Need a family meal that can be ready in 30 minutes? Try this easy Japanese ketchup spaghetti (Napolitan) recipe with bell pepper, mushrooms, garlic, and sausage.
Ketchup in Spaghetti?! Yes, it’s a spaghetti recipe that is seasoned with ketchup. This ketchup flavored pasta is popular and widely available at cafe restaurants in Japan and we call it Napolitan (ナポリタン).
The idea of spaghetti with ketchup sauce may make any Italians cringe, but it’s one that wins hearts once you give it a try. Many of my readers have requested the recipe after tasting it in Japan. They all referred the dish as “Ketchup Pasta“, so I’m also calling it Ketchup Spaghetti here.
Origin of Napolitan
There are a few theories of how Napolitan (or Naporitan ナポリタン) or Ketchup Spaghetti originated. The strongest theory is that it’s originated in Yokohama during the post-war era.
Around the 1950s, the head chef at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama created this recipe when he was inspired by the spaghetti and tomato sauce dish served for the American military. Since tomato sauce was a rare ingredient at that time, ketchup was used as a substitute for the pasta. He then named it “Spaghetti Napolitan”, or Napoli, after Naples, Italy.
Around the same time, Japan started to open itself to the world and new ideas from the west were considered fashionable. These newly westernized dishes like Spaghetti Meat Sauce and Spaghetti Napolitan received amazing responses that they became mainstays in the cafes and Japanese home kitchens. Until these days, the two dishes are still two of the most popular pasta dishes among Yoshoku (western-influenced food 洋食) in Japan.
Why You’ll Love This Wafu Pasta
The genius about Spaghetti Napolitan is it utilizes most of the pantry staples at your kitchen. The common ingredients include onion, mushrooms, green bell peppers, and sausages (ham or bacon). It’s seasoned with ketchup and Parmesan cheese and served with Tabasco sauce.
It’s really flexible too! That means you can throw in whatever happens to be in-season or on-hand in your kitchen. Try bacon in place of sausage. Use peas in place of bell pepper. Top it with a fried egg if you’d like. But simple is good for this recipe.
To make it vegetarian-friendly, simply leave out the meat and add in more mushrooms. Mix it up with a different type of mushrooms for texture and flavor.
This dish is really easy to make and the flavor is kids-friendly. It makes the ideal meal for a quick dinner if you have a family with young children. I remember my son used to request for Ketchup Spaghetti when I ask what kind of pasta he would like for lunch.
Ketchup As The Key Flavoring
Japanese has been using ketchup in flavoring various dishes as this all-star American condiment lends a deep depth with its sweet-tangy profile.
You can find ketchup being used in Japanese Curry, Omurice, Ebi Chili and a pasta dish like Spaghetti Napolitan. It’s a great example of how open we are when comes to adapting other cultural influences in improving our own cuisine.
It cannot be easier to put this Ketchup spaghetti together! For a fancy yet effortless weeknight dinner, serve it with a green salad and wine. Enjoy!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Ketchup Spaghetti (Napolitan)
- 7 oz spaghetti
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ onion (3 oz, 85 g)
- 6 sausages (I use Japanese kurobuta (black pork) sausages, but you can use 2 Italian sausages, hams, bacon, etc)
- 1 green bell pepper
- 6 mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 2 Tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese (freshly ground)
- 4 Tbsp Ketchup
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ tsp sugar (optional)
- 1-3 Tbsp reserved pasta water
- kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- Meanwhile, mince the garlic clove and slice onion, sausages, bell pepper, and mushrooms.
- In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, just until golden and fragrant.
- Add the onions to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- When the onions are wilted, add the sausages and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the bell peppers and mushrooms and sauté until everything is cooked.
- Add the Sauce ingredients: Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar (optional). When the sauce thickens, add the pasta cooking water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- As soon as the pasta is cooked and drained, add to the pan and toss to combine using tongs.
- Add the milk and Parmesan cheese and toss to combine. Serve immediately in warmed plates.
Other Japanese-Style Pasta Recipes on Just One Cookbook
- Miso Butter Pasta with Tuna and Cabbage
- Creamy Mushroom and Bacon Pasta
- Ume Shiso Pasta
- Japanese-style Pasta with Shrimp and Broccolini
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Apr 19, 2013. The post has been edited and republished in April 2020.