Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grandma's Meat(less) Sauce

"Taste and smell are wonderful memory aids. Its amazing how you can catch a whiff of something; fresh cut grass, a summer rain, baking, and be taken back years to a childhood, to be placed back in the very scene. You can almost look around and see and smell everything around you in great detail. A simple scent can transport you in full HD back to a time you could not have recalled if you tried."

How true! The quote is from my friends Brian's blog,  One Crabby Vegan.  I think he is right.  For him, it is a cookie called a galette. For me, it is my Grandmother's kitchen at the holidays. Our holidays consisted of big, noisy family gatherings in a brownstone on Union Street in Brooklyn.  Lots of kids running around (I have fifteen cousins!) and the adults perhaps even louder than the kids.  I still remember exactly how her  meat sauce smells and tastes, though I have not had it in probably 30 years. There would be a big pot simmering on the stove and we would all "sneak" some before dinner by dipping  bread into the pot to get a taste. The smell and taste of that sauce will stay with me forever along with the memories of those wonderful family gatherings.

My Grandmother has long since passed but her recipe lives on through my Mother, Aunt, Uncle and cousins.  My cousin Cathy recently decided that she would make a vegan version of the sauce for her daughter Alyssa. Alyssa is largely vegetarian and she wanted her to have a recipe to make and share with her friends.  How lucky for me!

The smell of this sauce simmering in my kitchen yesterday invoked those very memories Brian refers to.  Thank you Cathy for such a wonderful gift!

Grandma's Meat(less) Sauce

1 pound shitake mushrooms minced
1 pound cremini mushrooms minced
3 12 oz cans plain tomato paste
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion minced
3 cloves of garlic- chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 qts. organic mushroom broth
4 leaves of fresh basil rough chopped

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil over a low flame. Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender and translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until tender. Stir in the tomato paste one can at a time, combining each can with the mushrooms mixture before you add the next, warm through while stirring. Add the mushroom broth slowly, stirring from the bottom of the pot until it is completely combined. Add salt, pepper  and basil. Simmer, stirring every 20 minutes or so for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Serve over pasta


  1. Funny how the combination of 10 simple ingredients can bring back such joyful memories! Thanks for the mention in your blog. I am so blessed to be part of this family and to have reconnected with my past and to be able to pass it along to the next generation! Lots of love,

  2. YUM! I love the taste of nostalgia!


  3. It sounds wonderful!! a new tradition for Alyssa and everyone. Mangiare bene!! Eat well!

  4. wow,.. i could not have said it better myself... wait, i did say it myself :) thanks for the quote, glad it helped inspire you to blog this. in her honor, i will indeed be making this sauce,... well once i get through xmas, but i will let you know how it goes. awesome post :)