Since the debut of The Bear on Hulu, the dramatic television show has drawn in viewers as the story of a young chef named Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) unfolds on the screen. The show depicts the struggles Carmy goes through while tending to his family’s Chicago sandwich shop after working in the world of fine dining — and there’s also a spaghetti recipe.
With the swap of restaurant style comes Carmy’s struggle to figure out how to maintain his family’s restaurant under a budget, learn the nuances of his new co-workers and figure out how to save the business, all while grieving the loss of his brother.
In addition to an entertaining storyline, viewers are treated to images of mouthwatering plates of food. And that spaghetti recipe? It’s a family secret that plays a continual role in the plot. In the final episode of The Bear, a dish of the spaghetti even becomes a turning point in the show.
“The spaghetti” became an overnight sensation, with many fans attempting to recreate it with just a few ingredients, including actress Mindy Kaling, who recently raved about the show and the spaghetti on Instagram. “You have to make this,” Kaling says in a video where she shares her own attempt at a copycat recipe, “It’s so delicious.”
But what makes this pasta so different from other pasta dishes? Many think it’s the San Marzano tomatoes used in the sauce. “San Marzano is a very special tomato,” Francesco Bonsinetto, CEO of farm-to-fork experiences at Cucina Migrante, tells Yahoo Life. “The skin is very thin, and the acidity is very low.”
According to Bonsinetto, real San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the Campania region of Italy at the base of Mount Vesuvius, where the soil is more fertile due to the volcano.
When you’re at the grocery store, Bonsinetto suggests looking for DOP-certified tomatoes. “The real thing is when you go to the grocery store and you see DOP (denominazione d’ origine protetta, which translates to ‘protected designation of origin’ and authenticates the tomato is, indeed, San Marzano), and a serial number. This means it’s a real San Marzano tomato. If you don’t have these two elements, but the label says ‘product of Italy’ or ‘certified’ it’s just marketing,” he explains.
Bonsinetto says the reason San Marzano tomatoes are magical in spaghetti and other Italian dishes is that sauces made with the tomatoes literally stick to the pasta. “It has a very velvety texture. If you use real beautiful ingredients you don’t need to do many things,” he says. “Just add some extra virgin olive oil, some tomatoes, some onions and if you like, some garlic, then that’s it.”
With any pasta dish, the type of pasta used is very important. Armed with Bonsinetto’s San Marzano tomato advice, I set out to recreate the meal. The next step was finding the right spaghetti, because not every dried pasta is created equally. In Kaling’s video she opted for Rao’s Homemade, so I asked the source why their pasta would work well.
“Rao’s Homemade spaghetti works so well in this recipe because the pasta is premium and traditionally-crafted,” says Stjepan Kadic, research and development manager and corporate executive chef of Sovos Brands. “It is made in Italy, using only two ingredients: house-milled durum semolina flour and water. We extrude the pasta dough through bronze dies that provide the pasta with a unique rough, porous texture that improves mouth feel, flavor and most importantly, clings and holds onto the sauce.”
I went to the grocery store and found everything I needed: dried spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, fresh basil, hot pepper flakes, butter, onion, San Marzano tomatoes and parmesan cheese. What made me excited to make this pasta at home was the dish seemed simple, yet elevated because of a few easy steps.
I started by combining part of the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and basil into a small saucepan. I turned the burner on and let the oil heat up until it started to slightly bubble. Once the basil was wilted I took it off the heat and let it cool while I started making the sauce.
I started with my favorite pan, a shallow-but-large saucepan that would allow me to stir ingredients together with lots of room. I put half a stick of butter and a small amount of oil into the sauce and let it brown. While the butter was browning I cut the onion in half. Once the butter was slightly browned and starting to smell fragrant, I added my onion halves.
I let the onions cook for about three minutes, cut side down, before adding canned tomatoes. After dumping in the tomatoes, I crushed them slightly with the back of a wooden spoon. When the sauce started to boil, I seasoned it with salt and turned the temperature to low and let the sauce simmer with a lid for about 20 minutes to deepen the flavor.
While the sauce was simmering, I put the cooled oil and basil mixture into my food processor. I pulsed the oil until everything was chopped into small pieces. I added the mixture to the simmering sauce and stirred everything together. I let the sauce thicken slightly by taking the lid off of the pan for about 10 minutes.
While the sauce was thickening I boiled the spaghetti. Just before the pasta was ready, I removed the onion halves from the sauce. When the pasta was al dente, I added it into the pasta sauce. After all of the pasta was in the saucepan, I stirred everything around ensuring the pasta was completely coated.
To plate my dinner, I topped the spaghetti with a tiny sprig of basil and a shower of parmesan cheese.
When my family sat down to eat, my mom, who rarely finishes a pasta dish, ate her entire bowl. My dad, who asks for spaghetti almost weekly, said it was one of my best pasta dishes to date and wanted to know the secret. I told him I think the real secret is the love I put into making the dish, just like Carmy did for his restaurant family on The Bear.
Mindy Kaling’s The Bear Spaghetti Recipe
Courtesy of Rao’s Homemade
Spaghetti, Kahling recommends Rao’s Homemade
Hot pepper flakes
San Marzano tomatoes
Parmesan and more basil for garnish
Combine the 1/2 cup of olive oil, 5 smashed and peeled garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and your handful of fresh basil (stems and all) in a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let simmer for 1–2 minutes or until basil is wilted. Remove from heat and allow mixture to steep while you start the sauce.
Slice your onion in half through the root and peel off the papery skins. Leave the halved roots intact, since you’ll be fishing the onion halves out of the sauce a little bit later. Add a half stick of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of neutral oil to a large pot. Once the butter is melted and just beginning to brown, place the onion halves into the pot, cut-side down. Let the onions sear for 2–3 minutes, or until the cut sides start to turn golden brown.
Carefully add canned tomatoes to the butter and oil. Use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Once the tomato sauce is boiling, turn the heat to low. Season to taste with salt, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 20–25 minutes.
Once the oil mixture has cooled, pour it into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 20–30 seconds or until the basil and garlic are chopped into tiny pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, you can mince the basil and garlic by hand and then return to the oil.
Add the processed basil oil to the simmering tomato sauce, and stir until thoroughly combined. Now is a great time to taste and season with additional salt, as needed. Not all canned tomatoes taste the same, so if your sauce tastes a little too acidic, you can add a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to raise the pH a bit and cut some of that bite. Let the sauce continue to simmer, uncovered, for 10 more minutes. Once it’s thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
To serve, remove and discard both onion halves. Toss 1 pound of al dente spaghetti into the pot and thoroughly coat with the sauce.
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