Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Vibrant red bell pepper pasta sauce, made with roasted red bell peppers, garlic, onion, sage, anchovies, tomato paste, red wine, paprika, Parmesan

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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I originally made the sauce to go with pici pasta, a hand-rolled, fat spaghetti-like shape that is a little like a marriage between bucatini and Japanese udon noodles.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.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Sauce Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 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 Soak jarred peppers in water: 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 Sauté onions: 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 garlic and sage, then anchovies, then tomato paste: 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 wine, roasted peppers, then simmer: 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: 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 Add spices: 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 Serve pasta with sauce: 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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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

Links:

Marinated roasted red bell peppers

Showing 4 of 24 Comments

  • Mary Lynne simpson

    I’m going to be trying this after finally finding your recipe again. I have one of the tall jars so will halve the recipe. I also have a jar of fire grilled mixed vegetables – eggplant, red paper, zucchini then oil, vinegar, salt & “spices” – it’s the squat size 10oz., and the red pepper is 15.5 oz. I’ll drain and rinse both of them, anything else you think I should do?

  • Sheila

    What do you think of using this sauce over freshly made cheese ravioli ?

  • Patrice

    I don’t have a standard blender, would an immersion blender work too?

    Not as well, but it will do. ~Hank

  • Yeni

    One heck of a sauce! Even better than the tomato sauce. Everybody in my house devoured it, including my 4 yo daughter (didn’t even mind the spicy edginess). Thanks for made me cooking like a pro!

  • CC

    I ABSOLUTELY loved this recipe! I decided to make this at home in Berkeley after I got back from a long business trip, and it helped me feel at ease again. Perfect recipe for therapeutic cooking.

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