Everyday Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce

29th October 2014

Having recently returned from our trip to Asia + New Zealand, we haven’t had a lot of recipe posts lately. I know I’ve missed posting recipes, but what about you, the readers – would you like to see more recipes or more travel posts?

When we returned from Thailand, I was surprised and excited to see a box of San Marzano tomatoes on the counter in our kitchen again. It was early October, but unseasonably warm here, and the tomatoes were still bursting off the vines for a little while longer. Our friendly neighbor who has a lovely garden and always more San Marzanos than he knows what to do with had brought them by. Like him, we love these perfect ‘sauce tomatoes.’ These narrow deep reddish Italian tomatoes grow best in warm climates and that is why it is pretty rare to have these type of tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

On the right, the darker red one is one of my tomato sauces without red bell pepper.

San Marzano tomatoes have a thicker, firm flesh with fewer seeds and less acidity than Roma tomatoes. These are my favorite type of plum tomatoes because they have fewer seeds in them while also managing to be juicier, meatier and perfect for absolutely perfect for making rich, decadent sauces.

Fresh San Marzano tomatoes are often difficult to find (here in the Pacific Northwest) but canned San Marzano tomatoes with the D.O.P. label (Denomination d’origins Protetta) and made in Italy are available year-round.

Since San Marzanos are perfectly suited for thick, rich sauces, I played around with a few tomato sauces over the summer using our neighbor’s surplus tomatoes.

The best recipe I crafted though was our Everyday Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce. The red bell pepper adds a bit of extra body to the sweetness of the tomato and really provided that extra element I was looking for in my dishes. We ended up going back to this recipe all summer long, and naturally it was the recipe I had to make when we returned from our trip to Asia.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Preparing San Marzanos for the sauce

It is pretty simple and quick. I find a poaching method to be the most efficient way to peel them. Peeling tomatoes takes a little extra effort, but the result is so worth it.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and also prepare an ice water bath. Using a sharp knife, remove the stem portion from tomatoes and drop several tomatoes into the boiling water. Wait until the skin starts to split or wrinkle, about 1 minute. Then transfer the tomatoes immediately to the ice bath. Once cooled, working in batches slowly peel the tomato skin with your fingers. Then you can proceed to chop all of them your peeled tomatoes up for you sauce, keeping the remaining juices.

Vegan Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Everyday Red Pepper-Tomato Sauce (Vegan, GF)

Yield: about 2½ cups

How to Peel Tomatoes
Bring a large pot of water to boil and also prepare an ice water bath. Using a sharp knife, remove the stem portion from tomatoes and drop several tomatoes into the boiling water. Wait until the skin starts to split or wrinkle, about 1 minute. Then transfer the tomatoes immediately to the ice bath. Once cooled, working in batches slowly peel the tomato skin with your fingers. Then you can proceed to chop all of them your peeled tomatoes up for you sauce, keeping the remaining juices.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup or 5 oz)
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 red bell pepper cored, seeded and diced (about 1 cup or 8 oz)
4 pounds San Marzano tomatoes or any plum tomatoes (about 800g), peeled and diced, with juice*
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 scant teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley or other fresh herbs, minced

Method

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven or a heavy soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent but not browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute and stir in red bell peppers. Add tomato paste and stir, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice, along with vinegar, salt and pepper.

Bring sauce to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer, stirring only occasionally until liquid has slightly reduced, about 40 minutes. Uncover, using a hand held immersion blender, slowly pulse and puree sauce to a slightly smooth consistency. Alternatively, you can transfer sauce after it is cooled, to a blender and puree in batches.

Add fresh herbs and let simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and/or sugar depending on the acidity of the tomatoes. Remove from heat and garnish with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Notes

Fresh San Marzano tomato substitutions: Canned San Marzanos are available year-round. Use two (28-ounce) cans San Marzano Tomatoes with the D.O.P. label (Denomination d’origins Protetta) and made in Italy for this recipe. Be sure to use the juice as well.

If using vine tomatoes (about 5-6 medium pieces), taste and adjust the salt and sugar. I strongly recommend using San Marzanos for this recipe.

Keeping: The sauce may be used immediately, refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Vegan Pasta and Lasagna Rolls

We’ve used this sauce on flatbread pizza, lasagna rolls with Vtopian Artisan cheeses, baked pasta dishes and just about anything else you would put a fresh tomato sauce on. It’s the sort of sauce that you’ll love seeing in your fridge and will always find a use for. I will be sharing some of these recipes later, but this is just a sneak peek for now.

Have you worked with Italian San Marzano tomatoes before?

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