Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Japanese Style Pasta? Yes, really!

A few nights ago, when pressed for time and with limited ingredients in my house, I stumbled across a recipe online for this Japanese style pasta dish, Napolitan, as presented by Frances on CWD. This is not at all Italian style, so before any of the purists out there start getting too irate about a few of the, shall we say, non traditional ingredients in this recipe, please remember that this is a Japanese dish. It was inspired by Italian cooking, yes, but this is something unique to Japanese culture, their spin on things, with touches that pleased their palate and reflected the ingredients readily available at the time of the recipe's inception. Try, if you can, to suspend any preconceived notions about how Italian foods should taste, and simply embrace the dish for what it is - a simple pasta dish with veggies and ham. It really is a nice, tasty, and rather inexpensive meal. Yes, I know there is a tiny bit of ketchup in there. It works, I promise you.

What follows is my version of Frances' recipe, with a few changes I made based on what I had on hand in my kitchen at the time.

Japanese Napolitan Pasta (as adapted from a recipe shared by Frances at CWD)
(serves 2-4)

1/2 large onion, cut into slivers
1 small handful baby bella mushrooms, sliced thinly (Frances used white button mushrooms)
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded, cut thinly into strips
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
6 slices Canadian bacon, cut into strips (turkey ham would be fine here)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
6 1/4 cups water
2 tsp salt
6 ounces thin spaghetti
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Make sure you have all of your veggies and the meat chopped and sliced before you begin cooking anything.

Fill a large pot with the water and add the salt. Yes, add the salt now, before it boils. Bring the water to a simmer only for now.

Meanwhile, get to work on the vegetable sauce mixture. Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or wok and saute the onions until they begin to soften up and turn a light golden color. Don't worry about browning them too much. Add the garlic and continue cooking and stirring until you can smell the aroma of garlic (this only takes maybe a minute). As soon as you can smell that delicious scent of garlic cooking, add the mushrooms and the Canadian bacon, tossing and cooking until the mushrooms begin to soften slightly. Add the green bell peppers, cooking for just a minute or two to soften.

Add the ketchup. Don't be scared - it is such a small amount and it really does add a lovely color. Remember your pot of simmering salted water? Grab a ladle and scoop out some water (about 3 Tbsp) and add it to the pan. Like magic, your ketchup will melt and the sauce will take on a glossy sheen. There will not be a lot of sauce, this is intentional. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest while you cook the pasta. I dropped a lid on to keep the sauce from drying out.

Raise the heat on the remaining salted water and add the pasta once the water has come to a full boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. When the pasta is almost ready, remove the lid from your pan full of vegetable sauce and turn on the heat to about medium-low. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the butter until both have melted into the sauce.

Scoop the cooked pasta noodles directly into the vegetable sauce, keeping most of the water in the cooking pot, but allowing the noodles to still be quite wet. Toss and serve, garnished with fresh minced parsley and some additional cheese.

NOTE: While the actual Japanese way is to use canned powdered Parmesan cheese, it really is perfectly fine to use freshly grated Parmesan instead. Back when this recipe was originally made, freshly grated Parmesan was very likely not something available or common in a typical household. However, since I always do have a wedge of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano hanging out in my fridge, that is what I prefer to use.


  1. Ohh, I just may have to torture Todd with this soon!! Looks deliciously scrummy Heather! You always cook the tastiest things!

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