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

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


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 3-5 anchovies, or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 2 tablespoons 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


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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  • Monica

    This is good until I added the wine. I would have left the wine out… and will next time.

  • Jack Elliott

    This is really really good. I had it over sauce after eating with pasta and I just ate the sauce by the spoonful on its own. I even think I might just add some cream at the end and make a soup of it. It’s exceptional! And I’m pretty picky and discriminating about food.


  • Brandon

    I love this sauce! I made it twice. The first time I followed the recipe exactly. The second time, I used chicken stock instead of wine, and curry paste instead of tomato paste. I liked it best with my revisions. It’s a truly luxurious sauce, with a beautiful color and lots of flavor!


  • Monica

    Loved this recipe! My bf hates tomato based sauces so this was perfect. Only changes I made were subbing shallots for onions, basil for sage, marinara for tomato paste. Added mozzarella at the end as well. Very nice suggestion of adding splash of red wine vinegar as I broiled my own bell peppers @495.


  • Jan

    I have made it and we loved it!

    Could I put the peppers in the blender before I cook them up?


    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jan, I haven’t tried it that way but sure, why not? As long as you are starting with marinated red peppers, they are already cooked. You do want to soak them in water first though, to get rid of some of the acidity.

  • 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 ?

  • Terry

    I bought a large quantity of red peppers and am planning on making a very large batch of sauce. I am wondering how this sauce does with freezing and how you would freeze it. Thanks, Terry

    Sorry, I’ve never frozen it. I’d just put it in a canning jar or plastic container and freeze, though. If you do freeze it, let us know how it tastes once you cook it again. ~Hank

  • Courtney

    This was such a fantastic recipe, and I can’t wait to make it again! I didn’t have anchovy paste this time around, but I fully intend on using it next time I make this (which will surely be soon).

  • wishin2gofishin

    This sounds awesome! I am wondering how do you think this would work with sweet Italian sausage added to the sauce and put in a lasagne?

    I bet it would work fine. Let us know how it goes! ~Hank

  • Izzie

    So I made this sauce ( I think I tweaked it by adding balsamic vinegar and I know I left out the anchovies as I did not have any on hand). We did eat it with pasta and that was very good with a little parmesan cheese to round out the flavors, but I also added a few dollops of it before I folded and flipped my omelette the other day and that was just divine. I am finising the last of the sauce with spaghetti squash, yummy yummy!
    Thank you for posting it, it is a nice change from tomato sauce :)

  • Mayumi

    I made this last night. It was the only recipe I could find online without cream. It was really good! Finally found a use for the jar of Trader Joe’s roasted red pepper that’s been sitting on my shelf for months.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Patrice

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

    Not as well, but it will do. ~Hank

  • Elise Lafosse

    I plan to make this ahead this weekend and serve it during the following week sometime. Do you think just putting the pasta sause in the fridge is sufficient for max 3 days or so? Also I will use the jarred roasted red peppers…any idea how many jars would make four cups. I guess the big jars…Thanks! Elise Lafosse

    It will definitely keep for up to a week, so you’re OK there. If I remember right, I used 2 of the larger jars. ~Hank

  • rose

    been wanting to make this since the post went up! we added more garlic, some pepper flakes and the sugar. we also added some lemon juice for a bit of tangy-ness.
    anyway – it was fun to change things up with this sauce and will make it again! thanks hank!

  • Susan

    Didn’t have enough peppers, so used some crushed tomatoes to make up the difference – it was delicious!

  • Lymaris

    I made this recipe last night. Wow it was a burst of flavor in my mouth. Skipped the anchovies, used piquillo peppers and upped the cayenne pepper a lot! Super spicy and tasty. Everyone was happy… well except the kids. Def not a kid-friendly dish. =) I think the kids dug in thinking it was spaghetti sauce and were surprised it wasn’t.

  • vasudha

    what substitute would you suggest for the anchovies, for a vegetarian? i totally see myself making it just skipping the anchovies, but i’m curious if there’s something specific you might suggest for flavor…

    Yes. Use a teaspoon of dark miso paste. The anchovies are there for umami, and you’ll get a close approximation of that with a dark miso. ~Hank

  • cooknbooknbeadn

    Love red pepper pasta sauce – thanks. I make a version with and without tomatoes as the mood strikes me. Definitely going to add some red wine and sage to my next batch. I also suggest adding some good balsamic vinegar to add some wonderful flavor.


  • jen

    This sounds delicious. Do you think it would do well in the freezer for a couple of months? That would make getting the food processor out that much more worthwhile!

    I don’t see why not. I’ve frozen similar sauces before with good results. ~Hank

  • Amanda

    HOLY CRAP! this is amazing! i made it as soon as it was posted on facebook, because i had everything on hand except the sage. it was so easy, and i cant even believe how delicious it was! this is for sure going to be a staple in our house. i cant stop eating it, though. i used some merlot i had on hand, didnt miss the sage, i like it spicy and spiced, so i actually used 8 cloves of garlic, and doubled the paprika and cayenne and it was perfect for me. very strong flavors. i DEFINITELY needed the sugar, too. im not even a big fan of roasted red peppers- too sweet for me- but this im probably going to eat this like soup. i even opened up some harissa, assuming i would need to add a dollop of that, but it wasnt needed at all. thanks for this, hank! great job!

  • Laura

    I love roasted red pepper sauce on pasta. I’ve made Ellie Krieger’s recipe before, which actually has feta cheese blended into the sauce – so delicious! This recipe sounds amazing too.

  • Megan Crane

    This sounds delicious! What kind of wine would you recommend?

    Something medium-bodied. A good Spanish or French rose if it’s hot out, or if it’s cooler, a Grenache would be ideal. A Gamay like Beaujolais would work, too, but then again so would a California Pinot Noir. ~Hank

  • Gary in Massena

    I’ve been making a version of this for the last several years, since my wife developed a tomato allergy.

    I don’t use tomato paste for obvious reasons. At the same time, I don’t rinse the canned peppers because I want that acidity to make up for what I am not getting from the tomatoes.

    A variation on this (that I’ll be making tonight!) is to brown some hot italian sausage and add it into the sause. Gives it a little extra kick!

    As for wine, if I have it I’ll use it. If not I’ve substituted beef stock with good results as well as dark beer.

  • steph

    thanks for another delicious post elise and hank! about how many peppers do you think i would need to roast to make 4 cups?

    I would say 6-8 large red peppers, or 2-3 of the larger jars — you know, the tall, skinny jars, not the little squat ones. ~Hank

  • Tabitha (From Single to Married)ba

    Looks great but I have a question – is it super spicy/hot? With the cayenne I’m thinking it may have a bit of a kick so I wanted to check first…

    It’s as hot as you want it to be. The recipe as-is has a warm edge to it, but is not overly spicy. You can make it without any cayenne at all at first, then add it little-by-little at the end. ~Hank