turkish spaghetti

2 to 4    |   
Prep Time:
15 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
15 minutes

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turkish spaghetti

This comes by way of my friend Blaise, who travels often to Turkey. He makes the sauce with just ground beef, onion, garlic, mint, and yogurt. I added some perfectly ripe tomatoes and I experimented with ground lamb since it sounded Turkish to me (“Nope,” says Blaise. “They use ground beef.” Well, I loved the lamb.) The key is to toss the cooked spaghetti with the yogurt, then add the sauce. Take note: Sam and I can eat this whole recipe between the two of us, but we are pigs. Daintier eaters will get 3 or 4 servings.


1 lb ripe red tomatoes or 1 can (14 oz) whole San Marzano tomatoes
kosher salt
olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3/4 pound ground beef or lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
8 ounces spaghetti or linguine
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
grated parmesan cheese


If using fresh tomatoes, core and cut them in half through the equator. Squeeze out the seeds over the sink; coarsely chop the tomatoes and sprinkle them with a little salt. If using canned tomatoes, pour tomatoes and liquid into a bowl and with your hands, squeeze tomatoes to break them up. Set tomatoes aside. Bring a big pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan or wide frying pan, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Crumble in the ground meat and sprinkle it with salt; cook, stirring, until it is broken up and no longer pink; drain off the excess fat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the red pepper flakes and the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the pasta is ready, lifting the lid and stirring the sauce every once in a while to keep it from scorching (it should be thick, not soupy).

When the water in the big pot comes to a rolling boil, drop in a good pinch of salt and add the pasta. Stir to untangle the strings, then cook until al dente (check package for time). When the pasta is done, stir the mint into the meat sauce and turn off the heat under that pan. Ladle out 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside, then drain the pasta and transfer it to a big, warmed bowl. Plop the yogurt over the cooked pasta and with tongs, lift and toss the pasta until well coated with yogurt; add a bit of the pasta water if dry. Pour the meat sauce over the pasta, scraping the pan to get every last bit, then toss the pasta again. Serve right away in warmed pasta bowls, with a mint sprig to garnish if you want. Pass the parmesan at the table.