This Baked Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is not the typical one you found in Italian restaurants. This version is meaty, savory with a little sweetness, but just as delicious!
Rainy California have me craving for comfort food! The only thing that would satisfy me is this Baked Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (焗肉醬意粉). This dish is something I grew up eating, and it might not be exactly the same as a typical meat sauce with spaghetti in the US. But it’s just as amazingly delicious!
Hong Kong is heavily influence with western culture, especially when it was a colony under Britain. There are a lot of western style food in Hong Kong. Many of them are changed slightly to fit into local flavors, like egg tart & borscht soup. Bake spaghetti with meat sauce is actually very common. Not only you can get it in Italian restaurants, you can even find it in most cha chaan teng (茶餐廳 Hong Kong style cafes) and a couple fast food chains, like Cafe de Coral (大家樂) and Maxims MX (美心MX). I can say that every Hong Konger know exactly what this dish is and have had it in at least once.
There is a Cafe del Coral right next to where we used to live. Whenever my family and I went there, my sister always go for the spaghetti with meat sauce. It’s her favorite dish! The gooey melted cheese and the bubbly hot pasta was too hard to resist. Hearty, meaty and comforting! Even though your face would be covered with sauce afterward, I had no regret. The only sad thing was the portion size. It was on the small size. But now, you get to make this at home and you can make as much as you want.
My meat sauce sure tastes pretty close to what I remember from Cafe de Coral. It’s tomatoey with a little sweetness and lots of meat. For the meat, I used a blend, bacon, ground beef and pork. The smokiness from the bacon is a nice touch. The sweet is from ketchup, sugar and carrot. Again, this recipe is not your American Italian version. Ketchup is widely used in Hong Kong’s dishes. It may seems a bit odd, but it’s magical. The meat, tomatoes, herbs, and vegetables were cooked together for a good 30 – 40 minutes. Everything was nicely blended together. It tasted incredible just on its own. But it’s even better with gooey cheese. Transfer everything to a baking dish. Top with mozzarella and bake until bubbly and golden brown. Everyone will fall in love with this spaghetti goodness!
Baked Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- 2 slices thick bacon (minced)
- ¾ onion (finely diced)
- 1 small carrot (peeled and minced)
- ¼ pound ground beef (15% fat)
- ¼ pound ground pork
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1½ - 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ can (14.5 ounce can) dice-tomatoes 14.5 ounce can dice-tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 8 ounces dried spaghetti
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
- 3 - 4 slices mozzarella cheese
- ground black pepper
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add bacon and cook until some are golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Remove all the fat with a paper towel except for 1 tablespoon.
- In the same pan over medium-low heat, add onion and carrot. Saute for 10 minutes. Add bacon and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in both ground meat and cook until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper. Add oregano, rosemary, garlic and tomato paste. Saute for 1 minute.
- Pour 1½ cups broth. Scrap off the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the diced tomatoes and some of the juice. Add ketchup and sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes are almost melted, about 30 – 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water (salted) to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 9 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 450˚F (230˚C).
- Back to the meat sauce, make sure the mixture doesn’t reduce too much. The sauce should not be too thick and too dry. It should be pretty liquidy. Reduce the heat to low. Stir in half of the parmesan cheese. Mix well. Remove ½ of the meat sauce to a medium bowl and set aside. Add the spaghetti to the skillet. Mix to combine.
- Transfer the spaghetti to a medium baking dish. Scoop the set-aside meat sauce over. Top with mozzarella cheese slices and sprinkle with the rest of parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 15 – 20 minutes. (If you have a broiler, you can do 7 minutes in 450˚F, then 3 minutes in broiler.)
- If you like, you can skip the oven part and serve the pasta right away.
- Since the pasta has to baked, the meat sauce should be fairly runny. That way, the pasta won’t be too dry at the end.