Italian food is in my blood – literally. My father's family is from Capistrano, Italy and when his grandmother, his Noni, stepped off that ship onto Ellis Island in the early 1900's, she brought with her all of our family's food traditions and treasured recipes that have been passed down through the generations – all the way to me!
My dad is a fantastic cook – even though he claims every sauce he makes is "not his best" – (in fact, if I had to choose my last meal on this Earth, it would be my father's spaghetti sauce with my mother's meatballs, sprinkled with good Romano cheese and served with a big hunk of crusty Italian bread – and yes, I'm drooling). As I got older my dad started showing me each step to make his famed spaghetti sauce and, through tasting, watching and many attempts, I think I could make Noni proud.
Now, here's the dilemma, what's a (meat-free) girl to do when she's craving spaghetti Bolognese? Improvise! Here is my version of my family's traditional spaghetti Bolognese – just, minus the meat.
**Please keep in mind that my father didn't teach me his sauce recipe using measurements, it was "a little of this" and "a dash of that", so I came up with approximate measurements. Feel free to adapt to your taste!
My Italian "Meat" Sauce
1 Box of Pasta
8 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided)
2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (divided)
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed (divided)
1 tsp Dried Rosemary
1 Can Italian Plum Tomatoes (whole or crushed)
1-2 Tbsp tomato Paste
1 Package Frozen Soy Crumbles
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
Fresh Romano or Parmesan Cheese
Heat skillet over medium-high heat, add 4 Tbsp of EVOO, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 clove of garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes (make sure the garlic doesn't burn, this will make the entire dish taste bitter). Add the package of frozen soy crumbles – reduce the heat to medium and allow the crumbles to defrost completely – about 8-10 minutes.
Remove soy crumbles from skillet and put aside.
Put the skillet back on the heat, add the rest of the EVOO, red pepper flakes, garlic, rosemary, and a dash of salt and pepper and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes (if you opted for the whole plum tomatoes, take a fork and crush them once they are in the skillet) and the tomato paste. Stir well to incorporate all of the flavors.
Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Add more salt or pepper if needed (remember, tasting is the key to a good sauce!)
Add the soy crumbles back into the sauce and allow to heat through. Set large pot full of water on high heat and cook pasta according to the packet's instructions.
Drain pasta, add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce, sprinkle with Romano or Parmesan cheese, and dig in!
**For all of you meat-eaters out there, don't be afraid! I had my (very) carnivorous roommate taste my sauce and, in her words, "it doesn't taste much like meat, but it does taste good!"