Simple Tomato Bell Pepper Sauce

by Marla on March 21, 2011 · 55 comments

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Homemade pasta and pizza sauce recipe
The other night I had to jam on a quick dinner for my hubs and the kids. We love Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough for meals in a pinch. I always change up the toppings and we have a beautiful pizza in about 12 minutes. As I dashed for a jar of tomato sauce I realized we had none of our favorite on hand. I moved quickly as tummies were rumbling and had this ready in about 25 minutes. All you need is a can of crushed tomatoes, bell pepper, fresh garlic, onion and some spices to rock out a great sauce.

Cans of tomato sauce from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Muir Glen, San Marzano

Sorry I do not have a photo of the pizza. Those dark night time photos are never too good looking anyway. The nice thing about pizza night is I pack get to pack a few slices in their lunch boxes for the next day. This is of course great over a bowl of pasta too.

Yellow and red bell peppers with vine ripe tomatoes

The best thing about a big batch of tomato sauce is that it can be enjoyed for a few days in a row with all different kinds of meals. The flavor actually gets better after a day or two as the ingredients have a chance to blend together. I love topping all kinds of meats, seafood, veggies and grilled chicken with this sauce and a sprinkling of our favorite Pecorino Romano cheese.

Homemade pasta and pizza sauce recipe

You can add so much to this sauce, it is a great canvas for many additional flavors.

Homemade pasta and pizza sauce recipe

Turn it into a spicy puttanesca, add ground meat to make a bolognese. Add shrimp, seafood and spices for a fra diavolo sauce. The sky’s the limit.

Homemade pasta and pizza sauce recipe

What is your favorite pasta and pizza sauce? Do you have a great recipe for whole wheat pizza dough?

Simple Tomato Bell Pepper Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Simple Tomato Bell Pepper Sauce


  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of fresh chopped Garlic, adjust to taste
  • 1 large Bell Pepper (I like yellow or orange in this sauce)
  • Olive Oil
  • 28 ounce can of chopped Tomatoes
  • a few pinches of Sea Salt
  • a few pinches of Cracked Black Pepper
  • a few pinches of Smoked Paprika
  • optional: a handful of chopped fresh Basil or Italian Parsley


  • In a large saute pan heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and onions. Cook stirring frequently until soft, fragrant and slightly browned about 5 minutes. Some pieces will char a bit, but that will add more flavor to the finished sauce. Reduce heat to medium, add bell pepper and cook a few minutes longer. Add tomatoes. Increase heat and bring sauce to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Let the sauce cool a bit and purée with an immersion blender or food processor.
  • Notes
  • This recipe is more a method than anything else. Feel free to toss in some spinach, mushrooms, fresh herbs, finely diced carrots, celery, etc.
  • Adjust salt and seasonings to taste. You can also make it spicy with red pepper flakes or cayenne.

Tomato Sauce Recipe Links

{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen March 21, 2011 at 12:12 am

I like the Trader Joe’s pizza dough too, it’s a great way to make pizza fast. I think San Marzano tomatoes are the best when making your own tomato sauce, they are the most flavorful. I also like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to my sauce to make it a little spicy.


2 Marla March 21, 2011 at 5:31 am

Sylvie: Those San Marzano tomatoes are something special. They do have a unique flavor to them. Red pepper flakes are a favorite over here too – my little girl always asks for a little heat & spice. Where do you live? Thought you were somewhere overseas. Obviously not if you have access to Trader Joe’s pizza crust…..


3 Rosa March 21, 2011 at 1:02 am

That is one of my favorite combos! Delicious.




4 Jessica @ How Sweet March 21, 2011 at 3:28 am

I’ve never made ANY of my own sauce! This looks so easy that even I could do it!


5 Marla March 21, 2011 at 5:35 am

Jessica: You can do anything when it comes to cooking my friend 😉 Your recipes amaze me each and every day!


6 Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 21, 2011 at 3:52 am

Marla, the recipe looks wonderful! And your photos…they are so VIBRANT and bright and awesome!

That multicolored spoon is just perfect with the sauce and photo spread.

Speaking of photography, I got Lightroom 3. Holy interfacing with my Mac + Wordpress nightmare. Spent all weekend trying to just get it integrated. Now I could use another weekend to maybe learn it :)

I think I need to try your program out!

Cannot wait for Tuesday!! It’s the highlight of my week :)



7 Marla March 21, 2011 at 5:39 am

Averie: From my understanding you will love Lightroom. It is an industry standard that many of my photog buddies use. I have Photoshop because it is what we used to use back in my days at Disney. I think Lightroom might be more specific to what we do with food photography. New software can be very challenging at first, but well worth your efforts to learn. In a few weeks you will be zipping around it like you have known it all your life. Time and patience my friend. Not two things I am very good at over here. Learning though.
I am loving that fork too. Think I found it at Target.


8 notyet100 March 21, 2011 at 4:15 am

ummm delicious,..


