Napolitana spaghetti (with ketchup): the pasta dish that triumphs in Japan


Admittedly, the concept of spaghetti with ketchup doesn't sound too good at first. But let's make an effort to forget prejudices to give the Neapolitan spaghetti recipe a try, a surprising dish that has become a household tradition in Japan today. We could almost equate them to our macaroni and chorizo.

We have idealized Japanese cuisine as an almost mystical art, but there is a facet of its gastronomy that we tend to forget. Japan was completely transformed with the opening to the West, receiving, assimilating and reinventing the influences that it received, especially after World War II. This is how products such as ketchup or Italian pasta arrived, and recipes such as these Neapolitan spaghetti emerged, very popular in family cafes.

The most widespread theory about the possible origin of Neapolitan spaghetti takes us to the town of Yokohama in the 1950s, with Japan still in the postwar era. The cook at the New Grand Hotel would create this dish inspired by the food eaten by the American military, who are very fond of pasta.

Tomato sauce was still a difficult ingredient to find in the country at that time, so ketchup was used instead. The dish, very simple and humble but at the same time very tasty and nutritious, quickly became popular, spreading throughout the country with different variations, also with a similar version in Korea.

Until a few years ago, Neapolitan spaghetti was not missing from the menus of any cafeteria, but although its presence seems to have decreased somewhat, it continues to be one of those dishes that are prepared at home and enjoyed by the whole family. Each house has its own version and the truth is that it is a surprising dish, because it does not only consist of mixing pasta with ketchup.

The simplest recipe starts with an onion sauce with, usually, pepper and / or some other vegetables. Many add sausages or ham, and sometimes it is topped with a fried egg or served with a hot sauce -Tabasco- and grated cheese.


For 4 people
  • Spaghetti 400 g
  • White onion 1
  • Garlic clove 2
  • Fresh sausages (or whatever you prefer) 6
  • Medium green pepper 1
  • Ketchup 60 ml
  • Worcestershire sauce 15 ml
  • Red tabasco 5 ml
  • Parmesan
  • Ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Dried oregano

How to make Neapolitan spaghetti with ketchup

Difficulty: Easy
  • Total time 40 m
  • Elaboration 10 m
  • Cooking 30 m

Heat a tall pot with plenty of salty water so that it warms up and we can cook the spaghetti while we prepare the rest of the dish. Chop the garlic clove, julienne the onion, the green pepper into strips without the seeds, and the sausages into pieces in one bite.

Heat a little oil in a large skillet or casserole and brown the onion with a pinch of salt for about 3-4 minutes. Add the minced garlic with the sausage and sauté the whole so that it takes on a good color. Add the pepper, lightly season and sauté everything for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, with the water already boiling with joy, cook the spaghetti following the instructions on the package so that they are al dente. If the saint can go to heaven, better wait until the sauce is almost finished to cook the pasta calmly. Reserve part of the cooking water.

Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco to skillet and stir well. Add a few tablespoons of the water to cook the pasta to give it a consistency of sauce, add the cooked spaghetti and mix gently to incorporate them well. Correct the spot with more water if necessary.

Add oregano and grated cheese to taste, stir and serve immediately with more cheese at the table so that each guest can add to their liking. It is also customary to have Tabasco for those who prefer a spicier dish.

With what to accompany the Neapolitan spaghetti

As a good pasta dish with vegetables and meat, these Neapolitan spaghetti with ketchup are very complete and satisfying, although it will depend on the size of the portions that we distribute. It is best to accompany them with a light fresh salad, and have some fruit or a simple natural yogurt for dessert. If we want to complete the Japanese menu we can prepare a seaweed salad, namasu or dorayakis for dessert.

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