Yesterday's blog brought out the favorite spaghetti reminiscences of many of my friends. So today, we continue on in this vein.
Joel Guinto, my favorite Bloomberg correspondent, swears by what he calls, "birthday spaghetti." Traditionally -- or maybe non-traditionally -- made with banana ketsup, it is sweeter than Italian spaghetti or its American variations. Hotdogs are usually added in too. Meanwhile, Jollibee, the clear number one fast food in the Philippines, that regularly trounces McDonald's, serves its spaghetti with what appears to be slices of salami. And, speaking of McDonald's, this fast food giant made serious concessions in its menu several years ago, to accomodate the Pinoy demands for the staple, hence, McSpaghetti exists only in this country.
On the other hand, banana ketsup, a condiment I have seen only on Philippine shelves, was, according to my late lola's stories, created during World War II when tomatoes were scarce and bananas plentiful. It's made the same way as regular tomato ketsup, with vinegar and sugar. The food coloring was later included to add to the illusion that ketsup is, well... red.
Birthday spaghetti notwithstanding, pasta with meat sauce remains not only a versatile dish, but seems to agree rather well with the Pinoy penchant for mixing in a variety of ingredients, in the same way we make halo-halo and chop suey (pronounced, "tsap suy").
Back in the day, when I was a housewife with young children (what? I wasn't born a lawyer) I had to dream up ways of sneaking in vegetables in the kids' dishes. Besides, ground beef didn't fit in too well with the budget. Then, frozen vegetables were cheaper and could be bought by the kilo in the supermarket, later I learned to improvise using fresh vegetables which were, in the long run cheaper, but took longer to cook.
The kids -- who despite the onset of young adulthood continue to eat their vegetables -- and I had gotten so used to this vegetable pasta dish that when I served it once to a group of fraternity boys, one of them actually stopped in mid-spoonful and said, "Ma'm, your spaghetti has vegetables in it." I gave him a look I had practised on for years that said, "Don't-mess-with-me, young man." He ate everything and I noticed later that he came back for seconds and later, thirds. I swear it wasn't under duress.
This recipe can be made very quickly if using frozen vegetables. But to add to the nutritional value, I toss in fresh squash too.
vegetable meat sauce
1/4 k ground beef thawed
1/2 k frozen vegegtables (corn, carrots and peas) thawed
1/4 fresh squash (roughly about 2 sections or dalawang guhit) cubed
4 cloves garlic
3 tomatoes chopped
fresh basil chopped
oil for sauteeing
250 gram package of tomato sauce or Italian style spaghetti sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1tsp Oregano or Italian seasoning (add another tsp if using tomato rather than spaghetti sauce)
sugar for the traditional Pinoy (optional!)
Saute garlic in oil, when lightly brown at the edges add onions. When onions have become slightly transparent, add tomatoes. When tomates wilt slightly, add ground beef. Add salt and pepper to beef. When beef is still reddish, add squash, continue sauteeing until squash softens.
Hurrying cooks may want to pre-boil the squash as it may take some time to cook.
If preboiled, add squash together with thawed frozen vegetables before ground beef cooks fully. Do not overcook the beef as it becomes tough and tasteless. Add packaged sauce immediately after. Keep stirring the sauce to prevent the beef from sticking to the bottom of your pan (tough to clean, I tell you) . When beef is fully cooked, remove from heat and add your spices. Top with fresh basil. Serve on pasta, preferably penne rigate, but spaghetti noodles works just fine.