There they were on my kitchen countertop: the final remnants of two friends’ summer garden efforts, a line of tomatoes and sweet peppers, all staring at me, begging to be made into something delicious.
So I searched “tomato and pepper recipes” online, scrolled through the results and felt completely uninspired. Nothing seemed to appeal to my current mood, and I wanted to use both of these gifts as well as possible, considering that hot house tomatoes and peppers season is upon us.
I had the thought that I could just cook them down into some kind of sauce and serve it over pasta. So, I searched “tomato and pepper sauce” online, scrolled some more and still wasn’t happy with the results.
Feeling unsure of my next step, I slung my shopping bags over my shoulder and walked to the grocery store. I couldn’t get the pasta sauce idea out of my head on the way there and decided that if the Internet couldn’t give me a recipe I liked, I’d just make one up myself.
This doesn’t seem like much of a revolutionary idea, but I’m a pretty committed recipe user, so just dumping things into a pan and hoping for the best generally isn’t my style. Those fresh veggies had somehow boosted my confidence.
At the store, I grabbed a sweet onion. Then I spotted a pint of mushrooms on sale. I had no idea what I’d do with them, but I decided I’d figure it out and added them to my bag.
When I got home, I started tossing things into my skillet, measuring each ingredient so I could recreate the recipe if it turned out well.
So I don’t have a blog or link for you for this week’s recipe, since I really just made it up as I went along. I’m sure I was inspired by many different recipes I’ve made over the years, but it was just me, my cutting board and my stove whipping this one up this week.
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Tomato Pepper Pasta Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 big bell peppers, any color, diced
about one dozen small- to medium-sized tomatoes, diced
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 cup grated parmesan
1 heaping teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 pint mushrooms, diced
salt and pepper to taste
16 ounces pasta (I used wheat spaghetti)
dried parsley (for optional garnish)
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat.
Saute the onion with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Toss in the diced peppers and saute with the lid on for a couple more minutes until they soften.
Add the diced tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, parmesan, paprika, dried oregano, dried basil and mushrooms and stir. Let the mixture stew with the lid off for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release their juices.
While the sauce cooks, boil the pasta according to package directions.
Carefully pour the sauce into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce back into the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If the sauce is too thick, add a little pasta water. If it’s too thin, add some more parmesan cheese.
Dump the strained pasta into the sauce and stir to coat it.
Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and dried parsley for color.
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Joey came home after covering a city council meeting, just as I was dumping my spaghetti into the pan, and we sat down for a late dinner.
He was pretty impressed that I went rogue for a change, and we both really enjoyed this sauce. It has a tiny kick to it, so if you have family members who don’t like spice, I’d eliminate or cut back the chili flakes and maybe toss in just a little more paprika, but I didn’t find it overly spicy or abrasive.
I also threw in some turkey meatballs I had on hand and let them heat up in the sauce on the stove. They were a nice addition.
I’m definitely not ready to completely abandon recipes, but maybe this experience will help me be a bit braver in the future. Sometimes it just takes the right ingredients to inspire some creativity.
Lindsey Young is managing editor of The Clarion, the Kansas Publishing Ventures newspaper in Andale. She can be reached at email@example.com.