BBQ Spaghetti: A Delicious Fusion of Italian and Memphis Cuisine
If you love barbecue and pasta, you might want to try BBQ spaghetti, a dish that combines spaghetti noodles with a sauce made from shredded smoked pork and barbecue sauce. This dish is a specialty of Memphis, Tennessee, where it was invented by a former railroad cook named Brady Vincent. In this article, we will explore the history and variations of this unique dish and give you some tips on how to make it at home. We will also introduce you to some other Memphis specialties that you might want to try.
The Origins of BBQ Spaghetti
BBQ spaghetti is not just a simple combination of barbecue and spaghetti. It is a dish that has its own recipe and history, dating back to the 1950s. According to Craig David Meek, author of Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce, and Soul (2014), Brady Vincent was the first to create this dish at his restaurant, Brady & Lil’s. He blended his thick, tangy barbecue sauce with traditional Italian tomato sauce, and added smoked pork that he cooked in his charcoal-fired brick pit. He then tossed the cooked spaghetti noodles in the sauce, making sure that every strand was coated with the savory orange mixture.
Vincent taught his recipe to Frank and Hazel Vernon, who bought his restaurant in 1980 and renamed it The Bar-B-Q Shop. The Vernons still make BBQ spaghetti using Vincent’s original recipe, which they keep secret. However, they do reveal that they use a different sauce from the one they serve with ribs and pork sandwiches, and that they cook the sauce base in their pit to give it a rich layer of smoke.
The Variations of BBQ Spaghetti
BBQ spaghetti has become a popular dish in Memphis, where it can be found in many barbecue restaurants as a side dish or a main course. Some restaurants use pulled pork instead of shredded pork, and some add vegetables like green peppers and onions to the sauce. Some also use different types of barbecue sauce, such as vinegar-based or mustard-based sauces, to give the dish a different flavor.
One example of a variation is the Memphis BBQ spaghetti served at State Park restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They use pulled pork in a marinara sauce that uses barbecue sauce as its base. They also add sour cream, green onions, and cheddar cheese to the dish.
How to Make BBQ Spaghetti at Home
If you want to try making BBQ spaghetti at home, you will need some cooked smoked pork, your favorite barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, spaghetti noodles, and some seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, parsley, cayenne pepper, and cumin. You can also add some chopped bell pepper and onion if you like.
Here are the basic steps to make BBQ spaghetti:
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat some olive oil and sauté the bell pepper and onion until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
2. Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, and all the seasonings. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. Add the smoked pork and simmer for another 10 minutes.
4. Cook the spaghetti noodles according to the package directions until al dente. Drain well.
5. Add the spaghetti noodles to the sauce and toss well to combine.
6. Serve hot with some chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish if desired.
Enjoy your BBQ spaghetti with some bread or salad on the side. You can also drizzle some extra barbecue sauce on top if you like.
Other Memphis Specialties
BBQ spaghetti is not the only dish that showcases the fusion of Italian and Memphis cuisine. There are other dishes that you might want to try if you visit or live in this city.
One of them is barbecue pizza, which was invented by Coletta’s Italian Restaurant in the 1950s. They use barbecue sauce instead of tomato sauce and top their pizza with lots of shredded smoked pork. Elvis Presley was a big fan of this pizza.
Another one is barbecue nachos, which were created by The Germantown Commissary in the 1980s. They top tortilla chips with gooey cheese, smoked pork or chicken, and barbecue sauce. These nachos are now a staple at the Memphis Redbirds ballpark.
Of course, you can’t talk about Memphis cuisine without mentioning its famous ribs and pork sandwiches. Memphis is known for its dry-rubbed ribs that are smoked over hickory wood and served with vinegar-based sauce on the side. The pork sandwiches are made with chopped or pulled pork piled on a bun with coleslaw and more sauce.
Memphis is a city that loves barbecue and knows how to make it in different ways. Whether you prefer spaghetti, pizza, nachos, ribs, or sandwiches, you can find a barbecue dish that suits your taste in Memphis.