Cooking for One

Ketchup Spaghetti for One

April 30, 2019
13 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 1
Author Notes

Spaghetti Napolitan (named after Naples, Italy), or what I like to call "ketchup spaghetti," was invented by the head chef at the New Grand Hotel. Since tomato sauce was a rare ingredient in postwar Yokohama around the 1950s, ketchup was used as a substitute. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The Story of Spaghetti Napolitan, Japan's Best Pasta Dish. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 4 ounces spaghetti (I prefer thin, but regular is fine)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 large organic egg
  • Olive oil, for frying egg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup^
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, fry egg in some olive oil, sunny-side up, until crispy at the edges. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. When pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain, and set spaghetti aside for later.
  4. In the now empty pot, prepare the sauce: Melt 1 tablespoon butter and sauté onion and bell pepper for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to caramelize.
  5. Add the remaining tablespoon butter, then stir in the ketchup and sugar. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until ketchup has cooked down a bit. Splash in milk, along with the cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss with the sauce and fry pasta for a minute or so, adding some of the reserved cooking water to thin out as needed.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the Parmesan and parsley. Plate spaghetti, then top with the fried egg.
  7. ^If you've got tomato paste lying around, then substitute 1 of the tablespoons ketchup with tomato paste for a deeper, richer tomato flavor.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • mdelgatty
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Matilda
  • sister m
    sister m
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.

10 Reviews

Matilda October 23, 2022
Bro, I’m Italian and trust me, if you go to Naples or everywhere in Italy and you show to someone this, I don’t think you will still alive. KETCHUP AND PASTA IS ILLEGAL!!! P.s. ketchup and tomato sauce are not the same thing, so please take the right decision and be a good chef! <3
sister M. February 5, 2022
This is delicious. Will be making again for sure! Thanks!
mdelgatty March 8, 2020
Why would you fry the egg ahead of time, rather than just before serving so it's still hot?
Eric K. March 8, 2020
Hm, good point. I think I did that so you wouldn't have to dirty another pan. I suppose you could in theory make the spaghetti first, plate it, clean the pan (there'll be some gunk), and fry an egg in there. Or just fry in a separate pan so everything stays hot. Not important; do you!
mdelgatty March 9, 2020
And here I thought maybe I was missing something important! (Hate missing things...)
Lynn D. July 7, 2019
Waiting to make this when my husband is out of town. He-will-not-eat ketchup. I'm thinking of adapting it to a one pot Martha Stewart style pasta dis and adding cubed fried spam.
Claudia June 25, 2019
What a fantastic recipe. I quadrupled it to feed our family of 6, and it was a complete hit!!! Thank you for this simple AND flavorful version. This will be a staple from now on.
Eric K. March 8, 2020
Claudia, I'm so glad. Thank you!
Kelly V. June 7, 2019
This is fantastic! A great pasta recipe for one.
Eric K. March 8, 2020