13 Nov2005

Sunday does seem like an excellent day for spaghetti. aspag1When you don’t feel like cooking up a storm, you want to do something quick but delicious. You want comfort food that pleases all ages… Just as much as I look for sinigang or adobo or fried bangus, I like to eat a properly made spaghetti with red sauce at least twice a month… I could rant for hours on how the local variation of spaghetti Bolognese has achieved nearly disgusting status depending on where you eat it but I will just say that overly sweet, with chunks of hotdog, overly cooked spaghetti, this post is not about. It actually amazes me that so few folks make it the way it more or less was intended to be because it is REALLY easy to do…

For the basic tomato sauce, this is more or less my recipe. aspag2Heat up a nice heavy pan with some olive oil and add whole garlic cloves (number up to your own taste, I use say 6-8) and sauté until light brown, do not burn or the sauce will taste bitter. I add a medium white chopped onion and some kosher salt and sweat the onions until soft but not browning at the edges. Add a large can or two of good Italian plum tomatoes that have been chopped up (or used crushed canned plum tomatoes), I like to make sure and remove the tougher stem end, and cook over high heat for just 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add shredded basil leaves at the last second and turn off the flame. Serve with good dry (boxed) spaghetti that has been cooked to al dente or “still having some firmness state” and have a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan on hand. Add some cracked black pepper and this is real authentic Italian comfort food. Some people like to use sliced garlic instead of whole cloves.

If you want to get fancy, there are several easy variations on this basic recipe. aspag3First, you could sauté chopped bacon or pancetta in the pan with the garlic and onions and have a bacon and tomato sauce. Or you can add some crushed red pepper or chilli with the bacon to get you close to an a la matriciana style. I have also done this past with white chicken meat, mushrooms, shrimps, fried eggplant, etc. The key is to have good ingredients, cook just briefly rather than stew for many hours and serve it hot with good cheese and perhaps some nice crusty bread and crisp light green salad…



  1. fried-neurons says:

    Nice recipe, MM! I use almost the exact same one when I make tomato sauce, except I use mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery all finely chopped) instead of just onions. And I like to add some crushed red pepper flakes. Very versatile sauce base that you can add anything to. Of course being the carnivore that I am, I almost always add ground beef or Italian sausage.

    And yes, don’t get me started either on the bastardization of spaghetti sauce with hotdogs, sugar, ketchup, and “pasteurized processed CHEESEFOOD” (which tells me it’s not real cheese). :)

    Nov 13, 2005 | 10:57 am


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  3. Mandy says:

    i love spaghetti–especially the one made by this italian couple we met while we were in italy on vacation some 10 or so years ago. but here’s one recipe i have that is good (well, or so my mom says) =)
    start with the olive oil, but put in like more than 1/3 of a cup then plenty of garlic. and when it’s smoking hot (don’t burn the garlic!!) add a bit of pomodoro and it supposed to sort-of curdle then add more olive oil. then add the cooked pasta. what happens to the sauce is like a garlic and tomato flavored olive oil–aglio olio like. yum yum, my favorite midnight snack!

    Nov 14, 2005 | 12:43 am

  4. acidboy says:

    …and please don’t use those powdered parmesan cheese (or, gasp!, local cheddar!) do yourselves a favor and spend a little on a small block of italian parmesan and grate the sucker before serving.

    Nov 14, 2005 | 12:36 pm

  5. Gigi says:

    Here’s the thing and I’m gonna come out boldly and unapologetically that I love the vienna-sausage studded sweet Makati Supermarket spaghetti with the 2 slices of white “tasty” loaf served with a pat of butter. Call me a culinary peasant but that’s that. We all have quirks and sweet “cute-tasting” spaghetti as I like to refer to it makes sense when it gives you joy. I eat it with a happy heart of a child.

    But just to build on the “authentic Italian pasta” discussion, I thank you for this recipe, MM! To make this an even “harder-working” sauce, it’ll make a good dip to a grilled bruschetta too together with liver pate, tapenade and roasted peppers. I also like EVOO with toasty minced native garlic, freshly crushed pepper and just shaved parmigiano reggiano.

    Nov 14, 2005 | 1:51 pm

  6. Marketman says:

    Gigi, next you will be the new celebrity endorser for Jollibee spaghetti or McSpaghetti…heehee. I understand the comfort food thing but its too sweet for me… but, different strokes for different folks.

    acidboy, I am convinced the stuff in those green canisters isn’t even related to parmesan cheese… could be shredded non-organic material even…

    Mandy, your recipe sounds superb! Will have to try that out someday soon.

