Thursday, March 07, 2013

The journey of a recipe

One of my favorite foods as a kid was something my mom called "Spanish Spaghetti." I have no idea where she got the recipe. After I got married and started making it myself, Jeremy said that maybe it was never a real recipe, just spaghetti with a lot of yummy stuff in it.

Either way, Spanish Spaghetti is good. I've adapted it a few times over the years, and my version is a little different from the one my mom makes. It goes something like this (sorry for the informal measurements and directions. This is not a recipe blog):

One box pasta. My mom always literally used spaghetti to make Spanish Spaghetti, but when I started making this for my own little kids I used penne or rigatoni or, if you can find it, something smaller like radiatore or mini shells or even macaroni-sized pasta. It's easier for kids to eat. "Box" = 500g here, whatever that is in the US (I can't remember).

Some bacon. Here in the UAE I sometimes use Turkish sujuk sausage because the effect is the same without the hassle of finding/buying bacon. You could probably even use cut-up pepperoni or kielbasa.

One green pepper, chopped.

One onion, chopped.

One can of diced tomatoes, or the equivalent fresh.

Two cups-ish? Maybe one cup? of cheese, any kind. Colby jack is good if you can get it.

Black olives, sliced.

Cook the pasta. While it's cooking, prepare the rest of your ingredients. Cook the bacon however you want (on the stove or in the oven). Use a little bit of the grease to saute the onions and green peppers until they're nice and fragrant. When the pasta is done, combine it plus all the other ingredients in a 9x13 (or slightly larger, if you have one, or else leave out some of the pasta) dish and stir it all together until it's well mixed. Then cover the dish with foil and put it in the oven at 350 for 30-45 minutes. You just want it to be all hot and melty. And you can use the time it's in the oven to wash the dishes, set the table, and call everyone to dinner 3+ times until they actually come. That's my kind of recipe.

The reason I am telling you all this is because tonight, my housekeeper (she loves this dish) cooked up two big pans of Spanish Spaghetti (Bridget style) to take to her Filipina friend's wedding supper. It blows my mind that a recipe that possibly originated in my mom's kitchen years ago is now being served in the UAE to a bunch of Filipinas celebrating a wedding. Who knows where it will go from there?


Najla said...

hahaha, is the "Spanish" because the black olives?

That happened to me, a recipe that I prepare now in Spain, and for a long time I though it was a Middle East recipe, happened to be "invented" by my mother in law in Yabroud (Syria) :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Spanish spaghetti was my Mom's recipe, and where she got it is a mystery; I've been making it since 1974. Mom always read the newspaper food section and also subscribed to Gourmet mag. Fun to know it's now going to be a Philippino favorite. Carol might want to re-christen it to a name that doesn't have the word "Spanish" in it.

Your version sounds delicious--we have cut down on the cheese (fat) so we use extra sharp cheddar which gives a zing in smaller amounts, and we grate it, then sprinkle it on our own servings. I use the big can of tomatoes. And I make a larger quantity because though it's yummy the day it's made, the flavors blend and intensify, so it's even better as a left-over.

Mmmm, kielbasa. I would chop it into small pieces, then fry it until it's well done. My mouth is watering.

Crys said...

Yum, this sounds delicious! I will be trying this "Spanish" spaghetti out. I personally am of the belief that bacon makes everything delicious. A favorite here is penne noddles with broccoli. I boil the noodles and in a separate pan cook up sliced up bacon and broccoli. After the noddles are done I put them in a strainer and saute some chopped garlic in butter in their pan. I throw the noodles back in, throw in a dash of cream, the bacon and broccoli, and sprinkle the whole dish with Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. My kids eat this at least twice a month because one, it is so easy and because two, bacon makes everyone happy! I think I'll throw this Spanish spaghetti in it's place one night and see how the troupes like it :)

Liz Johnson said...

Can I just say how impressed I am that this recipe feeds you guys? If I'm cooking this kind of spaghetti (I always just called this recipe baked penne... although I never had the bacon, so I should add that...), I need to do at LEAST two pounds of pasta, possibly even three pounds. I almost always need 1.5-2 9x13 pans of lasagna/enchiladas/etc. My kids eat like vacuums. It's insane.

Andrew said...

Holy crap. I was *just* starting to make a derivation of this for dinner (pasta al forno, the general Italian name of this).

Bridget said...

Wow! We don't eat enough, I guess. 500g of pasta with lots of olives, tomatoes, etc. I mentioned above feeds all of us + our housekeeper and there are usually a couple of leftover portions for the next day. Or maybe 500g is more pasta than it sounds like???

Bridget said...

That sounds GOOD.

Bridget said...

I don't know why it's called "Spanish." From Andrew's comment, it seems like maybe it should be called "Italian"! What is the recipe you thought was Middle Eastern but was just invented?

Najla said...

In his family, they call it fa5de (فخدة), but it's not necessary made with lamb leg, they usually prepare it with chicken. And they just cook it in yogurt (without stirring, so it becomes curdled), and then mix it with mushrooms boiled with cinnamon, "بهار", black pepper, bay leaf and cardamom. It's a really strong taste.


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