At this time of the year, as we prepare for (or recuperate from) large, celebratory dinners with multiple courses of rich, luxurious, special foods, mid-week dinners can seem like the ultimate hassle. What to make, what to make. My sister and I were just talking about defaulting to “brown dinner”, when you are tired of cooking and baking those rich, special foods and just want to eat and sit down already. Today I offer up this simple, no muss, little fuss roasted vegetable red sauce that is wonderfully flavorful and versatile enough to use with pasta, chicken patties, sausage, etc.; as a bonus for the time-strapped, it almost makes itself. It is chock-a-block with vegetables, which I seem to lose among the shuffle of cookies, cheese balls and roast meats in December. This recipe was inspired by a tomato sauce my Mom canned over the summer using the bounty of her kitchen garden; even my husband, who usually doesn’t care for eggplant (unless it’s significantly disguised by breading and melted mozzarella), was a fan. Speaking of eggplant, this sauce, though not a traditional marinara, is wonderful in an eggplant parmesan, adding a depth of flavor to an already delicious dish. As we near Christmas, consider this roasted pepper and eggplant sauce your ace in the sleeve, allowing you to bake that last tray of cookies, wrap that last present, enjoy time with your family and friends, instead of hovering over the stove. Happy holidays!
Roasted Bell Pepper & Eggplant Sauce (makes 2-3 c.)
- 1 bell pepper, halved and seeded (red, yellow or orange)
- 4 – 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 – 2 c. eggplant, cubed (from a small to medium Italian eggplant)*
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper, preferably freshly ground
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 c. plain tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet or similar shallow baking pan with parchment paper or tin foil; set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the pepper halves, eggplant cubes and garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper until the vegetables are coated thoroughly. Pour the contents of the bowl, including any extra oil, onto your pan and spread to form a single layer. Cook for 20-30 mins., stirring at least once (about halfway through the cook time), until the vegetables have softened and taken on some color. Remove from the oven and cool for about 15-20 mins. on the pan, until you can handle them more easily.
Put the slightly-cooled cooked vegetables, oil and brown bits and all, into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break them down slightly. Add the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes (if using) and red wine vinegar and process until you have a sauce of your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, vinegar, red pepper or tomato sauce as you wish. To serve, reheat on the stovetop for use with pasta, or substitute in any dish for which you would typically use marinara or other red sauce.
*It’s not necessary to peel (or pre-salt) the eggplant for this recipe, unless you prefer to do so.