Tag Archives: spaghetti

Thay’s Secret Spaghetti Sauce

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As far as spaghetti goes, I like it fine. But I don’t have that much more to say about it . . . it’s just . . . yeah. Fine.

Until I was introduced to this spaghetti sauce. My friend Thay brought it over during our first few weeks home with Benjamin, when our lovely church friends were bringing meals.

“It’s spaghetti,” she said, handing me the containers of pasta and sauce.

I felt just fine about having spaghetti.

And then I ate some. And suddenly I felt GREAT about eating spaghetti.

And joy of joys: there were lots of leftovers–she’d sent a nice big batch of sauce.

“This are mine,” I informed my husband, fitting the lid back on the container and eyeing the remaining sauce protectively. “I claim these leftovers.”

“Uh . . . okay,” he agreed. I think my sudden passion regarding spaghetti sauce probably came as a surprise. Heck, it came as a surprise to me too. More like a surprise attack.

He relinquished any right to those leftovers immediately.

I would have too, if I’d seen the burning glint in my own eye. It was probably the fiercest, possessivest (yeah, I know that’s not a word) I’ve felt about anything since popcorn.

The next time I saw Thay, she told me how to make it. And her secret ingredient: those little containers of chili sauce you get when you order Thai delivery. But in the absence of those, I luckily discovered that a little sweet chili sauce and a little sriracha produce the same magical effect: a little mysterious je-ne-sais-quoi–a bit of a bite (but subtle), a little tang, a little something delightfully sweet but vinegary.

And the stuff in the sauce! The turkey and peppers an onion make it thick and–well, interesting.

I just made my second batch of the stuff, and I eat it all week long for my lunches, but over rice, with some spinach mixed in, and with two fried eggs on top. Like dees:

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It’s the perfect lunch–a kind of extra-fancy and delicious version of Arroz a la Cubana.

Also, you may have noticed that topping everything with eggs is a kind of obsession with me. I keep hearing about this national egg shortage, and hoping its effects don’t trickle down too far–I need my eggs. I really need ’em. To make my fancy spaghetti sauce lunch–and this salad. With no eggs, they would be naked, sad and ashamed.

But moving on to the recipe!


(Serves 8 +)

¼ cup olive oil
3 lbs ground turkey
4 large white onions
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
10 cloves garlic
2-28 oz cans (plain) tomato sauce
Generous sprinkling dried basil and thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp sugar (or more to taste)
Secret ingredients:      2 tsp sriracha (or more to taste)
2 tsp Thai sweet chili sauce (or more to taste)

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1. Dice the onions and bell peppers, and mince the garlic.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. When hot, add the diced onions. Cook on medium heat until onions are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn. Add the garlic and some salt and pepper; cook for another few minutes.

3. Add the ground turkey to the pot with the onions and cook over medium high heat for 5-8 minutes, crumbling the turkey with a spatula as the meat cooks.

4. Add the bell peppers and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft.

5. Add the tomato sauce, dried herbs, more salt and pepper, the sugar, and the secret ingredients. Stir, cover and simmer on lowish heat for at least an hour, stirring every now and then. If you’re able to let it cook away all afternoon, even better.

6. Taste and adjust seasoning; serve over pasta. Or stir in some spinach and spoon it over some rice with eggs. It’s a sauce worthy of being served in many ways, and as often as possible.

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Tomato Mascarpone Pasta

I can’t count the times that I’ve heard my mom use the phrase “In my humble but correct opinion . . .” When I was young, I thought it was just one of her mom-isms, like her habit of waking us up in the mornings with an annoyingly happy song and a dose of joy that our sleep-encrusted selves were simply not ready for. Or her habit of encouraging our problem solving skills by chirping ‘Figure it out yourself!’ in that maddeningly cheerful voice that made you want to shoot a small rabbit. But as an adult, I have connected some psychological dots, and that phrase “In my humble but correct opinion” does a lot to explain a whole family-treeful of people.

See, the women on that side of the family, well–they like to be right. A lot. Especially a certain member of the family whose name stars with a ‘J-‘ and ends with an ‘-essica.’ It doesn’t help matters that she actually is right most of the time, dagnabbit.

I’ve been hitting myself over the head for years with the Mallet of Truth, trying to drive into my puny little brain the following: being right isn’t the most important thing in life! And I think I’m actually making some progress. However, as soon as I sat down to type up this recipe, my mom’s old phrase started emerging from the battleground of my own psyche. Since I haven’t even had my first coffee of the morning, I will make no attempt to resist it at this time. So here goes:

In my humble but correct opinion, Kayotic Kitchen is one of the best food blogs out there. This Dutch cooking whirlwind of a woman creates recipes that have both innovative flavor combinations and that comforting quality about them. And did I mention her stellar photography? Basically, I would dig into anything that Kay cooked up with more relish than I care to expound on (I think I’ve already done enough expounding for one morning). Kay is responsible for inspiring this African stew as well as this amazing Tomato Mozzarella tart. So if you at all have a thing for food blogs, it is your bounden duty as a human being to go look at her blog.

Okay! *stepping off podium* Enough jabbering! Let’s get to the cooking. This little pasta number is a simple dish, with just the right amount of creaminess, herbs, and rich tomatoey-ness. With my twist (red wine and more garlic!), here we go!


(Serves 5)

1 lb spaghetti
1 TBS olive oil
1 onion
5 garlic cloves
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
5 oz mascarpone
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup red wine
Parmesan curls, to serve
Handful fresh basil

Oops! Forgot the wine.

I love the price on that Yellow Tail brand.

Dice the onion finely . . .

. . . and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened.

Season the onion with salt and pepper, then add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes, stirring to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Pour in the diced tomatoes (please make sure to splash yourself thoroughly with tomato juice during this step–I hear red polka dots are the New Black) . . .

. . . and add the Italian seasoning.

Give it a nice stir.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then partially cover the pan (leaving a small opening on one side between the pan and the lid) and cook the sauce over medium low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the red wine . . .

. . . and cook for 10 more minutes, with the pan still mostly covered.

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente.

While the pasta and sauce are a-cookin’, it’s prime time to finely slice or mince the basil . . .

. . . and shave some Parmesan. I just use a vegetable peeler to get those nice thin slices:

And don’t stop until you have a goodly pile of shavings–I never heard anyone crying ’cause there was too much Parmesan.

Except for Luke. He’s my dear cousin. He’s lactose intolerant. Who knows–a large mountain of Parmesan might indeed bring a tear to his eye.

Stir the mascarpone into the finished tomato sauce.

Ignore the pool of grease that’s quickly becoming apparent. The way I figure it, the faster you stir it in, the faster the evidence will disappear.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

It’s better to overseason it a little since it’s going to be flavoring a whole whoppin’ pound of pasta.

I also wondered to myself if the sauce would need a pinch of sugar to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes–but it did not. In my humble but correct opinion, that is.

Stir the pasta into the sauce along with the basil.

Tongs are useful at this juncture, in my humbl . . . *hitting self repeatedly*

Top it with Parmesan shavings to serve.

Please forgive the wacky color balance of these pictures and just focus on how good a bite of this would taste. Does taste. Has tasted.

And while we’re on the subject, have I mentioned that I can do a really cool trick? I grab a strand of spaghetti, see, and while holding onto one end, I swallow it.

Then I drag it up and out through my throat. It’s the tickliest sensation you can imagine, and if I had a strand of spaghetti I’d totally do it right now for you.

I regularly horrified my younger siblings with this trick during our youth. Then we all grew up and moved out and I ran out of people to horrify. So I got married. And I started a blog. Problem solved!

The End.

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