by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot
For someone who doesn’t like tomatoes, my husband makes a mean sauce. Sauce, or red gravy as my grandmother calls it, is the only way he’ll eat the delicious fruit that I will gladly nosh right off the vine, or in big juicy bites interrupted only by a pause to wipe my mouth or add another shake of salt.
Like the good grandchildren of Italian grandmothers that we are, both he and I will claim that our respective grandmother’s sauce is, or was, the best. Both matriarchs could be called purists when it comes to the stuff and both grandchildren would gladly and forever eat heaping plates of it ladled over manicotti, baked in ziti, or, if we were lucky, off a wooden spoon come straight from the pot. He will tell the story of the giant ziplock bags of his nana’s sauce sent to school with him at the end of visits home from college, and I of the time my grandma ate red gravy from a jar and spoke of it only while crossing herself and rolling her eyes skyward in apology to her mother.
With such seriuos sauce legacies looming, my husband would be hard-pressed to call his sauce anything other than something fast and easy to do for dinner, but he is too modest. It is a very different sauce from the ones we are used to, but that is as it should be. He uses fresh tomatoes, adds vegetables rather than meat, and cooks it quickly in a pan instead of all day in the pot, enabling each ingredient to maintain it’s individual form and flavor yet still marry with the rest. Just like our grandmothers, however, it is made in the throw in some of this and a little of that form, so this recipe is an eavesdropper’s approximation of a particular evening’s version.
about 4 tomatoes (or slightly more tomatoes than green beans), diced
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
6 – 8 oz white mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3-5 leaves fresh basil, torn
salt and pepper to taste
Combine tomatoes, garlic and basil in a pan over medium low heat. Shake in a little salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to soften. The beans are last. Cook it all a minute or two more. Serve over your choice of pasta.