Jimi’s Sacrilicious Vegetarian Red Sauce

This sacrilegious and delicious vegetarian version of Mom’s Classic Italian. Traditionally, it would not be acceptable to make a red sauce that did not include beef, veal and/or pork, but fuck it, here we go…

Check notes/footnotes* at the bottom for rationale, notes and recommendations.
As always, RTFM.


  • Bring 4-6qt pot of water to boil (if using fresh tomatoes for concassées)
  • A pasta pot filled with water, and set it on medium heat to get the process started (if making pasta)


  • Large stock pot for sauce (6qt+)
  • Splatter Screen is helpful
  • Immersion blender
  • A sharp knife 🙂


  • 4 Cloves garlic diced
  • 1cu Yellow onion diced
  • 1cu Carrots diced
  • 1cu Celery diced
  • 1cu Dry Porcini mushrooms, hydrated (microwave 4C of water and add shrooms to soak for at least 30min)
    • Use the water that hydrated them in the sauce to adjust consistency
  • 3 Tbs olive oil (Ravida estate, California or Spanish is preferred – most oil from Italy and even Greece are adulterated, unfortunately.)
  • 2 28 oz. Unseasoned Canned Tomato (Puree or Crushed)1
    • Optional use 4-6 large heirloom or garden fresh tomatoes (concassées: skinned & seeded)
  • 12-18 oz. Tomato Paste
  • ~1 Cup Cabernet or merlot (don’t use something that you wouldn’t be happy to serve guests.)2
  • 2-3 Fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbs. Oregano
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. Parsley
  • 1 Tbs Basil
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 Pinch of Saffron pistils
  • 1 tsp Salt (to start)
  • .5 tsp Black pepper (4-peppercorn medley is preferred)
  • .5 tsp Sugar (a pinch)
  • 2 Tbs. Mushroom powder
  • 4-8 Tbs Fresh fine-grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 Tbs. Crushed and toasted cashews nuts (sort of optional, but really good) 3


  1. In large stock pot, warm olive oil on med high. Add Onions, celery, carrots and turn heat to High, and saute until golden brown.
  2. Add garlic and saute just until fragrant (if you burn the garlic start over, there’s no saving it at this point)
  3. Deglaze with red wine and reduce to simmer
  4. Add tomatoes and allowed them to cook down for 5 to 10 min.
  5. Add tomato paste and stir, let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add herbs, spices, mushroom powder, cheese and stir
  7. When pot starts to bubble, stir and if sauce is too thick, add some of the mushroom water to desired consistency. Usually about 1-2C.
  8. Add toasted/crushed cashews
  9. Allow to simmer for about 45min. Thickness should heavily coat the back of a cooking spoon. Once thickness/concentration is achieved, use an immersion blender to smooth the sauce to your desired consistency. Retrieve the bay leaf if you don’t have a blender or prefer not to leave the bay leaf in for blending.
  10. Now is the time to taste the sauce and correct as needed. Correction is usually done with salt and/or pepper. Salt takes a moment of stirring to present itself, pepper takes a few moments longer.


In the last 10-15 minutes of cooking make the pasta for the dish: the typical way to cook pasta is boil in water until just al dente, then remove noodles from the water and place in a heated pan with a few ladles of sauce until desired doneness.


  • Mushroom powder: at any Asian market (ex: Hmart)
  • Olive oil: California olive ranch (Arbequina Varietal)
  • 1 You don’t NEED to use fresh tomatoes, the sauce is cooked for so long that you actually lose some of the flavor that make heirlooms ‘special’.
    • Canned Recommendation: San Marzano, DOP.
    • Heirloom Tomatoes: dark varieties are ‘meatier’ in flavor
  • 2 Red Wine: Cab, Casillero del Diablo / Merlot or Carmenere, Coppola / Cabernet, Stag’s Leap – Cab / Merryvale – Cab / Fatboy -Cabernet Blend
  • 3 Cashews (fresh-roasted, I think they really make the sauce) – place raw cashews in a plastic bag and whack with a mallet. You can dry roast them in the pot you use for the sauce, take them out when golden brown, wipe the pot and then proceed with the rest of recipe.


First off, I’d like to apologize to Nana.
If she were still alive she would no doubt read this, then wheel her frail body down south and mercilessly beat me about the testicles with a large wooden spoon. At least, until she tasted it…?

Love, jimi

OK, but what the hell have I done here?
I’ve taken the lessons learned from Japanese and Indian cuisines to develop a meatless umami, since it is an integral part of the sauce’s flavor profile. That’s where the mushrooms and mushroom powder (Japan), and toasted-crushed cashews, cumin, in addition to browned vegetables (Indian) comes in. They impart a close simulation of what happens when you use the Maillard reaction (searing) with meat. Sweet, smokey and earthy. Using a buttery varietal of olive oil is also important to simulate the richness you would find in pork or veal fat.

So, what was the “necessity”?

My sister-in-law was very pregnant, and very unable to satisfy her craving for Eggplant Parmesan (recipe coming soon) at her favorite restaurant. Being “the cook”, I got tapped for it. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to used bottled sauce. This was for you Kelly, pass it down.

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