This is (an inadvertently vegan) roasted red pepper and tomato sauce that uses cashews for creaminess in lieu of cheese, cream, or other forms of dairy. It’s very versatile and can be used as a pasta sauce, pizza sauce, chip dip, spread, or even as the base in baked dishes (eggplant involtini coming next). Basically anywhere you’d typically use a tomato sauce.
Why cashews? A few reasons: 1) I’m not the biggest fan of nuts and this is one sure shot way to get some into my diet. 2) Akin to a pesto, adding nuts makes the sauce creamy while also adding body and bulk to it. 3) Because of the aforementioned bulking, you can eke out two batches of sauce with this amount of veg (whereas without the cashews you wouldn’t have been able to get it thick enough to do this). Use some now and stash away the rest of the thick sauce in the freezer. Thin it out with enough water before using. 4) Adding cheese and cream to a sauce base—although undoubtedly delicious—significantly lowers its shelf life. This stays good in the fridge for up to a week—I’ve even pushed 10 days—and indefinitely in the freezer.
Won’t adding so much water dilute the flavour of the sauce? This is where the oven-roasting helps. Roasting vegetables in the oven makes the flavours more concentrated, resulting in a thick base that is super potent and tangy. So thinning it out with water only mellows the flavours here without compromising or diluting it much. This sauce base is quite simple; this is so that you can later add herbs and seasonings depending on what you’ll be using it for. You could do oregano and dried herbs if you are going down the pasta/pizza route. Or a bit of harissa/paprika for a spread or dip. I’ve called it a ‘versatile’ sauce with good reason and ample backing.
VERSATILE RED PEPPER & TOMATO CASHEW SAUCE
- 3 red peppers
- 6 large tomatoes
- 2 onions
- 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- ¼ cup cashews
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chilli flakes, or to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Halve the red peppers. Remove and discard the stems, seeds and white membrane. Chop the tomatoes and onions into thick wedges (approx 2” X 1”). Keep the garlic cloves unpeeled.
- Toss them all together with salt and olive oil. Arrange on a large baking tray without too many overlaps. Roast them in two trays if they don’t fit on one. Roast for 60 mins. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
- (Note: if your tray is overcrowded this may take longer. Roast until the peppers, onions and tomatoes brown and shrink to half their original size.)
- Add the roasted vegetables to a blender jar. Peel the garlic cloves and discard the skins. Add the cashews and chilli flakes and blend to a smooth paste. If using right away, thin out with enough water to get the consistency you want. If storing for later use, store as a thick paste and thin out with water before using.
- Decant into jars and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.