food: Isa’s sauce

I am making spaghetti sauce. The recipe is a family one from before my birth, when my parents and big brother were living in Bologna. My brother’s nanny, Isa, was a pretty serious cook.

It’s a bolognese sauce of course, but I am making it with fake meat, so it’s a nolognese, or perhaps spaghetti and neatballs.

The ingredients aren’t any surprise: tomato, onion, spices, olive oil. The part I don’t see so often is carrot, which is shredded or pureed and added for sweetness. This means that I don’t have to add salt or something sweet to cut the acidity.

If I’m doing it for vegans or nondairy folks I omit Isa’s last step: a tiny amount of milk at the end.

26 thoughts on “food: Isa’s sauce

    1. Whenever I make a comfort food dish for a friend it COMES OUT WRONG. I can’t even make mac ‘n’ cheese for anyone else. It’s so weird.

  1. Pretty much to taste. Today’s was approx:
    one chopped onion
    handful of chopped “baby” carrots leftover
    five tomatoes, which had been previously roasted, with their olive oil. otherwise, include 1/4 cup of decent olive oil.
    teaspoon fennel seed
    four or five green pepper corns
    teaspoon oregano
    blend the fuck out of the above. heat in pan until bubbling, then simmer one hour, covered. this varies due to taste and your ideal of thickness. tomato paste can be added if the pink color annoys you.
    add the “meat” and simmer at least 30 minutes more. be careful not to run out of liquid
    bloop of milk after the heat is off

    1. Thanks!
      What’s your favorite olive oil? I bought the Newman’s Own last time 🙁 I’ve been trying a different brand each time. I like a really strong flavor and haven’t found one I’m crazy about.

      1. The one I like right now is DeLallo Organic Extra Virgin Unfiltered. It’s not too expensive and it’s got a really great bite. Not for any kind of frying, because the smoke point must be very low with the unfiltered etc. But mmmmm.
        There are pricier ones I like but I use so much I can’t really afford that shit, you know?

      2. We use a metric buttload of it, it’s like crack for me. I dump it on everything, including my skin and hair.
        I don’t think I’ve used unfiltered at all before. AOOoh, adventures!

      3. Next time I drive, if either of you ever want me to bring some fancy yummy olive oil down from the Berkeley farmers’ market (I think it’s organic but I’m not sure), lemme know…

      1. Also do you ever brown the meat first?
        I do if it’s real meat. The fake meat is so sticky and hard to handle that I just slash it into chunks and fling it in.

  2. i’m glad to see there are carrots in an authentic sauce.
    my stripper-in-law claims that spaghetti sauce shouldn’t have carrots. she says carrots are apparently something you put in when you don’t have anything else to put in. she of course directed this comment at my mother’s spaghetti sauce, which has carrots in it (and is a very old recipe that she got from someone else). now i can be like “well, ACTUALLY…”
    i really didn’t care one way or another about the carrots, they never bothered me. but i don’t take well to her acting like my mother’s spaghetti sauce is SO wrong, and acting like that reflects badly on my mother (when it wasn’t even her recipe). and just in general she always acts like she’s an expert on everything, when she’s actually pretty dumb about everything.
    that’s of course more information than you care to know.

    1. Italian-american food is one of those things where everyone assume that their own family recipe is THE AUTHENTIC ONE. I just like this one. It did come from an actual Italian, but I hear there are several of those!
      Also I like the phrase “stripper-in-law.”

  3. I like the idea of carrots as a sweetener. I have had sauces that needed to be sweeter, but I can’t bring myself to use sugar.
    I have a friend, Guy, who swears unsweetened bakers’ chocolate is just the thing to give depth and velvetiness to tomato sauce. I haven’t tried it myself, though. Further research is needed.

    1. I use a plonk of chocolate in chili usually… either a cut up chunk or some really fine fine drinking chocolate. Mmmmm.

      1. something about bitter stuff
        There was a BBQ sauce recipe I liked that started with coffee, too. Bitter is good, bitter is our friend.

      2. Re: something about bitter stuff
        Mmmmm… I have made that sauce. So good! I love interesting BBQ sauces, but I fail to make them often enough. Smack stimpy!

      3. Re: something about bitter stuff
        I’ve had stew where the meat was marinated in a concentrated coffee glaze (with onion & something vaguely minty… fennel, maybe?).

      4. Re: something about bitter stuff
        Once I had a BBQ sauce that was too thin and acidic. So, in a flash of inspiration, I gave it some iced tea to velvet it up, and it worked like a charm.

  4. This sounds greatttttttt. The way I usually sweeten things up is to cook the onions low and long, with a little balsamic vinegar. Mmmmm. Caramelly!

  5. The lead character in Half Nelson used carrots in the spaghetti sauce for his dinner date. This was where I first saw this done. Later he tried to rape the woman.

      1. Re: I am interested in your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter
        Kick in the nuts, I think. Later a precocious black girl taught him something of value about the subject of redemption. Incidentally the same girl who helped him mash the tomatoes and grate the carrots for aforementioned sauce.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.