When I first became a vegetarian my Italian grandmother worried about what to feed me. Food is very important in Italian families. It's not that we ate lots of meat, we didn't, but there was at least a small amount of meat in many of the things she made. Her famous "gravy", (pasta sauce), was meat based. She ususally made me pasta with a very simple tomato paste sauce. It may not sound delicious, but it really is. I do not know exactly how she made her tomato paste sauce, but this is my version.
2-3 cans of tomato paste
finely minced garlic or garlic powder
very finely minced onion
a bit of sugar
a little hot sauce
a little oregano
a big dab of butter
Saute a small onion that has been very finely diced in a bit of butter or olive oil for several minutes. Add the tomato paste and several cans of water. Mix well. Add more water if you like a thinner sauce. Add salt, pepper, hot sauce, garlic, sugar, and oregano, to taste. Add a big dab of butter and mix. Cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the flavors meld. You need to stir frequently as this sauce burns easily! This sauce is a great starting point if you want to add other things such as zucchini or eggplant, or finely grated carrots. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or ricotta.