Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Do you like roasted red bell peppers? You should try them in a pasta sauce! Here’s a wonderful roasted bell pepper pasta sauce from the king of sauces himself, Hank Shaw. ~Elise

This is a pasta sauce I came up with when I recently spent a night working the pasta station at Grange restaurant in Sacramento for Chef Michael Tuohy. It is a Spanish-inspired sauce of roasted red peppers, plenty of garlic and a hit of sage – it’s similar to the flavors in my favorite wild game stew, a dish from the Spanish region of Aragon called chilindron.

I originally made the sauce to go with pici pasta, a hand-rolled, fat spaghetti-like shape that is a little like a marriage between bucatini and Japanese udon noodles. If you can find bucatini, which are fat spaghetti noodles with a hole in the center of them, use that. If not, use regular spaghetti. Can you use another shape? Sure, just don’t go too fine: Penne is great, angel hair is not.

Some people cannot drink alcohol, and while the red wine is integral to the flavor of the sauce, it is possible to substitute chicken stock. The dish will not be the same, but it will still taste good.

I use canned roasted red peppers for this recipe, but there is no reason you cannot roast your own. If you do this, you might need to add a splash of vinegar to the sauce; canned peppers are marinated in a vinegar solution, so even after soaking they remain acidic.

If you have leftovers, the sauce will keep in the fridge for about a week.

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 3-5 anchovies, or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 4 cups roasted red peppers (jarred or freshly roasted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or hot paprika
  • Grated cheese (parmesan, pecorino, manchego, etc.)
  • Some minced fresh sage for garnish

Method

1 If you are using jarred peppers, drain away the marinade and soak them in a large bowl of cold water. If you skip this step, the sauce will become too acidic. Soak for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.

2 Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring from time to time, until it is wilted and translucent, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle some salt over the onions as they cook.

3 Add the garlic and sage, mix well, and sauté another minute. Mix in the anchovies, smashing them up, and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until the paste begins to turn a brick red.

4 Add the red wine and stir well. Turn the heat up to high and let this boil down by half. Stir in the roasted red peppers and turn the heat back down to medium. Let this simmer for 10-20 minutes – it’s pretty forgiving at this point. You just want the peppers to be cooked through and soft.

5 Purée the sauce in a blender. You might need to do this in batches, because you don’t want to fill your blender more than 2/3 up at one time. Purée the sauce, starting with the machine on low for 1-2 minutes to break up the big pieces. Turn off the blender and scrape the sides down. Turn it on again, and starting at the low setting, bring it up to its highest setting. Purée for at least a minute, until smooth.

6 Return the sauce to the pan and heat to medium-low. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Add the cayenne or hot paprika, along with smoked paprika if you have some. If you want, a teaspoon of sugar helps, too, if your peppers are not already sweet enough. Keep the sauce warm while you make the pasta.

7 Make the pasta according to the package instructions, depending on the type of pasta you are using.

8 To serve, drain the cooked pasta and put it into a large bowl. Ladle some sauce over the pasta and mix with tongs to combine. You want to coat all the noodles evenly. Divide into servings. Garnish with some grated cheese and minced fresh sage. Serve with a medium-bodied red wine, or a dry rose.

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