    Fried neurons…don’t get me started on label “cheesefood..” more on that when I review quesos de bola or queso de bolas for my Christmas entries…

    Nov 14, 2005 | 3:42 pm

  7. Gigi says:

    More on misleading labels — don’t be fooled that the orange beverage you take is juice. If you check out the packaging of ready-to-drinks like Zesto (hideous stuff) and even the menuboard of McDonald’s, you’d see that it says orange DRINK. It can only be called JUICE if it contains a certain percentage of real fruit content. I stick to water thankyouverymuch. For smoothies, I only do Fuzion which is real fruit frozen at its prime and then blended into a smoothie with no sweetener or ice added unlike Big Chill which used sugared water.

    Nov 14, 2005 | 4:51 pm

  8. edee says:

    i’m not also fond of sweet spaghetti, it’s only here that i’m able to learn how to cook a “proper” one :) ….. i always cook more than we can use for a meal, and freeze the rest until needed…….my 3yr old son loves this spaghetti and this is the only one he’ll eat even if it’s coated with “yucky bits” (anything that’s not chikcen, fish and sausages) and he absolutely loves parmigianno regiano!

    Nov 14, 2005 | 6:24 pm

  9. stefoodie says:

    a really nice addition to marinara sauce is some full-bodied red wine, 1/2 cup a recipe will do. gives the sauce character. as for our very pinoy “bastardized” spaghetti, though i don’t serve it but once a year or so, it has a special place in my heart as a pinoy:D — when made with organic hotdogs, shredded cheddar and other all-natural ingredients, plus just a touch — and only a touch — of sugar, it has a “style” all its own.

    Nov 14, 2005 | 10:38 pm

  10. fried-neurons says:

    I agree, stefoodie! I sometimes put red wine in my sauce as well! Not always, though. I typically do it when I have some leftover cabernet or sangiovese that’s over a day old. It definitely adds an extra dimension to the flavor.

    Nov 15, 2005 | 1:38 am

  11. Chris says:

    I hate the Filipino style spaghetti. It is too sweet for me. I always have to cook two batches of sauce, one for me and one for the kids at home because, unfortunately, I can’t get them to like the Italian style spaghetti. I like my sauce with thyme and oregano in addition to basil. Now I’m hungry.

    Nov 15, 2005 | 2:03 am

  12. Mila says:

    My mom used to cook big batches of spaghetti sauce with ground beef, chorizo and lots of garlic. When I lived away from them, I learned how to cook my own, no meat version. The fast food versions all seem like banana ketchup on noodles with a very red hotdog plonked down the middle.

    I add red wine when I have leftover dregs, and don’t add any more salt to the sauce. Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes, skin and deseed them to make a really homemade sauce. What I’d like to try is a sauce I saw on one of Mario Batali’s shows, where he made the sauce with the drippings from sausages, ground meat, chicken, browned them all, and then added all the vegetables to stew slowly for a few hours. Looked wonderful.

    Nov 15, 2005 | 11:36 am

  13. gonzo says:

    Hi MM, i’m new to your blog, which is strange because as a hopelessly fanatical foodie with a vast mental ‘library’ of global food trivia and quite a bit of knowledge of even obscure ethnic cuisines (Balkan cevapcici recipe, anyone? :-)), how i could not have come across this blog sooner is a mystery.

    Anyway, here’s my take on spaghetti with meat sauce (aka spag bol), which is not really on topic but…:

    Everyone cooks spaghetti bolognese round the world but there is this distinct, wonderful, homey, meaty, not too tomatoey flavor and soft texture to the sauce (ragu) in Italy (esp in the Emilia-Romagna region) that other versions of it outside of italy lack. So, often, I find myself ordering spag bol (or tagliatalle) in Italian restaurants everywhere as a sort of test of authenticity. Most of the time I’m disappointed.

    What is that elusive flavor? Is it nutmeg? cloves or cinnamon? Is it from a wine reduction? Is it from the addition of milk early on in the cooking process? Is it the way they double grind the mince? Or is it the meat itself? I can’t figure it out. It’s been bugging me for years, frankly.

    Once, one version came close and that was a few years ago in Carpaccio restaurant along Yakal st, by Santi’s… If anyone has any ideas on this i’d be glad to hear them. Thanks.

