Meat Sauce. It’s pretty much a staple in the American childhood. Even if you only had it at a friend’s house like me, I’ll bet you have some memory of ground beef swimming in a seasoned tomato sauce, just waiting to be ladled over a mountain of spaghetti noddles and topped with Parmesan cheese.
Truth Time: I had totally forgotten about Meat Sauce, because growing up in an Italian family we didn’t do the whole, dare I say “generic,” spaghetti night at home. (Spaghetti is an all day event in my world!) But as I mentioned above it’s a staple in many other households, including some of my best friends houses growing up.
When I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Virgina recently my aunt had to make her famous “spaghetti”…which is actually a very tasty meat sauce with some mushrooms and green peppers in the mix. Considering I’m still abstaining from meat right now I was reluctant to have any, but she had worked pretty hard on it, so I cheated and you know what? Meat sauce is pretty darn good!
Then I started thinking about all my vegan and vegetarian friends and how they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the simple beauty that meat sauce can be. Well, my beloved vegheads, this one is for you.
And here is my secret to this vegan meat sauce:
Yes, the often feared, but correct revered tempeh. This fermented soy product comes in many favored forms these days, but I started off my “not so meaty” meat sauce with a block of plain tempeh.
Tempeh can be crumbled easily with your fingers, or you can use a box grater if you want more of a shredded texture.
Browned in olive oil with a generous volume of sliced fresh garlic renders the bland crumbles into a savory treat that would be great on it’s own.
Or you can saute up some onion, green pepper, and portabella mushrooms with a can of crushed tomatoes and basil to add to the tempeh.
Toss some penne noodles and serve on a bed of kale with steamed broccoli.
Now that is what I call a meat sauce, hold the meat!
Meatless Meat Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 8oz package soy tempeh (unflavored)
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced (I like things really garlicky, adjust to your taste)
1 small sweet white or yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
2 cups portabella mushroom caps, sliced
1 320z can crushed tomato with basil (or use your favorite jarred sauce, omitting the sugar)
0.5 lbs penne noodles, cooked and drained (or another pasta of your choosing)
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon “Italian Spice Blend” (dried basil, oregano and parsley)
1-while 1 tablespoon oil heats over medium heat, crumble the tempeh.
2-Add the garlic, and saute just until fragrant, about 45 seconds
3-Add the tempeh, sauteing with the garlic ~5 minutes, or until the tempeh is brown
4-Add the fennel seeds to the tempeh/garlic and saute for an additional 60 seconds, then remove the tempeh mix from the heat
5-Add the remaining oil to the pan and saute the onion, pepper and mushroom for 3-4 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender-crisp.
6-Mix in the crushed tomatoes, letting the veggie/sauce mixture come up to a gentle simmer.
7-Sprinkle the sauce with the sugar (this will help cut down the acid of the canned tomatoes)
8- Return the tempeh to the pan and season to taste with an Italian Spice Blend of your choice (I used basil, oregano, parsley, salt and black pepper)
9-Toss with the pasta, serve with your favorite green vegetable and enjoy!