This is unlike any pasta sauce you may have made before. For starters, there’s no pan involved for the sauce itself; you will of course be cooking your pasta in a pan (yet to come up with a nifty trick to dispense with that step, but we’ll get there). Hate to sound like a broken record, but using the oven and not doing this on the stove-top means that you can bung it in and forget about it for an hour. Now who wouldn’t want that.

I’ve been making a variation of this sauce for years now, but never having done the entirety of the cooking in the oven. And sure, I would add roasted peppers and even pumpkin sometimes to the mix, but never a medley of vegetables like I have here. I’ve always been skeptical about going down that route thinking the vegetables would make the sauce bland and stodgy – like a thick, puréed soup. Wasn’t willing to compromise on flavour at the expense of making it healthier.

There’s a lot of tomatoes here and for good reason. Tomatoes give the sauce that desirable tangy flavour without which we’d slip back into stodgy soup territory. The peppers—red peppers and banana peppers—get charred and blistered in the oven, contributing to both sweetness and smokiness in the sauce. Roasted banana peppers also provide ample heat without the need for black pepper or chilli flakes. You don’t taste the carrot and zucchini in the end product at all. Like zero. Which is a good thing here if you ask me. They add bulk and nutrition but otherwise you won’t even know they’re there. Like how I’ve heard people describe sweet potato brownies (I personally don’t see the point of these, but you catch my drift).

It’s the little things that I chance upon that get me really excited. Like for instance, in this recipe, a whole head of unpeeled garlic goes onto the tray to bake. Since the vegetables are hardy and could use that direct 200 C heat, there’s a good chance the garlic cloves would burn. So I stick the individual cloves under the mounds of peppers where they steam and roast in their little igloos. Cuuute and also gets the job done.

If you have access to fresh basil leaves, definitely throw a handful in at the end. If not, a dollop of pesto would also do the trick. Worcestershire sauce, albeit an uncommon addition, adds depth to the sauce. If you have an oven big enough to roast two trays of vegetables in, I would highly recommend doing this. This quantity makes 4-5 cups’ worth and freezes really well. Tossed through with pasta/layered in a lasagne, served as a side-sauce with meats, used as a dip – it’s incredibly versatile and you’ll be glad to have some extra in the fridge.

 

 

ROASTED TOMATO & VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Ingredients

For roasting:

  • 10 large tomatoes
  • 3 onions
  • 3 red peppers
  • 3 banana peppers
  • 1 zucchini (about 250 grams)
  • 1 carrot
  • 10 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tsp salt

For blending:

  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves (or 1 tbsp pesto)
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  • Prep your veg: 1) Halve the onions and chop them up into thick wedges (about 6 wedges from each onion). 2) Halve the red peppers and remove the seeds and inner white membrane. 3) Chop the tomatoes into the same size as the onions. 4) Halve the zucchini and carrot lengthwise and chop them into batons about the size of your finger. 5) Leave the banana peppers whole. 6) Leave the garlic cloves unpeeled.
  • Add your prepped veg to a baking tray and toss them with olive oil and salt. Use your hands to get them evenly coated. (tip: pop the garlic cloves underneath the peppers - this will help them steam and not burn).
  • Lay them out in an even layer without overlaps. Use two trays if necessary.
  • Bake for 50-55 mins until they are charred and blistered. Set aside to cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, peel away the papery skins on the red peppers and discard. Also do the same with the banana peppers. Tear open the banana peppers with your fingers and remove and discard the seeds. Squeeze out the garlic from their skins.
  • Add everything to a blender and blend to a smooth purée. Add the Worcestershire sauce, basil leaves (or pesto) and oregano. Blend again. You might have to do this in batches. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Decant into jars and refrigerate or freeze. Can be kept refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.

Notes

Makes 4-5 cups.
Make sure you don't overlap the vegetables whilst roasting. This will cause them to braise and you won't get any colour on them. If you don't have a big enough tray/oven, do this in smaller batches.
Freezing tip: Freeze in individual portions so you can thaw only the amount you need. Once thawed, don't re-freeze.

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