Voluptuous and versatile pasta sauce that balances the acidity of fresh tomatoes with sweet roasted peppers. Perfect stir-in sauce for meatballs or chicken.
Thick, full-bodied tomato sauces are a natural accompaniment to bland carbohydrates like pasta, gnocchi and polenta. But I often find red sauces too acidic. Sure, you can add sugar to sweeten the natural acidity of tomatoes, or baking soda to neutralise, but these additions can ruin the flavour. My recipe uses sweet roasted peppers to create the perfect sweet-sour balance. Three different types of tomatoes are used:
- Fresh Tomatoes: add a fresh sourness, although roasting brings out their natural sweetness
- Tinned Tomatoes: add body to the sauce and a certain richness
- Tomato Puree: add depth of flavour and thickness
The high tomato content means that the sauce keeps perfectly well in the fridge for a week (bacteria do not like acidic environments). I make a batch over the weekend and then add some protein like diced chicken breast or meatballs to make a meal during the week. You can cook the protein separately and just stir in the sauce at the end, or you can gently poach the protein in the sauce. For example, if you are making meatballs you can either cook them separately in the oven at 180°C/355°F for 20-25 minutes, or you can combine with the sauce and cook in a covered saucepan for 20 minutes (see this recipe for full instructions: Gluten-free Apple & Sage Meatballs in tomato sauce).
Tips & Tricks
- shave the base off the garlic cloves before roasting – this makes them easy to pop out of their skins when cooked
- place tomatoes cut-side up on roasting tray – this allows more liquid to evaporate, which concentrates the flavour
- allow the roasted vegetables to char at the edges – this adds flavour
- 2 red bell peppers
- 400g fresh tomatoes (about 6)
- 8 garlic cloves, skin on
- 5 tablespoons (75ml) olive oil
- 1 onion (130g), finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tablespoons (80g) tomato purée
- 400g (1 can) tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- small bunch of fresh basil leaves, torn
- Roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F.
- Quarter the bell peppers, and chop out the stalk, seeds and membrane. Chop the tomatoes in half. Shave off the base end of the garlic cloves (this will make them easier to pop out of their skins when cooked). Arrange the vegetables in a single layer in a metal roasting tray: put the peppers skin-side up, the tomatoes cut-side up and then tuck in the garlic. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast until soft and charred at the edges – about 30-35 minutes.
- Simmer the sauce. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the celery, onion and bay leaves and sweat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned.
- Add the remaining ingredients (tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, salt and black pepper). Swill out the empty tomato can with an inch or so of water, and add to the saucepan. Stir until blended. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and is approaching a jam-like consistency. Fish out the bay leaves and turn off the heat.
- Blend the sauce. Slip the garlic cloves out of their skins and into the saucepan (pinch the pointy end between your thumb and index finger). Scrape in the roasted vegetables and their juices. Blend the whole lot a smooth paste using a stick blender, or by transferring to the large bowl of a food processor. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- If serving immediately, stir in the torn basil. Otherwise, leave to cool and then scrape into an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep for up to 7 days. Reheat by warming gently in a covered saucepan, stirring frequently.
Vegetable ‘spaghetti’: allow 1 courgette per person. Trim the ends, and chop into thin strips using a spiraliser or a julienne peeler.
Brown rice noodles: allow 70g per person. Leave to soak in just-boiled water for 10 minutes before draining.