meat-tomato-sauced spaghetti with mint
The first time bob had spaghetti at the in-laws, they passed around this little teacup
plate with green flakes on it. Everybody sprinkles some over their spaghetti with their
thumb and adjacent two fingers, so bob follows suit. Welcome to the dried mint version of
spaghetti. It turns out that when Isgouhi was a little girl back in Aleppo, Syria, her old
uncle would come over for dinner and when they had spaghetti their way, he would ask for
dried mint to put on top. This was new to them too, but they tried it and liked it and it
became a family tradition. Who knows where the uncle got the idea. But we thank him
As for how an Italian style spaghetti dish got to the post World War II Middle East in
the first place is a more challenging question. But Aleppo had a reputation as a culinary
hot spot, so probably they knew a good thing when they found it and adopted it
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 t salt
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 1 t allspice*
- 1 t Middle Eastern red pepper
- 1 6oz can tomato paste
- 1 - 1 1/2 can water
- 1 heaping T red pepper paste
- 1/2 t oregano (optional)
- Start the pasta water boiling and when boiling, add the spaghetti and
usual amount of salt (we just dump in some without really ever knowing what we
are doing) and cook until al dente.
- Meanwhile brown the ground meat and when nearly done, add the chopped
onion and sauté until softened.
- Then add the spices, red pepper paste, and the tomato paste first mixed
with the water and continue cooking until heated through.
- Combine the sauce and drained pasta well, coating each spaghetti strand.
There should not be "extra sauce" not bound to the spaghetti. If there is,
something went wrong. This is a really spare coating, as it should be.
- Serve with dried mint sprinkled on each portion instead of the usual
parmigiano cheese treatment.
- Until this point allspice as listed in all recipes originating from
Isgouhi is really a "Middle Eastern spice mix" that includes allspice, nutmeg,
cardamom and a few others. This is transported back from Lebanon to us by hand
but can also be found in Middle Eastern food stores and
on the web.
Or just pretend that it is ordinary allspice.