There used to be only one way I knew how a spaghetti sauce should be -savory, sweet, and meaty. Growing up in the Philippines, I was exposed to only the Filipino-style spaghetti sauce. While the Italian version focuses on the flavors of the tomatoes, the Filipino version focuses on the sweet meat. You could just imagine my shock when I bit into the Italian kind, too sour! Now my palate has developed and I have found both versions equally satisfying on their own right.
In my household, we make Filipino Spaghetti for special occasions like birthdays, town fiestas, and noche buena or Christmas eve. It could be just as popular as the other Filipino noodle dish, pancit (if you ask a Filipino kid though, spaghetti might win over pancit). Filipino spaghetti may not be typical everyday food at home, but it’s widely accessible at Filipino fast food restaurants like Jollibee’s (Philippine counterpart of McDonald’s). Jollibee’s spaghetti is one of their most popular items on the menu.
I thought of veganizing Filipino spaghetti but only if I could replicate its “meatiness”. While it does sound like a contradiction -meaty and vegan, I am convinced there’s a possible and simple way. After years learning my mom’s version, I’ve found out the flavor lies on the seasoning and the texture lies on the ground beef.
If I could keep her recipe and find a way to replicate the texture of ground beef, I am in business. Luckily, I remember reading on my friend’s blogpost that freezing tofu will result to chewy resistance. Armed with both knowledge of my mom’s recipe and my friend’s tip, I went to recipe test. I’ve asked my friends to recipe test it too. After few tweaks, I’ve found the solution to meaty and vegan Filipino spaghetti.
For the "meat" of the sauce:
- 12 ounces extra-firm tofu, frozen overnight or for at least 4 hours, then thawed, then crumbled (using your hands or food processor)
- 6 vegan hotdogs, thinly sliced
- sprinkle of organic sugar
- 4-5 tablespoons canola oil
For the sauce:
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
- 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup roughly chopped celery sticks
- 1 cup roughly chopped carrots
- ½ cup roughly chopped, red bell pepper, seeds removed
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
- ¼ cup maple syrup (agave or regular natural sugar works too)
- 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup non-dairy milk
- 4 cups tomato sauce
For the noodles:
- ¾ pound Spaghetti pasta
- medium size pot of hot water
For garnish: (optional)
- ¼ cup grated vegan cheddar cheese as topping (optional)
- Heat medium size pan over high heat. Once hot, pour oil until it covers the base of the pan. Wait until oil is very hot. Carefully add crumbled tofu (do not overcrowd the pan) and fry until tofu is golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
- Using the same pan, fry hotdog slices and sprinkle sugar and salt. Fry both sides and turn off heat. Transfer alongside fried tofu.
- Place onions, celery, bell pepper, and carrots in a food processor and pulse for one minute or until finely minced. Transfer to a bowl.
- Using the same pan you fried the tofu and hotdogs on, saute garlic until light golden. Follow with finely minced vegetables, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sweet relish, soy sauce, maple syrup, and non-dairy milk. Mix well, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring every minute so sauce won't stick on the bottom of the pan.
- Add fried tofu and hotdogs. Mix well and if desired, add more salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
- Cook spaghetti per package's direction (usually 1 lb of spaghetti in 4 quarts of boiling pot of water) until pasta is tender . Drain well using a colander.
- To serve, place sauce over noodles and top with grated vegan cheese. Serve warm.
To successfully fry tofu, make sure the oil is very hot and that you do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches if needed.
If you have a small food processor, pulse the vegetables in batches.
If you couldn't find maple syrup, you may use natural or evaporated cane sugar of the same amount.
If you're watching your sugar intake, use stevia instead of sugar and maple syrup.
If you're watching your fat intake, skip the refined coconut oil.
You could buy vegan cheddar cheese at most health food stores and online. I got mine at Rainbow Grocery San Francisco.
Aside from the written recipe, I’ve also shot a video episode. Please watch below:
I hope you enjoyed reading the post and watching the video. I’m excited to be back filming new episodes. My shooting schedule may not consistent yet so please subscribe to my YouTube channel to get notifications of new videos. And if you have recipe suggestions and requests, feel free to send them my way!
The Filipino spaghetti may be a far cry from Italian spaghetti but I love them both. I’ve expanded my taste and preference. After all, the more the merrier. And now that both versions could be made vegan, there’s really no excuse not to try it. I’m planning to make both for upcoming holiday parties.
Usually holiday parties are a mix of vegans and omnivores so I’m glad the “meatiness” of this vegan Filipino spaghetti will have something for everyone at the holiday table.
Kain na, let’s eat!