Filipino spaghetti with hot dog and quick melt cheese is a quintessential dish for children’s birthday parties.
Throughout my childhood there were staple dishes that were present at EVERY birthday party my parents threw for me.
- Lots and lots of lumpia shanghai
- Cake. One large sheet cake (usually vanilla sponge cake with fresh strawberries) for blowing out the candles and a variety of smaller cake for the adults (mocha roll, black forest, mango cake)
- FILIPINO SPAGHETTI.
Filipino spaghetti is a sweetened version of Italian bolognese. It is easy to make and requires very little prep.
Every family has their own version of this popular dish. Use the ingredients listed in this recipe as a starting point. Adjust the sauce according to your taste preferences.
What makes Filipino style spaghetti different from other spaghetti?
It’s sweet. Depending on your family’s sweet preferences, Filipino spaghetti has quite a bit of sugar.
The sweetness comes from a variety of options:
- Sugar. Any sugar: granulated white sugar, brown sugar, unrefined sugar, etc.
- Banana Ketchup
What is Banana Ketchup?
Many Western foods grew in popularity in the Philippines during American colonization of the islands. This includes canned goods, evaporated milk, and ketchup.
Since bananas are abundant in the Philippines, it was used to create a sauce that attempted to mimic the sweet and tangy flavors of tomato ketchup.
Banana ketchup comes into two varieties: regular and hot/spicy. Both varieties are sweet.
There are several brands to choose form. The two most commonly available in the United States are Jufran (photographed above) and UFC.
I prefer and recommend the hot and spicy variety. It adds a slight kick to the spaghetti meat sauce.
Choice of Jarred Tomato Base
Growing up, the Filipino spaghetti sauce we ate was either made with Prego Traditional or Barilla Marinara. These two brands are on the sweet side. Ragu is a little more tart, thus requiring more sugar.
Rao’s Marinara (photographed above) is my absolute favorite. I highly recommend it. It is a versatile sauce made with simple, all natural ingredients.
Do a quick internet search on Rao’s homemade marinara sauce and you’ll find lots of rave reviews. The only downfall is the price. It comes at a higher price. (TIP: stock up on Rao’s sauce when they go on sale at Costco!)
Del Monte sells a bagged “Spaghetti Sauce” at Filipino markets. I’m not a fan. It’s TOO sweet.
Seasoned Ground Beef
I use 85% lean, 15% fat ground beef. This is a good mixture of meat to fat ratio for spaghetti sauce.
The ground beef is seasoned with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
The garlic powder and onion powder is optional. Simply omit if you do not have these on hand. They add additional flavor, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have it.
Chicken base is another flavor enhancer I like to add for richer tasting sauce. *The chicken base is optional. It adds rich umami flavor to the meat sauce. I like to use Better than Bouillon roasted chicken base. Other options: chicken bouillon cubes or powder, beef cubes or powder, vegetable cubes or powder.
Filipino Hot Dog vs. American Hot Dog
For the most authentic version, use the bright red Filipino hot dogs! These are dyed red and are usually made with a combination of beef, pork, and turkey.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a bit more picky with my hot dogs. I prefer all beef hot dogs. I’m willing to spend a little more for the organic good stuff.
Feel free to use your favorite hot dog brand!
Other Variations to Filipino style spaghetti:
There are numerous versions of this tasty sweet spaghetti meat sauce. Here are some other modifications or additions to consider:
- Evaporated Milk or Table Cream
- Carrots and Bell Peppers
- Ground Pork or Luncheon Meats
Canned Evaporated Milk
Some people like to add canned evaporated milk or canned table cream. This adds sweetness and creaminess to the meat sauce. However, it also makes the meat sauce turn pink.
(I’m not a fan. My mom never added this to my childhood spaghetti.)
Diced Carrots and Bell Peppers
Diced carrots and diced bell peppers are often added to the onion-garlic mixture. This add sweetness and texture. It also adds a little extra vegetable nutrients.
Ground pork can be used in place of ground beef. You could also do a mixture of ground beef and ground pork.
