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 for it.

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 straightaway. 

ingredients

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)

instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Meanwhile brown the ground meat and when nearly done, add the chopped onion and saute until softened.
  3. Then add the spices, red pepper paste, and the tomato paste first mixed with the water and continue cooking until heated through.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve with dried mint sprinkled on each portion instead of the usual parmigiano cheese treatment.

notes

  1. 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.
spgtimnt.htm: 6-jan-2003 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]