Filipino spaghetti sauce–sweet, meaty, and slightly tangy! Here you will learn the basics of making it from scratch with an option to make it creamy or extra cheesy or both!
Filipino Style Spaghetti Sauce
I love it as a kid and still love it until now. Truly every Filipino's ultimate comfort food! Sweet, savory, and tangy–flavors that make it distinctly Filipino.
My mama always makes it for my birthday every year and often for major holidays like Christmas and New Year. It's the only thing that my siblings and I would eat. Forget the ham and Lechon, we just want spaghetti!
And if we're lucky enough, we also get to eat it with fried chicken (Jollibee style) and chocolate cake. Ah! Memories of my childhood just keep flooding in!
What makes Pinoy Spaghetti different from Italian spaghetti?
- It's sweeter with a touch of tanginess due to the addition of sugar and sweet banana ketchup.
- Meatier with ground beef and red hotdogs.
- Has a striking red color which could be attributed to banana sauce.
Here are the ingredients you need to make the sweet Filipino spaghetti sauce. You'll find the list quite similar to other regular spaghetti sauces with the inclusion of two key ingredients that make it sweet and tangy.
- Ground beef - lean ground beef with around 80 meat and 20 fat is recommended. Ground pork and ground chicken can also be used as substitute. Each creates a different type of flavor profile so just use what suits your diet.
- Hotdogs - a signature ingredient of Filipino spaghetti sauce. Red hotdogs specifically. But of course, you can still use other type hotdogs.
- Spices - garlic and onion are essential. Add ground black pepper, to taste. My mama loves a peppery pasta sauce so that's how I like it too. Even today.
- Vegetables - I always use red and green bell pepper and oftentimes carrots. It just gives that distinct Filipino spaghetti flavor.
- Tomato Sauce - the base of the sauce, much like any other red pasta sauces.
- Tomato Paste - helps the sauce cling to the pasta.
- Banana Ketchup - the key ingredient to making Filipino spaghetti! It's tangy and sweeter than your regular tomato ketchup.
- Sugar - If other pasta recipes use a few teaspoons, Filipino spaghetti sauce requires much more! I usually start with 1-2 tablespoons and go from there.
Not So Secret Ingredients
There are a few little things in this recipe that might be a bit different from other pasta sauces you've seen around but this is how I've been making our sauce for a long time now
- Fish Sauce - a little bit goes a long way. You can just use salt or soy sauce but fish sauce for me makes any pasta sauce so much better!
- Beef Bouillon Cubes - for extra depth of flavor in the sauce. If you're pressed for time, this will make your sauce delicious even if it's just been cooked for 20mins.
- Dried Herbs - optional but add it anyways if available. I often use Italian seasoning to give the sauce added flavor.
- Liver Pâté/Liver Paste - a secret ingredient that I'm now sharing with all of you. You can skip it entirely but if you love Caldereta, then I'm sure you won't mind using this in your pasta sauce too.
How to Make the Best Filipino Spaghetti
You will only need one pot to make Filipino spaghetti. It really doesn’t get any easier than this.
Here's how I make it:
Brown the Beef
For a rich and flavorful sauce, brown the beef in a large pot with hot oil. Cook until the liquid has evaporated. If you notice any excess fat, discard some of it to make the sauce a little healthier.
Season with Fish Sauce (patis)
Once the beef has browned, season with fish sauce to infuse the flavor. A technique that my Mama taught since day one.
Cook the Vegetables
Add the vegetables (e.g. carrots, celery, bell peppers, and mushrooms) earlier in the process. As the sauce slowly cooks, the flavors of all the ingredients will develop even more.
Simmer until delicious
Once all the ingredients are added, simmer for a minimum of 45 minutes up to 1 hour in medium to low heat. The longer it's cooked, the better the flavor. Stir every now and then to prevent the ground meat from sticking to the bottom.
Slow cooking makes the beef incredibly tender and the sauce develops extra flavor.
Serve over spaghetti or toss the sauce and pasta together and sprinkle with lots of cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese!
Best Pasta to Use
Other than spaghetti noodles, this sauce is good with other long and short pasta. These are:
- Shortpasta like shells, fusilli and elbow macaroni,
What to Serve with Filipino Spaghetti
Filipino spaghetti is good with fried finger foods like lumpiang shanghai, lumpiang gulay (fried vegetable spring rolls). I love love it with crispy fried chicken. It's a combo that Jollibee popularized that everyone back home has come to love.
Make it Creamy
Add ¼ cup evaporated milk, fresh milk, or cream 10 minutes before it finishes cooking. Use low heat so it doesn't curdle.