9 Katrina March 21, 2011 at 4:35 am

This sauce looks so tasty! I love how healthy is sounds. Yum!


10 Jeanette March 21, 2011 at 4:41 am

Fresh sauce is so easy to make and so much better than store-bought. My kids love puttanesca sauce. If I’m in a hurry, sometimes I just throw together garlic, chopped anchovies and olive oil, then stir in some pasta water to make a sauce. For extra protein, I have even thrown in some canned sardines. Topped with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, it was delicious and my kids actually loved it.


11 Marla March 21, 2011 at 5:44 am

Jeanette: The canned sardines are a great idea for an extra protein boost. My kids love ’em so I need to give it a try. They usually eat them straight out of the can or in pasta tossed with olive oil and parmesan. The sauce will be a bonus!


12 Heather (Heather's Dish) March 21, 2011 at 5:08 am

it’s all so colorful! i love the clarity of the noodles in the photos, and i just wish someone had invented smell-o-vision already. yum!


13 Marla March 21, 2011 at 5:45 am

Heather: “smell-o-vision” You crack me up girl. Thank goodness that does not exist yet. I would make myself nuts looking at everyone’s goodies online!


14 Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} March 21, 2011 at 5:37 am

I love tomatoes + bell peppers. This looks fantastic. I have a few different tomato sauce recipes that I love. I do have a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough–it’s so much tastier to make your own!


15 Marla March 21, 2011 at 5:59 am

Maryea: Do share a link in the comments if you have one for your whole wheat pizza dough…..and any of your favorite sauces if you wish.


16 FoodFitnessFreshair March 21, 2011 at 6:13 am

I could see how particularly good this would be on pizza. And I love how easy this is!

And I feel you on night time photos…I often wish I had some studio lighting or something. I’d settle for more hours in daylight though, hah. Also, I was reading earlier comments….Lightroom just takes a little adjustment. I recently just got in myself and have been playing around with it. You can export the photos to photoshop, tweak them, and then save them in Photoshop for easy usage on Wordpress. Not sure if that’s of any help to anyone.


17 Marla March 21, 2011 at 6:26 am

Grace: One day my goal is to have some strobes on hand for times when the lighting is not quite right. Thanks for sharing those helpful tips on Lightroom. Many people are wondering what is the best editing software to purchase. I did not know that it integrated so well with Photoshop, or that they would need to be used together. I thought Lightroom handled all the edits? Guess not.


18 Amanda March 21, 2011 at 7:17 am

Those forks rock! Hubby and I were just talking about how
me needed to do more things with our tomatoes instead of just
canning and drying. This is perfection!!! :)


19 Maria March 21, 2011 at 8:03 am

My kind of sauce! Love the bright peppers!


20 Molly Chester March 21, 2011 at 8:20 am

Yum! This sounds so fresh and delicious, Marla! And
quick… love it.


21 Nancy@acommunaltable March 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

I love the versatility of this sauce – not only great on
pizza, pasta but also would be terrific on chicken too!!! Now I’ve
talked myself into making some of this for the week!!!


22 teresa March 21, 2011 at 11:03 am

Oh I am so delighted you featured this healthy tomato
sauce! Planning to stock up on whole wheat pizza dough next time I
go to Trader Joe’s. That will be PERFECT for Friday nights! Happy
Week my FRIEND! I got my English Toffee Stevia and thought of you
when I dropped it in my coffee this morning. Hugs! xo


23 carolinaheartstrings March 21, 2011 at 11:06 am

Wow that looks awesome. I cannot wait to try this


24 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. March 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

Sounds great to me! My kids will love this one


25 Kristen March 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I love how fresh and simple this sauce is. It looks like a great recipe to have on hand!


26 Helene March 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I feel like making a simple sauce tomorrow. That looks so good.


27 Heather March 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

All that gorgeous color makes me want to dig right in! I’ve never made my own sauce before. You make it look effortless!


28 Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather March 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Crushed tomatoes have been a life saver for quick dinners. The bell peppers sound like such a great addition! Way to keep your family eating good for you foods in a hurry too.


29 Lisa (Dishes of Mrs. Fish) March 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

My favorite recipe is my husband family’s recipe. :) Which has a very similar base as yours. :)
Great sauce, and I love your striped spoon!


30 susan from food blogga March 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Would you believe that I have never bought pasta sauce. My Italian mother would disown me! 😉

As for pizza sauce, I like plain tomato sauce that I season with crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan.

And yes, I do have a whole wheat crust recipe I love:


31 Marla March 21, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Susan: Thanks so much for sharing that helpful link with me. Your veggie pizza is perfect. The gruyére, mushrooms and olives are a perfect combo of well defined flavors. Now I have no excuses not to make my own pizza crust.


32 the urban baker March 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm

i always keep homemade sauce on hand and freeze for those nights that you mention above. i love the idea of adding the peppers…such a great tip, Marla! x


33 Marla March 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Susan: You are so right, this kind of sauce is excellent to store in the freezer for in a pinch meals. Gotta make some more and do that. I do the same thing with big batches of applesauce.


