I was caught off-guard the first time I was served a plate of Dominican espaguetis, having always been accustomed to my pasta al dente, a la italiana. Well. This spaghetti was positively bathed in an orange gleam of oil, with shards of green peppers, chunks of salami, and, of all things, vinegar (!) thrown into the mix. But a bigger shock still was to see the spaghetti sharing a plate with a mound of rice. Where I’m from, spaghetti takes second stage to no other cereal, and carries a meal on the shoulders of its own multifarious merits. As far as I was concerned, this was nothing less than blasphemy.
I shunned los espaguetis for a long time, turning my nose up at the incognito noodles. Until one day, we loaded up the truck en route to a velorio (or wake) for one of my husband’s relatives in the campo. It took us longer to get there than expected, and when we did, we discovered that the food had run out. Starving, we were given the keys to an aunt’s house, where we proceeded to whip up something quick for our rather large group of children, elderly, and your basically famished adults. The nearest colmado, however, could only offer us one option for an economical and plentiful meal: espaguetis.
Hunger having weakened my resolved, and for fear of appearing the spoiled gringa in the campo, I had no choice but to cease and desist my anti-espaguetis campaign. With a tinge of picante, procured in the form of hot peppers straight from the auntie’s garden, and no rice to upstage the star of the show, I found myself enjoying spaghetti in a whole new way. I think I ate two plates.
If a moral were to be attached to this story perhaps most apropos would be: never judge a spaghetti by its sauce. Or, ask yourselves, what’s in a spaghetti? A spaghetti by any other cooking method would still taste as sweet. Okay, well, not sweet, per se, but just as good. Different, but good. That’s it – ¡viva la diferencia!
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
Surprise friends and family, even those who raised an eyebrow when they saw you mixing all this. Be prepared for encores.
- 1 lb of spaghetti
- 1/4 lb. of Dominican "salami" diced into small cubes (optional)
- 1/4 cup of ground Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of capers (optional)
- 1/4 cup pitted green olives
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 large green bell pepper cut into small cubes
- 4 plum tomatoes cut into small cubes
- 2 cups of tomato sauce
- 1 large onion sliced finely
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon of mashed garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar (optional)
- 1/2 cup of evaporated milk (optional)
- Boil the spaghetti until slightly softer than al dente having added a teaspoon of salt to the water. Drain the water and reserve the spaghetti.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Cook and stir the salami until it browns.
- Add the the onions, pepper, olives, garlic and capers and cook and stir for a minute.
- Add the tomatoes and oregano, simmer over low heat until the tomatoes are tender.
- Add the tomato sauce and vinegar (skip the vinegar if you'll use milk).
- Add the milk and the spaghetti and mix well.
- Simmer over low heat for a minute. Stir often.
- Season with pepper and salt to taste.
- Serve hot with tostones or green salad. Garnish with the cheese.
No Dominican "salami"? Use ham or sliced pork sausage.
I prefer to use tomato sauce, if you only have tomato paste use 4 tablespoons of tomato paste dissolved in a cup of water instead of sauce.