The first time I heard the words “ketchup” and “spaghetti” used together in a sentence, I was eating at an Italian restaurant in the North End with my girlfriend and her parents. Since her father is full-blooded Sicilian, we figured “Boston’s Little Italy” was an appropriate venue. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at eating pasta. I ate my bread too early, which made me too full to finish the leftover sauce.
“That’s okay,” her father chuckled. “At least you didn’t ask for spaghetti noodles and ketchup when they took your order.”
Wait, what? Even as a college student, I retained enough social, mental and intestinal decorum to use actual pasta sauce with my dorm-made spaghetti dinners. But ketchup as a spaghetti-sauce substitute? Who the f*ck even does that?
Turns out, many people do. Several websites and food blogs are rife with recipes and comments praising their merits. A Midwestern blogger notes that her family’s penchant for spaghetti ketchup stems from her grandmother, an old Missourian who grew up during the Great Depression. Which makes sense, as tomato ketchup sauces like Heinz were readily available and relatively inexpensive at the time.
But the Great Depression happened more than 80 years ago and bottled pasta sauce has been cheap and widely available in stores for at least a half-century, so why is this still a thing? Since today is National Spaghetti Day in the United States, I decided to subject myself to the culinary combination of spaghetti pasta and ketchup to find out whether it was any good. Besides, if Honey Boo Boo of Toddlers and Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo fame can lose her sh*t over Mama June’s “sketti” recipe, why can’t I?