Loved by generations of children, Filipino sweet-style spaghetti has been around long, long before Jollibee was born. I remember my aunt making this dish for family reunions. She would pour at least two bottles of banana ketchup into the sauce to thicken and sweeten it. I used to love it as a kid and it was comfort food for my daughters when they were toddlers.
We rarely prepare the dish at home now but, occasionally, we get nostalgic. With the long Lenten weekend coming up, memories of family vacations on the beach flood the heart. The traffic situation in Metro Manila and the surrounding areas make a trip to the beach a not-so-exciting thought, but we can relive bygone years with food that we loved as children.
Why is Filipino spaghetti sweet? I know it sounds like a nightmare to Italians but, you know, sweet pasta sauce, well… it’s an acquired taste, I suppose. When you grow up with it, you don’t think it’s strange at all. It doesn’t taste bad. Oh, no, not at all. It’s just… different.
So, aside from being sweet, what makes spaghetti sauce Filipino? The sliced hotdogs. The more, the better.
When I was a child, there was only one kind of hotdog—the red kind. But I’ve discovered that the food color in red hotdog gives the sauce an artificial hue. I used frankfurters for today’s Filipino sweet-style spaghetti. They taste better and they don’t shrivel during cooking.
And there’s ground meat in the sauce too? Sure! It’s essentially the classic spaghetti meat sauce but sweeter and with the addition of sliced hotdogs. So, yes, there’s ground beef. A mixture of ground beef and ground pork will work too.
What are those green specks? Chopped parsley which is not traditional to Filipino sweet-style spaghetti, truth be told. But we’re all adults in the family now, including the girls, and there’s no reason to exclude herbs and vegetables which young children truly hate. Not only does my spaghetti have parsley, there’s chopped pimiento, oregano and paprika too. And a healthy dose of minced garlic.
And, to sweeten, I used sugar. No banana ketchup. We’re really past that.
Filipino Sweet-style Spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 400 grams ground beef
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/3 cup finely chopped canned pimiento
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste mixed with 1 cup bone broth
- 1 tablespoon sugar (or more)
- 3 beef frankfurters sliced into rings
- 200 grams spaghetti cooked al dente
- grated Parmesan to serve
- chopped parsley to garnish
Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the ground beef. Cook over high heat, breaking up lumps, until lightly browned.
Add the garlic, onion, pimiento, oregano and paprika to the beef. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring often, until the onion bits are softened and translucent.
Pour in the tomato sauce and diluted tomato paste. Stir in the sugar. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more salt, pepper or sugar, or all of them, to get the balance that you like.
Stir in the sliced frankfurters. Bring to a gentle boil. Set the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Give the sauce a final taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Divide the cooked noodles among bowls. Ladle a generous amount of the meaty sauce over them. Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Serve your Filipino sweet-style spaghetti with toast on the side.