I was caught off-guard the first time I was served a plate of Dominican Espaguetis (Spaghetti a la Dominicana), 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.
Espaguetis Recipe (Spaghetti a la Dominicana): Surprise friends and family with this unusual but flavorful spaghetti dish. Be prepared for encores.
- 1 lb spaghetti [0.43 kg]
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 lb Dominican "salami" [0.43 kg] diced into small cubes (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion , large diced
- 1 bell pepper cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup pitted green olives
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tbsp capers (optional)
- 4 plum tomatoes cut into small cubes
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1/4 tbsp vinegar (optional)
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk (optional)
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
- 1/4 cup ground Parmesan cheese (optional)
Boil the spaghetti until slightly softer than al dente having added 1 teaspoon of salt to the water (set aside remaining salt). Drain the water and set spaghetti aside.
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.
Cook and stir the salami until it browns. Lower heat to medium-low. Add onions, pepper, olives, garlic and capers and cook and stir for a minute, or until onions become translucent. Add tomatoes and oregano, simmer covered until the tomatoes are cooked through (3-5 mins).
Add tomato sauce and vinegar (do not add vinegar if you'll use milk). Stir to mix. Add milk and the spaghetti and mix well. Stir until the milk is mixed through, but do not let it boil or the milk will curdle.
Season with pepper and salt to taste.
Serve hot with tostones or green salad. Garnish with the cheese.
No Dominican "salami"? You can try it with our homemade salami recipe, or use supermarket roasted chicken for an easy Espagueti con Pollo Dominicano. Or use ham or sliced pork sausage if you feel adventurous.
Do not add vinegar if you are using milk. Both ingredients are optional, as there are no two homes where this dish is made the same. Both versions have their fans, I love both.