We’ve all got friends with dietary restrictions. When you’re cooking for people who eat meat, don’t eat meat, eat fish but not cheese, have a gluten allergy, or whatever might come up, it can be difficult to make a good meal that doesn’t leave anyone out.
This recipe can not only be used for any occasion but can be altered for even the most restrictive dietary restriction. On the scale of “I grew these tomatoes and garlic in my backyard” to “Prego” this dish falls more on the homemade side without all of the extra effort. You’re not Ina Garten, but I think she would probably approve.
We’re going to start with the sauce, then outline how you can customize the rest of recipe depending on who you’re feeding. This dish is easy but tastes better if you let it cook down for a while, meaning you have an excuse to watch those extra episodes of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia/America’s Next Top Model and have a beer/glass of wine because “I’m cooking!” Do you.
Roasted Red Pepper Pasta for All
(Adapted from my Mom. She had a pasta sauce recipe that I’ve been altering for the past few years.)
- 3 onions (sweet or white, whatever you prefer)
- 4 garlic Cloves
- 2 red peppers
- 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 cans tomato paste
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- Couple of tablespoons of olive oil
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, whatever else you like in sauce!
Roasted red peppers are seriously the best. Turn your oven onto broil and place your two whole red peppers on a baking pan. You can line the pan with tin foil or parchment paper to help with cleanup. Put your peppers in the oven and check every 10 minutes or so, CAREFULLY moving the peppers around so they char evenly. They’ll sweat in the oven so make sure you’re super careful moving them; this means don’t flip them while reading the ending of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Once they’re charred and deflated (about 30 minutes depending on your oven), take them out and carefully put the peppers in a bowl, covering with a towel so they can cool.
While the peppers are roasting, peel and cut your onions and garlic. The cuts don’t have to be super exact or anything–that’s the beauty of letting this sauce cook for a while–no one will be able to see them in the final dish anyway. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat and cook your onions and garlic until they’re translucent and your house smells awesome.
Once your onions and garlic are done scoop the cans of tomato paste into your mixture. Stir and allow the paste to cook, about 8-10 minutes. It’s really important to make sure the paste is cooked through or else it can still retain that metal can taste.
Once the paste is cooked through, remove the pot from the heat and add one (drained) can crushed tomatoes. Then one at a time, the two cans of whole tomatoes. Use your hands to squeeze the whole tomatoes into oblivion; take all that anger and stress out on those tomatoes. Then return the pot to medium-low heat and stir, adding salt, pepper, red pepper, garlic and onion powder to your liking.
Carefully dice up your peppers (including the skin) and add them to your pasta sauce, stir, and cover.
Cook your sauce for the next hour or two, making sure to stir in between episodes of whatever show you’re watching. Make sure to taste your sauce and season accordingly. I like a thicker sauce but if this is too thick for your likening you can add a bit of stock to thin it out. Again, do you.
Now for the All Part:
These are just suggestions of how to pair your sauce with different dietary restrictions.
Pasta: Gluten Free/Not Gluten Free
- Regular Pasta: Boil half a box of your favorite pasta (I prefer penne) to al dente.
- Gluten-Free: Gluten-free pasta is available at most grocery stores. Just like with all pasta, make sure you don’t overcook it. Gluten-free pasta tastes fine but it can get super rubbery if it’s cooked for too long.
- Healthy Option: Use zucchini-noodles (zoodles). Again, make sure you don’t overcook them. I usually slice two zucchinis length-wise on a cheese grater, then cook them for about 5 minutes over medium heat with s+p.
Want to add more than just pasta to your sauce? Duh me too. The key here is to use the same seasonings from the sauce with whatever you add to the dish.
- The Way Your Mom Made It: Brown 1 pound of ground meat (chicken, pork, beef, whatever you prefer) and add same seasonings used in your pasta (onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper) until done.
- Healthier Option: Season one pound of chicken breasts and place on a baking pan sprayed with olive oil. Bake on 200 degrees Celsius and flip once until fully cooked. Once finished, remove from oven and carefully slice chicken and add to your dish.
- Mushrooms are Awesome: I like to use a variety of mushrooms including portabello and cremini. The other day I found some insane looking mushrooms (enoki) that were really great too. You want to cook mushrooms like proteins. Roughly chop (I like bigger pieces) your mushrooms and cook them with a little olive oil (mushrooms hold a lot of water so you don’t need a lot of olive oil) over medium heat. Add your seasonings and cook for about 8-15 minutes, making sure to stir. If making enoki mushrooms, heat a small amount of oil in a pan on high. Once the pan is hot, add the enoki mushrooms and flip once until they’re crispy (about 3 minutes).
- Vegetarians/Meat Eaters: I’m a mid-best girl so I like cheese. You can top your pasta with any cheese you like, although I prefer mozzarella or this awesome combination of gouda/paprika.
- Vegans/Lactose Intolerant: Don’t use cheese
Pretty easy dish with a lot of options for even the pickiest and most restrictive of eaters.Bonus points for this pasta sauce because it lasts a couple of days so if you aren’t cooking for a ton of people it’s there for you on the laziest of weekends. It doesn’t judge.
What I’m Listening To: Funeral (Arcade Fire)
What I’m Watching: American Splendor (Directed by: Ewan McGregor)