Sweet Fire Pasta Sauce: Roast Sweet Pepper, Garlic and Oregano Arrabiata with Chinese Chilli

Sometimes I just need something hot.

If you don't like spicy food you shouldn't read any further. For those who have a little fire in their belly, this is the pasta sauce for you. You may have tried Arrabiatta sauces in restaurants but trust me, they're not a patch on this one which makes the most of the long, pointed, sweet, red Roma peppers we have been getting in Waitrose lately. With that sweetness, plus the soft caramel of roast garlic, sprigs of fresh oregano and some black chilli oil from Chinatown or See Woo...a standard spicy tomato sauce become a work of art waiting to smother your rotellini (or whichever pasta you choose). Just hot enough and with lots of flavour. It's great for these invigorating early spring days.


4 Roma red peppers, washed and de-seeded (normal red bell peppers can be used)
2 cans peeled plum tomatoes
1/3 tube tomato paste
olive oil
bunch of fresh oregano
one head of garlic
red wine (see bottom of recipe for non-alcoholic alternatives)
black pepper
good quality salt
1/2 tsp of la jiao you (chinese chilli oil: see picture)

Parmigiano cheese to grate.

Coats pasta for 3 or 2 very hungry people who really like pasta sauce.


Turn the oven on full blast grill.

Split the peppers so that they lay flat, skin side up, and place on foil. Along side you can put your head of garlic, having lopped off it's very top spiky bits. You can put it right side up or upside down...if it gets too toasty just turn it over.

Place the peppers and garlic in the oven, and roughly chop the oregano, open the tomatoes and cut them (you can just put a knife in the can and cut them while they are still in there.). Go off and read a book or listen to the radio or watch Rome for 10 minutes or until the peppers have gently blackened, blistered tops, turning the garlic over in the meantime if it begins to burn. Don't panic if it does...it's still in its papery skin so it's protected.

Once blackened, retrieve the peppers and garlic and carefully peel the skin of the peppers: it should come off easily, putting the flesh to one side, and chop into rough strips. Squeeze the soft, roasted garlic out of 3 to 4 cloves.

Put about 3 tbsp of olive oil into a deep frying pan (preferably non-stick). Once moderately hot, put about 1 tbsp of the tomato paste into the oil: this is an Italian tomato sauce secret. Fry the past for a few seconds until it is blended with the oil. Then add the peppers, half of the chopped oregano, and the garlic. Fry gently on a medium heat for about a minute, then add a splash or two of red wine. Blend together with a wooden spoon and after about a couple of minutes, add the canned tomato. blending the pepper mixture together with it thoroughly as you heat. Add more red wine, salt and pepper to taste.

(now is a good time to put the pasta into boiling water)

Simmer for 10 minutes: if the sauce looks dry add a bit of red wine (to taste), water or vegetable stock.

Finally add the chilli. Start with a bit less than half a tsp and add to taste. We typically have 1/2 to 1 tsp.

Remove from the heat and blend with your pasta. Tip: I generally put the pasta back in the pot it was boiled in after it has been strained and rinsed, then adding the sauce over it bit by bit until I am happy with the sauce-to-pasta-ratio.

Serve with generous grated parmigiano and sprinkle with the remaining oregano.

and of course...enjoy!

(photo credit: Liam Giet...except for the one below which was taken by me)

Note on vegetarian dishes:

You may have noticed that a lot of my recipes don't contain any meat: this is because I am a veggie fan and rarely eat meat...as a Sikh I try to avoid it. This recipe is vegetarian too; for those who don't eat eggs, there aren't any, and you can replace the red wine with a little balsamic vinegar, some stock and a pinch of sugar if you like, but any alcohol in the wine is cooked off completely in the process of making the dish, hence even I eat it.

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