34 Shaina March 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm

This makes me look forward to summer and tomatoes in the backyard. Love how quick and easy this comes together, Marla! Gorgeous.


35 Nutmeg Nanny March 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I’m loving this sauce! It would be perfect on a grilled flatbread with fresh mozzarella…yum!


36 Cookin' Canuck March 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

This is the perfect meal for a busy night. I love that it can be made with ingredients that most people stock in their pantries and fridges.


37 Joanne March 22, 2011 at 4:31 am

I love the flavor of sweet red peppers mixed in with tomato sauce. Especially if they are roasted red peppers! Can’t be beat. This sounds like a great sauce to have on hand for a wide variety of weeknight meals!


38 Marla March 22, 2011 at 5:20 am

Joanne: Sugar is so commonly added to tomato sauce which I never like. The sweetness of the bell peppers is all you need to get that little touch of sweet.


39 Angie's Recipes March 22, 2011 at 4:33 am

This looks entirely delicious and healthy!


40 SMITH BITES!! March 22, 2011 at 5:01 am

this is a terrific and classic flavor-combo Marla – you’re right so simple, full of flavor and you can toss in any veg you have on hand!


41 My Man's Belly March 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Love the photos! Making tomato sauce is the only way I can
keep up with my tomato garden in the summer. Hmmm….maybe we can
work out a deal this year. I’ll give you some San Marzano’s and
you’ll give me some baked goods. Deal?


42 Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction March 22, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Tomato sauce is one of my favorite things to make… I love
to make a giant batch and freeze it for later. This sauce looks
like a great base recipe that can be added to a lot of my favorite
quick dinners!


43 Aggie March 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

a lovely lovely sauce!! And you are so right about big
batches, so nice to have extra on hand!


44 Maris (In Good Taste) March 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I love the bright colors in your photographs. I love that
you can make this and get several delicious meals from it.


45 Karena March 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Simply deliciouus looking and sounding!! Yum
Come and enter my giveaway for bath & body from EcoNatural!

Art by Karena


46 Cathy/ShowFoodChef March 23, 2011 at 1:02 am

Marla, love the ingenuity – and nothing like a fresh made sauce without all that sugar, right? This one sounds like you packed it with flavor – red pepper idea so good! Always a fun post to read 😀


47 Amanda March 23, 2011 at 6:20 am

Beautiful as always Marla. I definitely make homemade sauce over store bought. I haven’t bought a jar of sauce since I was in my early twenties!


48 Hannah March 23, 2011 at 7:36 am

I’m lazy and rarely make my own tomato sauce, but this
summer, when there’s a glut of tomatoes, I’ll try to remember your
recipe. I like the sound of that bell pepper in there!


49 Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking March 23, 2011 at 11:25 am

This is such a delicious and simple looking sauce, Marla!
With juicy, plump tomatoes cropping up in the stores and farmers
markets, I’m going to have even more around than usual, and I’ll be
needing plenty of ideas for how to use them. This will be perfect!
Thanks for sharing a lovely, healthy recipe like this and inspiring
me for the spring and summer. :)


50 Heavenly Housewife March 23, 2011 at 11:47 am

Sounds like a wonderful, healthy sauce, full of great
flavour. *kisses* HH


51 Mariko March 24, 2011 at 7:26 pm

I have so many bell peppers right now. I’ll definitely be making sauce out of it.

Oh, I wish I wish I had a TJ’s close to me! I’m so jealous. :)

I way prefer recipes that are methods more than specific. It makes so much more sense to me.


52 Marla March 25, 2011 at 5:07 am

Mariko: I too am a big fan of method recipes. The more I cook the more ideas, inspirations and techniques come from intuition. I like tossing things into hot pans and tasting along the way. 99% of the time there is great success! I have started measuring a bit more lately because I need to post the recipe – with at least some guidelines for folks who don’t cook at all.


53 A Canadian Foodie March 27, 2011 at 6:43 am

I make a very similar sauce, but add an equivalent amount of peppers to tomatoes, and toast the peppers first, then peel them. I always use canned DOP tomatoes. Even though they are way more expensive, there is just no comparison regarding the flavour. Yes, I have done canned tomato taste testing – more than a few times. The DOP from San Marsano win every time – and by a long shot. LOVE these kinds of recipes. They are so versatile, and make a lovely soup, too, when thinned with stock.


54 Marla March 27, 2011 at 7:04 am

Valerie: I am happy you told me about the taste test. Honestly I have never done a side by side comparison. People tend to favor the San Marsano time and time again. I do need to take the extra time to roast my peppers. It adds such heightened flavor.
Thinning sauces for soup is a great idea. A splash of heavy cream or a few dollops of sour cream stirred in would be nice too.


55 Robyn | Add a Pinch March 30, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Gorgeous and so very vibrant. Love it. I know it will taste
just as yummy!


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