Monday, March 03, 2014

How I Make Filipino Spaghetti

filipino food pasta tomato garlic ground meat cream
Filipino Spaghetti - a comforting pasta dish.

At least 2-3 times a month, I'll make Filipino spaghetti--a pasta dish that is uniquely Filipino because of the addition of hot dogs and banana sauce. I love this meal because this dish is as delicious as it is filling! I ate it as a toddler and my son does too. It makes for great leftovers and house guests and kids love it. Paired with garlic bread (not Filipino) or even in some cases rice (very Filipino), the meal is complete!

Recently, however, I felt something was missing in my recipe. So, after further online research, I added a "special ingredient" to make Filipino spaghetti even more tasty.

That special ingredient is almond milk. Curious why?

Almond milk in spaghetti? Really? You have to try it!
Well as I've previously mentioned, Filipino spaghetti is different from other marinara-based pasta dishes

First, Filipinos add a sauce called Banana ketchup. Banana ketchup is traditionally used as a dipping sauce but it's also the main ingredient in Filipino spaghetti. You can find a bottle of this sauce in Asian grocery stores. What we do is add a bottle of it into whatever red sauce base we've prepared (create your own marinara or buy a jar of it). Doing so creates a mild sweetness that's distinctive of the dish.

Second, Filipinos add hot dog slices to the meat sauce.The hot dogs I've traditionally seen in the dish are atomic red in color, but any of your favorite brands will work too. It makes the meat sauce more meatier.

Finally, Filipino spaghetti is topped with shredded cheddar cheese (or any you have on hand).

Now moving onto my special ingredient. Traditionally, I would cook the sauce with minced garlic, chopped onions, ground turkey meat, hot dogs slices, a jar of pasta sauce, a bottle of banana sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese. But I felt like something was missing and I noticed that the sauce was a bit runny. I kept cooking the spaghetti sauce using different measurements and I couldn't get a consistent taste. I also tried adding more cheese or some sugar (my grandma did this). But then I found the answer to my cooking dilemma.

One of the big changes I made was using tomato paste and stewed tomatoes in place of jarred marinara sauces. I felt that this switch allowed the meat's flavors to sink in and stand out more.

Then I read some discussion threads and some cooking sites that mentioned using a little evaporated milk or cream to create a richer sauce. Some have rumored that Jolly Bee (a Filipino fast food restaurant) added it to their spaghetti. So I decided to try that. 

Well, the day came when it was time to cook Filipino spaghetti. I searched my pantry and refrigerator and realized I didn't have either one on hand. But I did have almond milk: nutritious, smooth, soy-free, and delicious. And it had a tad bit of sweetness that would complement the spaghetti.  In other words, a good alternative!

I added 1/4 cup of almond milk to the sauce and it instantly created a creamer texture. And it helped the sauce bind better to the boiled pasta when combined (no more runny sauce!) Also, the almond milk was not overpowering at all. The spaghetti tasted great. My family agreed. I rejoiced in my new-found discovery and success. After all, we don't typically keep evaporated milk around all the time (or cream) but we do buy almond milk every week. So this was a great way to use it in cooking. 

Finally--I can close my never ending quest (and get it down in my recipe card) for a great recipe of Filipino Spaghetti.

Here's the recipe:

Filipino spaghetti (my version of it)
Serves 4 (with leftovers)

1 box (16 oz) spaghetti pasta
1 lb ground meat (I use ground turkey)
4-5 hot dogs, sliced  
1 medium sized onion, diced
4 cloves minced garlic (we love garlic, so we use more cloves)
1/2 cup tomato paste 
1 bottle banana ketchup (you can buy these in Filipino stores and some Asian stores)
1 large can stewed tomatoes (some use a jar of red pasta such as prego, but I find that stewed tomatoes add more flavor)
1/4  cup almond milk (for creamier texture)
Handful of cheddar cheese (shredded)

Boil the pasta (anywhere from 9-11 minutes depending on box instructions and preferences).

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil.  Add the ground meat and the hot dog slices and cook until brown.

Stir in the tomato paste and the stewed tomatoes. 
Cook on medium-low for 20 minutes and stir every now and then.

Add the banana sauce and 1/4 cup of almond milk for creaminess (add more of the milk if you need to). Stir and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Toss with the pasta.  Add cheese on top so it can melt into the dish.  Done!

And what about YOU?

What are your thoughts on this dish? Have you made it before? Tasted it before? 

Let me know if you've cooked it or can improve upon it! Let's get better together :)

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