Get Saucy Series: Ruby Red Sauces

Summer is winding down, and September at the farmers market is marked with mountains of juicy tomatoes, meaty, sweet bell peppers and spicy chili peppers. Capturing and concentrating their flavors in sauces is an easy way to preserve the season, and use the abundance at hand.

With their intense flavor and high water content, tomatoes and peppers are perfect for whirling into sauce — providing a natural thickener and texture versatility for sauces, which can be thick and chunky or smooth and thin.

Roasting tomatoes concentrates their flavor and texture, making a rich sauce in comparison to a fresh tomato sauce that, although cooked down, capitalizes on the flavorful juices. Red bell peppers, when roasted, produce an even richer sauce than roasted tomatoes, as they’re inherently meatier with less juice. Both are versatile and, when pulled from the freezer in a few months, will be a welcome respite from the winter doldrums.

Glossary of Tomato Sauces

  • Concasse means to crush, break or grind; tomato concasse is a barely cooked or raw sauce.
  • Coulis refers to a smooth puree that has been strained.
  • Pomodoro means tomato sauce (“pomodoro” is Italian for tomato).
  • Arrabita refers to tomato sauce flavored with chili pepper.
  • Puttanessca tomato sauce flavored with capers and anchovies, and often with olives, garlic and chile flakes.
  • Bolognese in the style of Bologna; usually refers to a slow-cooked meat sauce with vegetables and tomato.
  • Marinara means tomato sauce with garlic, olive oil and oregano.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Recipe by Jill Melton, MS, RD

With bits of colorful tomatoes and raw garlic for punch, this chunky sauce is also multipurpose; add a dose of heavy cream and fresh basil, and it morphs into creamy tomato basil soup. Or toss in chunks of fresh mozzarella and croutons, serve cold and you have a gazpacho.

1 onion, diced
1 small carrot, grated or 1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
10 very ripe, juicy tomatoes, crushed (about 12 cups)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves crushed garlic
1 handful chopped fresh basil
Coarse ground black pepper


  1. Sauté the onions, carrot or red pepper in olive oil. Add crushed tomatoes. Simmer 1 to 2 hours (depending on how watery your tomatoes are) or until thick.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Cook 15 minutes more.
  3. Adjust seasonings.

Nutrition Information
Serves 8 (serving size: 1 cup)
(Without optional ingredients)
Calories 67; Total fat 4g; Sat. fat 1g; Chol. 0mg; Sodium 125mg; Carb. 8g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 5g; Protein 2g; Potassium 392mg; Phosphorus 43mg


Roasted Red Tomato Sauce

Recipe by Jill Melton, MS, RD

Roasting tomatoes concentrates their flavor and evaporates their moisture — and is a perfect way to use those less-than-perfect tomatoes, so ask for “seconds” at the farmers market and simply cut off the blemishes.

12 tomatoes (any kind)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, sliced
Coarse ground black pepper
Sherry or balsamic vinegar (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Slice and core tomatoes. Place on parchment or foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with coarse salt, pepper and sliced garlic.
  4. Bake 2 to 4 hours or until juices have evaporated. Place in a food processor, pulse until smooth (or chunky).
  5. Add sherry or balsamic vinegar to taste and water if sauce is too thick (which depends on how long you cook the tomatoes).

Nutrition Information
Serves 8 (serving size: 1⁄4 cup)
Calories 50; Total fat 2g; Sat. fat 0g; Chol. 0mg; Sodium 155mg; Carb. 8g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 5g; Protein 2g; Potassium 442mg; Phosphorus 46mg

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce

Recipe by Jill Melton, MS, RD

Whirl up this delicious sauce perfect for burgers, chicken, pasta and sandwiches. Roast the peppers on foil, then bundle them up in the same foil to steam.

3 red bell peppers
3 garlic cloves
4 sun-dried or roasted tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F or heat broiler.
  2. Halve peppers and remove seeds. Place cut-side down on foil-lined baking sheet. Flatten with palm of hand.
  3. Roast or broil 10 to 15 minutes, until charred and blackened.
  4. Remove from oven and immediately wrap peppers in foil to trap steam. Let stand 10 minutes.
  5. Unwrap and peel peppers.
  6. Place garlic in food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add peppers and remaining ingredients; pulse until smooth.

Nutrition Information
Serves 16 (serving size: 1 tablespoon)
Calories 43; Total fat 3g; Sat. fat 1g; Chol. 2mg; Sodium 41mg; Carb. 2g; Fiber 1g; Sugars 1g; Protein 1g; Potassium 70mg; Phosphorus 27mg

Summer Lasagna with Four Cheeses

Recipe by Jill Melton, MS, RD

8 cups fresh tomato sauce
1 12-ounce package no-cook lasagna noodles (about 12 noodles)
12 ounces fresh ricotta or whole milk ricotta
4 ounces fontina cheese
4 ounces feta cheese
4 ounces Comté (or gruyere) cheese
2 ounces Romano cheese
1⁄4 cup fresh basil, sliced


  1. Spread a cup of sauce in bottom of 9×13-inch pan. Top with 4 uncooked lasagna noodles. Top with ricotta, feta, half of fontina cheese, 2 cups sauce and basil.
  2. Repeat with noodles, fontina cheese and sauce.
  3. Top with noodles, sauce and Comté and Romano cheese.
  4. Place in fridge up to 8 hours or bake immediately at 375°F for 45 minutes or until bubbly and done.

Nutrition Information
Serves 12 (serving size: 1 cup)
Calories 484; Total fat 24g; Sat. fat 13g; Chol. 74mg; Sodium 566mg; Carb. 43g; Fiber 4g; Sugar s 7g; Protein 25g; Potassium 522mg; Phosphorus 407mg

Jill Melton
Jill Melton, MS, RD, is editor and founder of Edible Nashville Magazine.