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When I visit the States I see a lot of pasta and spaghetti in the supermarkets. I wonder which is the typical seasoning (sauce or similar) used by Americans when they cook spaghetti. Of course, when they don't cook Italian-style.

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A1 sauce on everything. –  Eight Days of Malaise Jul 9 '10 at 20:32
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Bland "red" sauce and nothing else. Add salt and pepper if it's a special occasion. –  user73 Jul 9 '10 at 20:34
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At least, it's better then Sweden where they use Ketchup. –  Curry Jul 9 '10 at 20:36
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@Curry -- in The Dukes of Hazard, Boss Hog put ketchup on spaghetti. I remembered it always bothered me growing up, but it might be a regional thing. (and well, my mom's Italian-American) –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 15:49
    
@Curry: I need to move to Sweden, apparently. Parmesan, mozzarella, and ketchup, perfect toppings for any pasta! Add some bacon for extra flavor. /me apologizes to his Italian ancestors. –  derobert Aug 4 '10 at 6:53
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8 Answers 8

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The most common preparation is tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.

Of course, some Americans will tell you that the only truly American way to eat spaghetti is to top it with chili, then shredded cheddar cheese, then chopped onions, then red kidney beans. It's hard to fully express the majesty of this dish, and should only be enjoyed on special occasions, like the Super Bowl.

In Canada (which I consider to be basically "American"), it's also fairly common to add or replace the tomato sauce with pesto sauce. Soft goat cheese is another common additive. Perhaps these sound "Italian" but I'd consider an Italian pasta to be something more like a bolognese, carbonara, alfredo, or even the trusty old butter/olive oil and parmesan cheese. You'll almost never see tomato sauce combined with pesto sauce in an authentic Italian restaurant (or in Italy), but it's common in American home cooking.

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Thank you, this is just what I was looking for, a truly American way! –  Lorenzo Jul 9 '10 at 20:52
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Thanks, I also googled it and it is definitely not a typical Italian way of seasoning pasta (although restaurants advertise as an Italian speciality - diario-californiano.blogspot.com/2008/06/pasta-alfredo.html). I think that "Alfredo" could be the real truly American way to eat spaghetti! –  Lorenzo Jul 9 '10 at 21:09
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I never heard of "Fettuccine Alfredo" in Italy, not even in Rome (in Rome is typical "carbonara" and "amatriciana"). The blog entry I pointed (sorry it is in Italian) explains that this Alfredo pasta is common in the States although totally unknown in Italy. I reword the title to include not only spaghetti. –  Lorenzo Jul 9 '10 at 21:27
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That's just your basic 5-way chili ... there's nothing special occasion about it for people from Ohio. –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 15:54
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It appears that it is a relatively recent (1914) invention by a single Italian restauranteur. alfredos.com/roma.html –  hobodave Jul 16 '10 at 18:47
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I might refer you to this video, where Malcolm Gladwell talks (a little bit) about spaghetti, and how Americans prefer to eat it.

Apparently, companies doing market research found that Americans say they want "real Italian pasta sauce," which is somewhat thinner than "American style," but actually prefer eating the chunkier, heartier sauces now common on supermarket shelves.

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That's very very interesting. Thank you. –  Lorenzo Aug 3 '10 at 20:50
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Normally tomato sauce (Ragu, Prego, etc) with Parmesean cheese on top.

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Besides what @Aaronut mentioned with Cincinnati style chili, if we're talking pasta in general, and not just spaghetti, I'd say the "American" pasta dish is macaroni and cheese -- from a box.

Although there's regional variations (eg, lobster in New England), it's found in a much wider area than (N)-way chili (3: spaghetti,chili,cheese; 4: add onions; 5: add beans)

Also popular is "macaroni salad", at least along the east coast from at least Pennsylvania to Georgia.

My mom's second-generation Italian-American, so I grew up with carbonara / pesto / oil and garlic / butter and parmesan / crab / tuna / primavera / bechamal / etc (bascially, whatever was in season and/or cheap). My neighbors on the other hand (friends from high school, we take turns cooking), never cooked anything other than tomato sauce from a jar and/or mac and cheese (from a box). They were even surprised when I introduced them to chili over pasta (but their kids loved it).

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By far, my most common pasta dish to cook is spaghetti in tomato sauce, straight outa my California Heritage Cookbook. Can't get more American than that, can you? ;-)

This tomato sauce is no marinara. It has ground beef, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and celery, and is otherwise made from a base of tomato sauce (29 oz) and tomato paste (6 oz), which gives it a particular consistency and flavor that I'm guessing is more American than Italian, since none of the Italian restaurants I've been to do bolognese in quite that way. The olive oil used for sauteeing the beef & mushrooms is first used to sautee the onions and garlic, which lends a fantastic aroma to the kitchen.

Baked spaghetti is another classic that my elementary school cafeteria loved to do. Take leftover spaghetti in meat sauce, liberally sprinkle cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese on top, and bake in a 350F oven for 30 min or so. For the full American educational institution experience, serve with an ice cream or similarly shaped scoop onto a styrofoam tray. :-)

Baked macaroni and cheese is the third I'd mention. It involves layers of large elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese, plus a dash of paprika in the sauce for flavoring (well OK, these days I use a bit more than a dash :-) ). I use the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. For the full-out American experience (not for the faint of heart!), substitute "American cheese" (can you even get this outside of the States?) and butter for the cheddar.

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I think you're looking for New York Italian pasta.

The major influence on New York pasta was the unavailability of good quality pastas for quite some time.

The changed the ethos of the dishes from "It's all about the pasta" (the Italian way) to "It's all about the sauce" (the American way)

So what happened was the sauces became very heavy meat sauces (almost a chile con carne but without beans)

A typical recipe would be:

I Can Tomato sauce
1 Can Tomato Paste
Garlic
1 lb Ground beef/pork/sausage meat (or all three)
Mushrooms,
Green and red Peppers,
Onions,
Carrots (optional),

and of course, the Ubiquitous "Italian Seasoning" which is a blend similar to Herbs Provencal, but much heavier on the oregano.

Brown meat and drain, Chop and saute veggies, Mix it all together, and simmer for an hour or more.

You'll end up with a pretty thick sauce that can almost be eaten as a Sloppy Joe.

Keep in mind, as with all Italian cooking, there is absolutely no such thing as an "Authentic" or Canonical recipe. Each person has their own version, and there have been bloodbaths in the streets over who's mother makes the better dish.

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The history of american spaghetti and meat sauce. It's popularity in America can be traced back to a cookbook published in 1920 by an association of pasta manufacturers.

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A little salt in the water used to boil the spaghetti. For a sauce, our family likes a tomato sauce, like a marinara, that we buy in a jar, and we add cooked ground beef to the sauce to make it a meat sauce.

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