CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Spaghetti Sauce

Just about everyone loves a pasta sauce. You know, the kind with sweet Italian sausage, a lot of tomatoes and some nice mushrooms and peppers. And don’t forget the Parmesan cheese.

You can count me in that camp. In fact, it’s one of our favorites when served with spaghetti. When my grandson come home for visit, it’s one of the meals that he requests. But there is something to be said for the meatless sauce varieties.

I put together a version of spaghetti sauce sans meat the other day, with tomatoes, onions and roasted red bell peppers from my garden, and now it just might be my standby. The sauce was thick and tasty after simmering on the stove for 3 to 4 hours.

And for the carnivores of the world, meatballs are always an option to add to this hearty vegetable sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce
3 red peppers
1 large white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of dried Italian herb mix
Salt and pepper to taste
5 14-ounce cans chopped tomatoes (can use a mix of chopped tomatoes and whole plum tomatoes)
A dash or two of red pepper flakes
½ cup of tomato paste
½ cup of sliced black olives (optional)
1 cup red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Roast the peppers (recipe follows).
Meanwhile, start preparing the sauce. In a large heavy pan, sauté your onions until soft and slightly browned.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes, saute for a few minutes until the garlic releases its fragrance.
Add mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it begins to evaporate. Add the Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
Now add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, black olives, red wine, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar.
Heat and then bring to a simmer.
When the red peppers have roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool before peeling, de-seeding and chopping them into small pieces. Add them to the sauce.
Simmer sauce for 3 to 4 hours, stirring regularly, until the sauce has reduced to a thick and chunky texture. If you need to serve it before it’s reduced to the texture you prefer, just add more tomato paste. Taste throughout and add any extra seasonings or flavorings that you may like.
Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Roasted Peppers
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Lay peppers on their sides, stems pointing sideways. Put baking sheet in oven and allow peppers to roast for 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet.
Using tongs, give the peppers a half turn, then place back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Check to make sure peppers have fully roasted. The skin should be charred and soft, and the peppers should look slightly collapsed. If they don’t look ready, let them roast for a few more minutes. When they’re done, remove baking sheet from oven.
To seed and peel a pepper, slice the pepper vertically from top to bottom and lay the pepper open so it becomes one long strip. Pull the stem from the top of the pepper. The stem and a clump of seeds should loosen easily. Use a towel or paper towel to wipe off any loose seeds that remain inside the pepper.
Flip the pepper over to reveal the skin side. Strip off the charred skin. If you want a more charred flavor, you can leave a few small blackened bits on the skin.

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