Foods That Tell a Story

One late August afternoon, with a chilly 60-degree breeze whizzing by me, I sat still, nearly motionless. I had that fall feeling.

The end of summer was quickly approaching, bringing shorter days, earlier sunsets, and tighter schedules. Although I’m not a fan of endless sunlight, I do like the ease and freedom of long summer days. But fall is my favorite season, and I love to write about harvest and “abbondanza” (Italian for abundance).

Last fall, during mandatory wildfire evacuations, I wrote about fire-roasted salsa (definitely no pun intended). I have sampled many salsas over the years, but that particular fire-roasted salsa was the best I have ever tasted.

This post is about peppers, which is another plentiful and highly successful crop from our gardens, after tomatoes and cucumbers. The kind I like best are bell peppers, Italian long peppers, and jalapenos. While there are numerous varieties of very hot peppers, such as Scotch bonnets and habaneros, personally those are just too spicy for me.

Though I have limited gardening experience, I’d say that most peppers are easy to grow. They are unparalleled for adding flavor to a quick tomato sauce (featured below) and meatless dishes in general.

Bell peppers grow in a plethora of colors. My favorites are red, yellow, and orange. Green bell pepper, diced finely, is best in a mayonnaise-based summer potato salad for its freshness, but red, orange, and gold are sweeter in flavor and good in sauces, in my opinion.

(My mom didn’t know about the exotic uses of red roasted peppers, which were made famous in one of the Sex in the City movies, but I do. And that, as I’m fond of saying, is the makings of yet another post.)

Here’s a quick (about 15 to 20 minutes) tomato sauce for weeknight autumn meals. It is divine, and I believe will become one of your go-to sauces.

Quick Tomato Sauce

Chef’s note: In my opinion, this sauce doesn’t need meat, but of course you may add leftover cooked meat if you desire. Red peppers are my choice here because of their sweeter flavor, but you may use any color pepper that you have available.

For an easy weekend night sauce, this is flavorful, quick, and surprisingly easy. It also freezes well.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, diced
2–4 cloves garlic, minced garlic
3 large red bell peppers, chopped
1 green Italian long pepper, diced, or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 oz.) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
⅓ cup tomato paste
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half (I used cream)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add onions, garlic, and peppers and cook over medium heat until soft and the garlic is fragrant, stirring often. Be careful to not burn the garlic.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Lower heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Add cream (or half and half) and Parmesan cheese. Simmer an additional 5 minutes. Cover and let rest another 5 minutes.
  3. Spoon sauce over your favorite pasta. (I used Gemelli.) Before serving, tear basil leaves and add to the finished dish.

Summer might be coming to an end, but I’m grateful that the garden keeps bringing. Enjoy the bounty!

Image from iStock/ARTindividual.

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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