CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Bell Pepper And Mushroom Marinara

Marinara sauce can be thick and chunky or smooth and silky. Either way suits me, but if I had my druthers, the former rather than the latter would be my preference.

Hardly any two of my marinara sauces are the same. But assuredly, they all contain tomatoes, garlic, some fresh basil, onion and seasoning. And they can be used on anything from spaghetti to lasagna to a seafood sauce.

My most recent marinara sauce featured all of the aforementioned ingredients and also two other vegetables that I am quite fond of — mushrooms and sweet bell peppers. Both the mushrooms and peppers (red, yellow and orange) had been on sale at our neighborhood supermarket and needed to be used, hence the marinara sauce.

If you like a lighter sauce, this might not be for you. But if your tastes run similar to mine, dig in and dig it!

Bell Pepper and Mushroom Marinara
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut in ½-inch dice

In a large bowl, crush the whole tomatoes with your fingers to form a course puree. Stir in the tomato paste, salt, pepper flakes, sugar, basil and parsley and set aside. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions and mushrooms begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes (do not brown the garlic). Add the tomato mixture, and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell peppers, and simmer until the peppers are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

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