Of all the different dishes we borrowed from other parts of the world, spaghetti is probably the one that really sticks out as being different in Filipino culture. Unlike the others such as pansit (from China), adobo, lechon (from Spain), fried chicken and hamburger (from the USA), Pinoy-style spaghetti may be the oddest because of its Italian origin. Furthermore, it did not originate from any country that has either 1) colonized our country or 2) have significant demographic influence like China. It may have arrived on our shores through America along with pizza, or one may also argue that spaghetti noodles really originated from China, so it may be ultimately from Chinese origins. In any case, it remains the single dish that non-Filipinos greet with a raised eye-brow when it is served at a party, with hotdogs none-the-less, and the one dish Filipino children scramble for when the buffet table is opened.
What is it in Pinoy-style spaghetti that makes it truly our own? Is it the sauce and ingredients that are used? Or, simply Nanay’s home cooking that makes it special? I say it’s both.
They say that it isn’t Pinoy spaghetti if it isn’t sweet. I remember the time when I lived with my Auntie in Toronto back in 1983. My cousin — who was born in Manila but grew up in Canada — complained why my aunt made the sauce sweet. “It’s supposed to be spicy!” he used to exclaim. I think sweets are inherent in our culture. This is not surprising given that the Philippines used to be one of the largest sugar producers in the world. It maybe just in our blood that we put sugar into everything.
Aside from sugar, I’ve seen variations far and wide that sometimes make it more ‘alla puttanesca’ rather than a straight sauce. Catsup is one ingredient and using ground pork instead of beef is another (or both!). Celery is another along with liver spread and cheddar cheese directly boiled with the sauce.
I guess the rule here is whatever ingredients has been in the family, then that is what it is
Labor of love is probably the best ingredient ever. I think whatever your family’s spaghetti recipe may be, the final and most important ingredient is the personal touch by a loved one. I think everyone will agree that it does make a difference when Nanay or a loved one cooks it. There is no equal to the love and care placed in the preparation of the dish.
Each Filipino family has their own variation of Pinoy Spaghetti. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that these recipes will be handed down for generations to come.
So without further ado, here is my version of Pinoy Spaghetti:
- 1/2 lb of Ground Beef
- 1/2 Medium onion coarsely sliced
- 3 pcs of Hotdogs, sliced
- 3 Celery Sticks chopped
- 1 can of 225 ml Tomato Sauce
- 2 tbsp of White Sugar
- Salt to taste
- Spaghetti noodles cooked according to packaging instructions
- 1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
- Garlic bread (optional)
- Olive oil
- Kraft Cheese (in round can), grated
- In a pan, brown ground beef in olive oil.
- Add onions and cook until translucent.
- Add hotdogs, celery and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce, sugar and salt. Cover pan and simmer for about 10 minutes on slow heat. Serve noodles with sauce topped with cheese and garlic bread.
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