How To Cook Sweet style Spaghetti Meat Sauce:
Have all your ingredients prepped and ready. Grab a large heavy bottomed pot and let’s start
1. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Once hot, add onions. Cook for about 2 minutes until onions are almost translucent. Then, add garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant.
3. Add tomato paste and banana ketchup. Stir everything together and cook for about a minute until mixture has slightly thickened.
4. Add ground beef. Stir to distribute and combine with onion mixture. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until beef is browned. Then, add in sliced hot dogs. Cook for another minute or so until hot dog are warm.
*During this time, the fat (oil) will separate from the beef. Simply, keep stirring. This fat helps to flavor the sauce.
5. Add jarred marinara sauce. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Slightly cover pot and let mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
6. Add sugar and optional chicken base. Stir to dissolve. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes while you cook the pasta.
*The chicken base is optional. It adds rich umami flavor to the meat sauce. I like to use Better than Bouillon roasted chicken base. Other options: chicken bouillon cubes or powder, beef cubes or powder, vegetable cubes or powder.
What pasta to use?
Spaghetti is best! However feel free to use your choice of pasta such as: fettuccine, linguine, penne, or rigatoni.
I don’t suggest angel hair pasta. The noodles are too thin and are not strong enough to pick up the meat sauce.
Cheese Topping for Spaghetti
Authentic Filipino spaghetti is topped with processed quick melt cheese (think shredded Velveeta or Magnolia Quickmelt or Eden MeltSarap).
Shredded cheddar, Colby, or Colby Jack cheese are great options.
During my childhood years, our Filipino spaghetti was served with Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. It’s the one in the plastic green container.
These days, I prefer to top my spaghetti with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Regardless which cheese you choose, the cheese adds a nice pop of saltiness to this otherwise sweet spaghetti!
- Medium Bowl
- Heavy-bottom pot
- 1 pound ground beef, 85% lean, 15% fat
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, or vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cup diced onion (1 large onion)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- ⅓ cup banana ketchup*
- 1 ¼ cup sliced hot dogs (about 4 links)
- 28 oz jarred marinara sauce*
- 2 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon chicken base, optional
- 1 pound dried spaghetti noodles
- In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside.
- In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat oil. Once hot, add onions. Stir and cook until almost translucent, about 2 minutes. Add in garlic and stir to combine. Cook for 30-45 seconds until garlic is fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and banana ketchup. Stir together and cook on medium heat for about a minute until mixture has slightly thickened into a jelly-like consistency.
- Add seasoned ground beef. Stir to break up beef and combine with onion mixture. Cook over medium-heat high for 3-4 minutes until beef is browned. (During this time, the oil from the beef will separate. This is normal.) Add in sliced hot dogs. Cook for another minute or so until hot dogs are warm.
- Add jarred marinara sauce. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Slightly cover pot and let mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Mix in sugar and optional chicken base. Stir to dissolve. Simmer for another 15 minutes while you cook and prepare the spaghetti pasta. *Taste sauce. Add additional sugar or salt according to taste preferences.
- Cook spaghetti pasta noodles according to package instructions.
- Serve hot spaghetti meat sauce over cooked noodles. Top with cheese of choice. Enjoy immediately!
- Add more banana ketchup depending on your sweetness preferences. For those with a big sweet tooth, I suggest adding between 3/4 cup to 1 cup of banana ketchup. I find that 1/3 cup is a good happy medium that both kids and adults will enjoy.
- Banana ketchup comes in two varieties: regular and hot & spicy. I prefer hot & spicy because it adds a nice kick
- I use the 28 oz jar of Rao’s homemade marinara from Costco. If you purchase this at other retailers it will come in a 32 oz jar. The 32 oz portion will create a slightly thinner sauce.
- Asides from Rao’s, I recommend using Prego Traditional or Barilla. These two brands are a little on the sweet side, making their perfect for Filipino Spaghetti.
- Chicken base is optional, but it adds more flavor. I use Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base. You could also use: chicken bouillon cubes/powder, beef or vegetable base.
Reader Questions and Reviews
I hope you post more recipes! I’ll be following you
I haven’t had this in so long. I literally dream about this spaghetti!
This was so perfect! Thank you!!