The Filipino spaghetti is a very distinctive Filipino dish, more than I care to admit. It is actually intriguing as to why in the world is there such a recipe. What makes it so different? What makes this version of spaghetti so lovable?
What makes Filipino Spaghetti different?
“You are a Filipino if…” was one feature in The Filipino Channel (TFC) in the late 90s. I remember this well as it featured mostly Philippine practices, habits, idiosyncrasies, that are common to Filipinos all over the world, some of which we do not even notice. One of TFC’s features was “you are a Filipino if your spaghetti has hotdogs.” Then canned laughter followed that rather imposing image, but I wondered “OMG, that is true.” It is not as if this was the only pasta recipe that I knew, but I did not realize that Filipino spaghetti must be the only one around the world that has hotdogs! I joined the canned laughter on TV and I did so every time TFC inserts that in their programs then.
Why is Filipino spaghetti sweet?
Another component of this dish is its undeniably sweet taste in its salty sauce. What makes it sweet? Get yourself ready, the answer is… the use of banana ketchup along with tomato sauce! Secret ingredient? It must be.
Wait, the use of ketchup is already something different. Why banana ketchup? I do not have a ready answer to that last question, but what I could think of is the popularity of bananas than tomato ketchup in the Philippines. Being a tropical country, we have an abundance of bananas, and ketchup became its by-product during the second world war during which time tomatoes were scarce and the supply of bananas was high. There is interesting reading about the discovery of banana catsup here, but I have yet to find why it is a fixed ingredient in the Filipino spaghetti recipe. Not to give that up though, let us say that it is enough to just note that the Filipino spaghetti is known for the following:
- It is sweet.
- It uses banana catsup.
- Hotdogs are one of its main ingredients.
- It has a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese on top.
Ingredients of Filipino spaghetti
It is easy to tell that Filipino spaghetti deviates from its bolognese counterpart. It has ground meat, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Then the rest of the ingredients are what made this dish, on its own, a character. A character, indeed, that using “any” pasta sauce is not going to work if you would want to capture the salt and sweet taste the Filipino spaghetti is known for.
You would see in the recipe below the use of Del Monte Filipino spaghetti sauce. This became a common practice as it is easier and probably less expensive. But is there a way to make the sauce from scratch? Or course. The basic recipe for the sauce is similar to that of your regular bolognese sauce with the addition of the magical banana catsup and a little bit of sugar, to balance the saltiness as you see fit. And then, of course, the hotdogs! That is such comfort food!
A friend suggested that a teaspoon of brown sugar can enhance the taste of Filipino spaghetti sauce.
Some use just the hotdogs when cooking this dish, however, it is best when ground meat (usually ground beef) is added. This makes the hotdogs extenders rather than the main ingredient and it results in a tastier version of your Pinoy spaghetti.
Popular during kids’ birthday parties and other social events, and like the Filipino pancit, Pinoy spaghetti is part of the array of dishes during any celebrations – whether home-cooked, catered, or done in (small) restaurants.
How to serve Filipino spaghetti
Ideally, we serve sauce over noodles, I mean pasta. However, in most households, the spaghetti sauce is added with the cooked pasta near the end of cooking, so the dish is served on a single big serving dish.
Grated cheese of shredded cheese can be divided; a portion is added during cooking, and the rest is used as garnishing.
Storing Filipino Spaghetti
This dish is usually mixed during cooking and then served on separate plates by scooping. Any leftovers can be kept in tight-lid containers in the fridge for another day. However, to extend its life, the trick is to cook the sauce separately, serve the pasta, sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese separately, and keep each of them in different containers. This way, the dish can be kept longer; the sauce can be frozen and be kept for a month.
Bestie Tina's Filipino Spaghetti
- 500 g spaghetti noodles
- 4 tablespoons minced onion
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 500 g ground beef
- 24 oz Del Monte Filipino Spaghetti sauce or any Italian Sauce in the market
- ½ cup Jufran Banana Ketchup
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 2 cups diced or thinly sliced hotdogs
- 1 cup water or if necessary
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pc beef bullion
- grated cheese for topping
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Sautee garlic, onion and beef in oil. Stir for about 5 minutes then add hotdogs. Add salt, black pepper and beef buillion. Let cook for another couple of minutes then add bell peppers, stir again.
Add spaghetti sauce, followed by banana ketchup and water (if the sauce is too thick).
Pour over cooked pasta and top with grated cheese.