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“Napolitan” Spaghetti

Todd Coleman

Servings: 4

When the Americans arrived in Japan after World War II, they set up headquarters in the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama. A crowd of hungry GIs had to be fed, so the Americans arrived with truckloads of spaghetti at the ready, which they dished out liberally. The Japanese cooks at the hotel took notice. When the GIs eventually departed, they left behind cases of spaghetti and ketchup in the hotel stockrooms. What to do? An inventive hotel chef created a dish with spaghetti, sausage, and ketchup (tomatoes were too expensive at the time), and dubbed it “Napolitan.” The people of Naples might not recognize this dish as their own, but, inexpensive and filling, it soon became a standard of school lunch menus across Japan. And what you eat as a kid, of course, is what you crave as an adult, and thus Napolitan happily entered the cuisine. If you’d like, you can substitute ham, bacon, or chicken for the sausage.

This recipe is excerpted from Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura, and More from The Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond.


  • 1 lb. dried spaghetti
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 4 oz. onion, sliced
  • 4 oz. green pepper, cored and sliced
  • 4 oz. white button mushrooms, trimmed
  • 4 smoked sausages (about 8 oz.), sliced on an angle
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1⁄4 cup sake
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 5 Tbs. ketchup
  • 1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Tabasco sauce (optional)


  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water (add 1 tsp. of salt per pint of water). Follow package instructions for cooking, but remove the pasta from the water 1 minute earlier than specified, so the pasta is al dente.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add the sausage and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring frequently, to brown the sausage. Reduce the heat to low and add the paprika, sake, milk, and ketchup. Cook for about 5 minutes, mixing occasionally.
  • When the spaghetti is ready, drain in a colander. Add to the saucepan and toss for 30 seconds, so the pasta absorbs the flavors of the sauce. Turn off the heat and divide the pasta and sauce among 4 plates. Top with the Parmesan cheese and season with the Tabasco, to taste, and serve.


Reprinted with permission from Japanese Soul Cooking, by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.


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Reviews (1 review)

  • User avater
    DoloresECraig | 11/19/2018

    Amazing recipe and great presentation.

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