Make it Extra-Cheesy!
Add ½ cup grated cheddar cheese, quick melt cheese, or cheez wiz (yes, the spread) before it finishes cooking and BEFORE adding any more salt. Simmer until melted.
Make it one to two days before you actually need it and you'll be surprised how it becomes even better the next day. After all the flavors have developed.
How to Freeze
Store in an airtight/freezer-safe container. Divide it into portions if preferred. It should last 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to 3-4 weeks (without milk) in the freezer.
Note: Pasta sauce that has been thawed/reheated should be consumed immediately.
Frequently asked questions
Is your sauce still too acidic/sour even after adding sugar and milk? This has happened to me a few times and finally found the best remedy. And that is BAKING SODA! Start by adding ¼ teaspoon first. Stir, then taste the sauce. If it's still too acidic, add ¼ teaspoon more. It works like magic! I promise!
Yes, but of course. Using ready-made pasta sauces is a convenient shortcut to making easy meals. You can omit the Italian seasoning and even the garlic and onion if you really don't have the time.
If using store-bought Filipino pasta sauce, I suggest omitting the sugar and ketchup altogether as the sauce is already sweet (often too sweet) and tangy.
Tomato ketchup may not be as sweet as banana ketchup but it's definitely tangy. You might need to adjust the amount of sugar as needed.
Add a small amount of vinegar to the sauce. Start with 2-3 teaspoons and go from there. Then add more sugar until desired sweetness is achieved.
Watch How to Make Filipino Spaghetti
Hungry for more? Try these recipes
- Puto Cheese - soft, fluffy, milky, and not too sweet.
- Chocolate Cake - easiest Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe ever!
- Filipino Cheese Cupcake - with cheese crumble topping.
- Puto Flan - soft, white, and pillowy puto with leche flan on top.
- Ensaymada Cupcakes - our favorite buttery bread made into cupcakes!
- Leche Flan (Ultimate Guide to Making Filipino Flan)
- 2 Ingredient Ube Ice Cream
How to Cook Filipino Style Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 large onion (finely chopped)
- 500 grams / 1 lbs ground beef (or half pork, half beef)
- 200 grams hotdogs (sliced)
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce
- ½ cup bell pepper (minced)
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 800 grams /28 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 cup banana ketchup (or tomato ketchup)
- 1 ½ cup water
- 1 piece beef bouillon
- 1 ½ tablespoon sugar (add more if preferred)
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 400g /13 oz spaghetti (cooked as per package directions)
- grated cheese
- Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic, saute until fragrant and translucent. Add ground beef or pork. Continue cooking until no longer pink. Add the hotdogs and stir it all together. Season with fish sauce and cook until the juices come out.
- Add the bell peppers and other choices of vegetables (carrots, mushrooms, or celery). Cook until softened. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, sugar, Italian seasoning, water, and beef bouillon. At this point, you can also add the liver pate/paste, if using. Stir to combine.
- Cover with lid and bring to a simmer then turn down to medium so it bubbles gently. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The longer it's cooked, the better the flavors will develop. Stir occasionally. Be careful as you open the lid as the sauce may splatter all over and burn your hand.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes without the lid.
- Serve over spaghetti or toss the sauce and pasta together. Sprinkle with cheese. Lots of it! Enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Ground Meat - beef, pork, and chicken can be used to make the sauce. My favorite is using a combination of pork and beef.
- Vegetables – Celery, mushroom, and carrots can also be added.
- Tomato Sauce – If your sauce is still too acidic/sour even after adding sugar and or milk, add ¼ teaspoon of BAKING SODA! Stir then taste the sauce. If it’s still too acidic, add ¼ teaspoon more and go from there. It works like magic! I promise!
- Banana Ketchup – can be substituted with tomato ketchup. Adjust the amount of sugar as needed.
- Fish Sauce - can be substituted with Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce.
- Liver Pate/Paste - I used chicken liver pate. You can use reno too if you have it. Omit entirely, if preferred.
- Make it creamy: add ¼ cup milk or cream 10 minutes before it finishes cooking.
- Make it cheesy: add ½ cup grated cheese or cheez wiz (yes, the spread) before it finishes cooking and BEFORE adding any more salt. Simmer until melted.
- Shortcuts - use store-bought pasta sauce instead of tomato sauce. You can omit the Italian seasoning and even the garlic and onion if you really don’t have the time to chop. If using store-bought Filipino pasta sauce, omit the sugar and ketchup altogether as the sauce is already sweet (often too sweet) and tangy.