    Nov 15, 2005 | 1:09 pm

  14. gonzo says:

    And another thing, more on topic, the simple tomato sauce recipe given by mm above is good precisely because of it’s simplicity. What i do occasionally is add fresh tomatoes to the more traditional canned italian plum tomatoes to give the dish a fresher taste. It’s especially good this way in the heat of summer. indeed, when the weather is hot sometimes italians don’t even bother to cook the sauce and just put the chopped fresh tomato mixture straight onto the pasta. which brings me to one of my gastronomic pet peeves in this country–can anyone pls explain why the fresh tomatoes grown here are so pitiful and sad looking? They’re not even red most of the time. Needless to say they are flavorless. terrible. Whoever figures out how to grow proper tomatoes locally will make a fortune.

    Nov 15, 2005 | 1:37 pm

  15. Marketman says:

    Edee, I make large batches and freeze portions as well. Stefoodie, I understand the need for that annual taste childhood birthday party spaghetti, but not as a matter of course! The red wine I like in longer stewing ragus or sauces… yum! Gonzo, your suggestions sound superb. For all, if you have superb tomatoes that are perfectly ripe. Try a dish that is hot pasta, chopped fresh deseeded tomatoes, chunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella and shredded basil. Salt and pepper. A touch of extra virgin olive oil if desired. Toss and eat immediately as the cheese melts slightly. Superb!

    Nov 16, 2005 | 6:29 pm

  16. edee says:

    mmmm….we usually have the tomatoes, buffalo mozarella and basil as salad, haven’t tried it with pasta….great idea!….might try that this winter to have a touch of summer :) …..

    Nov 16, 2005 | 7:47 pm

  17. Marketman says:

    edee, the tomatoes must be wickedly good, the mozzarella soft buffalo type and the basil plentiful. The hot pasta (penne or similar) basically melts the cheese. Good luck.

    Nov 16, 2005 | 9:24 pm

  18. Mariless Villamar says:

    I am currently in Florence, Italy doing my masters and I will be going home for the Holiday break. My family expects me to cook italian dishes when I get home, and I have of course, picked up a few things during my stay here but it’s very important that I get the right ingredients when I get home. Can anyone recommend a really good Italian deli where I can also get steaks and a market where I can get fresh produce.

    Grazie Mille,


    Nov 28, 2005 | 11:09 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    Mariless, try Galileo Enoteca and Santis Delicatessen. The former has cheeses and cold cuts and pasta. The latter some meats and other stuff though either are not as complete as you might expect. There are several markets you can go to. Just browse through the archives of this site and you will get a better picture of what is available.

    Nov 29, 2005 | 5:41 am

  20. rampau says:

    Pinoy spaghetti is definitely unique and I’m not going to apologize for actually eating and liking the Makati Supermart version. I remember my Lolo commenting after their trip to Italy that the spaghetti there had nothing in it! Must be like mm’s version above. Ha ha ha What I cant abide are the spaghettis from the fastfood places. Yuck! Adding onions to spaghetti cuts the sourness of the tomatoes. It can actually make the sauce sweet. I’m a Flip and I dont like sour spaghetti sauce. I dont add sugar but I definitely add onions.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 1:21 pm

  21. jean says:

    Gonzo, one of my goals in the last couple of years has been to find the perfect bolognese recipe. Like you, I have been disappointed many times by the countless versions that are out there–even in Europe. On a ski trip to Europe two years ago, though, I came across some of the best spaghetti bolognese and I had to eat it everyday. My husband and friends still talk about it.

    At any rate, I’ve come close to the authentic bolognese sauce a couple of times. I’d try more frequently but my husband and I are practically vegetarians most days of the week. But, the common element that most good bolognese sauces have is the inclusion of the following: chopped onions, celery, and carrots, milk, and porcini mushrooms. Instead of wine, I’ve found that adding light chicken stock along with the dried mushroom water makes for a really good rich, not-to-tomatoey sauce. Essentially, I’ve combined different recipe ideas to create my own.

    By the way, I grew up eating my mom’s filipino spaghetti, and I still love it! Yes, I’m a bolognese snob, but my mom’s was not the overly sweet concoction that most filipinos pass off as spaghetti sauce. In fact, I was in the Philippines for the first time in 23 years this past October and spaghetti was served at a catered event and I couldn’t even touch it. It looked that bad!!!

    Hope this helps!

    Dec 12, 2005 | 3:54 am


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