It was also cheap to make and very filling. Cooking for a family of seven everyday usually involved a lot of food.

Then I grew up and started cooking everything from scratch. I've been making my own tomato pasta sauce for over 20 years. Wow, I'm old! Over the years it sort of evolved into this simple marinara sauce that just works with everything. I've made this sauce so many times, I can probably do it blindfolded. It's a great base for spaghetti and meatballs, a sauce for layering in lasagna, or add a few extra vegetables like mushrooms and asparagus for a simple vegan sauce for any kind of pasta. It's so versatile. You can even use it as dip for shrimp or anything that asks for a tomato based sauce.

It's so easy to remember since it uses a whole large onion, a whole garlic bulb, and a whole red pepper. It's tart from the tomatoes, sweet from the red pepper, salty from the veggie stock, and spicy from the red chile pepper. The blended red bell pepper helps thicken the sauce and gives it that gorgeous red orange tone. Plus, it's an extra vegetable and we all need more of that! When I make it, I like to freeze about a quarter of it for an emergency sauce for the kids. I pack them school lunches every day and this comes in very handy when we have no leftovers.

Fry onion and garlic.

Fry, then puree the red bell pepper.

Use a handful of fresh basil.

Simmer the marinara.

The recipe below is vegan using a vegetable base seasoning and tastes great with vegan meatballs and topped with nutritional yeast. But if you don't care about that, you can use a chicken base seasoning and use turkey or beef meatballs. It's all good!

Tomato Red Pepper Marinara Sauce
Makes 4-5 cups

1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic bulb, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 oz. fresh basil (large handful, finely chopped)
2 cans tomato (14.5 oz each)
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dry oregano
1-2 tsp red chile pepper flakes
1 tbsp vegetable base (better than bouillon)
1/2+ tbsp balsamic vinegar (a few drizzles)

Fry red bell pepper in oil, remove and puree with a bit of cold water. Set aside. Fry the onion and garlic. Add everything else, except for the balsamic vinegar. Add red bell pepper puree. Simmer at low for 30 mins or so. I like to make my sauce a couple hours in advance so that the flavors have the chance to combine and intensify. When it's time to cook the pasta, reheat the pasta sauce. When it's simmering again, add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Now it's ready! If you want to add meatballs, you can add them directly to the sauce and continue simmering for 10 mins or until the meatballs are heated through. Pour sauce over cooked pasta and if you like, top with shredded cheese. Your comfort food is ready to be enjoyed!

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