Curry Spaghetti is one of those recipes that I made out of sheer curiosity. It is exactly what it sounds like – spaghetti served with a curried tomato sauce – a combination that I had never seen in the wild and, to be honest, didn’t seem terribly appetizing. The only thing I had to commend the recipe to me was the source: the St. Louis Symphony of Cooking, a 1964 community cookbook prepared as a fundraiser for the St. Louis (Missouri) Symphony. The cookbook is otherwise quite snooty, filled with recipes for lobster and pheasant and whipped squash. Even the chapter on One-Pot Recipes, which includes Curry Spaghetti, is peppered with complex dishes with highfalutin names.
So with low expectations I went to work. Even if you ignore the curry powder the spaghetti sauce doesn’t resemble anything in my past cooking experience. Bacon and onions are fried in olive oil and mixed with ground beef, tomatoes, and a full pound of jack cheese. The sauce is quite thin. There’s no cream or roux to make it a “cheese sauce” nor any tomato paste to make it a “tomato sauce”. The resulting sauce is thick enough to stick to the spaghetti but resembles tomato juice more than pasta sauce, and the curry powder turns the whole mixture an unexpected shade of orange. And even though the kitchen smelled amazing, thanks to the bacon, when I brought the dish to the table I apologized to my family. They’re generally patient with my vintage recipe hobby, but I told them if it was terrible we’d go out for dinner.
And I couldn’t have been more wrong. On the first plate we all agreed that it was “kinda good”. And when we started dishing up plate two we decided that this was actually “quite good”. And by the time my oldest son and I finished plate three we realize this was way better than it had any right to be, and a perfect fit for the cold and rainy Pacific Northwest night. The resulting dish is more like a Cincinnati Chili or old-school chili mac than a traditional spaghetti sauce. The curry powder adds some warming spice, but against the background of beef, bacon, and cheese there’s no mistaking this for Indian food. Curry Spaghetti perhaps describes the key ingredients accurately, but the final dish is neither curry nor your mom’s spaghetti.
Curry Spaghetti is a meat-heavy dish and works best with simply steamed green vegetables and a green salad. Unless you’re counting carbs throw in some crusty bread with butter or storebought garlic bread. This would also be a great dish to take camping, and would adapted easily to Dutch oven cooking. Enjoy!
- 6 slices thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon (diced)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large sweet onions (diced)
- 1 lb ground beef (85% fat or leaner)
- 1 lb grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Madras-style curry powder
- 16 oz spaghetti (cooked as per package directions and drained)
- Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large enameled Dutch oven. Add bacon pieces and cook until well browned.
- Add onion and continue cooking until onion starts to sweat. Add ground beef and continue cooking over medium high heat, stirring frequently until onion is translucent and beef is well browned.
- Reduce heat and add curry powder. Stir two or three times to coat, then add canned tomatoes and cheese. Heat through, stirring periodically and breaking up tomatoes into smaller pieces as you stir. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 30 minutes more to blend flavors. Reheat and serve over spaghetti.