My father-in-law’s Turkish spaghetti recipe is super easy and absolutely delicious! Let me tell you, his garlicky tomato & pepper sauce is one for the books! It’s full of flavor, it coats the pasta perfectly and the whole meal can be ready in 45 minutes.
When my husband and I decided to move to France, I knew that this was the one recipe I absolutely needed to learn how to make before leaving. I simply couldn’t live without it. Turkish spaghetti is my go-to for something really really really comforting. When I eat it I feel like everything is going to be okay.
A FAMILY RECIPE
My father-in-law came up with his version of the traditional salçalı makarna while working as a cook in a retirement house. He needed a quick side dish that he could easily scale and thus his Turkish spaghetti recipe was born.
I fell in love with it after one delicious saucy mouthful! The sweetness from the tomatoes and green pepper, the pungent garlic, the luscious butter and the aroma coming from the cumin and thyme, all comes together to make one of the most addictive pasta sauce ever. I had seconds, even thirds and from that day my father-in-law was insistent on serving Turkish spaghetti as a side dish every single time I was eating at their place. Even when there was already another side dish planned, he would make some just for me (and yes I said a thousand times over that it wasn’t necessary).
They even started referring to the recipe as Amélie’s pasta at some point. My in-laws always found a way to take care of me and make me feel loved while I was living thousands of miles away from my own parents and for this, I will always be grateful!
I wrote the Turkish names in the ingredients list in case you get the opportunity to go to a Turkish store but if you don’t, there are suitable substitutes out there.
- mild red pepper paste: Do not use harissa or gochujang as a substitute, they would be way too spicy and the wrong flavor profile. The best substitute is run-of-the-mill tomato paste! Domates salcası (tomato paste) and biber salcası (red pepper paste) are quite interchangeable in Turkish recipes anyway, each family having their preferences.
- Turkish dried thyme: Use ground thyme. If you can not find ground thyme and only dried thyme leaves are available then use only ½ tsp.
- Turkish yogurt: Full-fat plain Greek yogurt works well as a substitute. It is creamier and less tangy than Turkish yogurt, but it’ll nonetheless be delicious spooned next to your Turkish spaghetti.
Small disclaimer: this recipe is never going to win any dietary prizes. Like most recipes from my Turkish in-laws, it has a fair amount of fat. I have tried to make it with less oil and butter, but simply put, it is not as good. I prefer to stick to the original proportions and make Turkish spaghetti when I want to treat myself, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Roughly chop the stemmed tomatoes and deseeded green pepper. Add them to a food processor along with the halved garlic cloves and the paste. Blend.
Heat the butter and oil in a large pan. Add the sauce and the seasoning. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 min.
Cook the pasta for 1 min less than the time indicated on the package. Drain the pasta and toss them into the sauce. Serve the Turkish spaghetti while warm.
DON’T KNOCK YOGURT BEFORE YOU’VE TRIED IT
I know that there might be some psychological barriers preventing you from putting a big dollop of yogurt on your spaghetti and I get it, I had some reservations too. The key is to perceive the yogurt more as an extra sauce rather than the stuff you eat as a snack.
When I saw my in-laws putting yogurt on their Turkish spaghetti for the first time I thought it was all a big joke to see my reaction. But then I realized that I actually never saw anyone in Turkey eating yogurt as part of a breakfast or dessert. It was always for savory purposes, to accompany almost every meal. Whether it is served in a mezze, as a drink (ayran), as a sauce with ravioli, on the side with meatballs, pilafs, or stuffed vine leaves,…, yogurt is everywhere in Turkey.
The yogurt, instead of drowning the pasta in a bland goopy mixture, enhances everything! The Turkish spaghetti sauce gets creamier and the tangy yogurt harmonizes the flavors from the vegetables and the spices to perfection. It really brings this pasta dish together. Put it on the side of your plate and if you don’t like it then you can eat your Turkish spaghetti only coated with the tomato and green pepper sauce and it’ll be very good too. But it is gonna be better with the yogurt I swear (okay I’ll stop trying to convince you).
Looking for other pasta recipes? Here are some of my favorites:Print
My father-in-law’s Turkish spaghetti recipe is super easy and absolutely delicious! His garlicky pepper & tomato sauce is one for the books. Add a big dollop of yogurt on the side to reach the height of Turkish comfort food.
- 340g ripe tomatoes (¾ lb)
- 115g bullhorn green pepper (¼ lb)
- 2 big garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp Turkish mild red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası*), or use tomato paste
- 55ml vegetable oil (¼ cup)
- 55g butter (½ stick), diced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp Turkish dried thyme (kekik), or use ground thyme
- ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tsp fine sea salt, and 1 tbsp more to salt the pasta water
- 310g uncooked spaghetti
- Turkish kaymaksız yogurt, to serve, or use full-fat plain Greek yogurt
- Boil the water. Fill a large pot with water and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. In the meantime, start the sauce.
- Prepare the sauce. Stem the tomatoes by inserting the tip of a paring knife into the tomatoes and cutting around the stems. Pull the stems out and slice the tomatoes into big wedges. Place the wedges into a food processor. Deseed the green pepper, roughly chop it and add to the food processor. Peel the garlic cloves, halve them and add to the food processor. Add the paste and blend until the mixture is mostly smooth.
- Cook the sauce. Heat the oil and butter in a deep pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, pour the sauce from the food processor into the pan. Add the cumin, thyme, black pepper and 2 tsp of fine sea salt. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Let the sauce come to a simmer and then cook for 10 min, stirring from time to time. Reduce the heat to very low once the 10 min have passed.
- Cook the spaghetti while the sauce is simmering. Add 1 tbsp of salt to the boiling water. Add the pasta to the pot. If the spaghetti doesn’t fit in the pot, wait 30 seconds and then push the spaghetti into the water with a spoon. Cook the spaghetti, stirring occasionally, for 1 min less than the time indicated on the package. When the pasta is ready (still a bit firm in the center), reserve half a mug of cooking water by dipping a mug into the water (be careful). Then tip the spaghetti into a colander over the sink.
- Combine. Add the drained spaghetti to the pan with the sauce. Toss until well combined and the sauce coats the pasta. It if looks a bit dry you can loosen the sauce with a splash of the reserved cooking water. For the tastiest result, serve the Turkish spaghetti still warm (but not burning hot), and, even if it sounds weird to you, with a big dollop of yogurt on the side. Come on, try it, the combination of the sauce with the tangy yogurt is amazing.
You can prepare the sauce in advance and keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat the sauce in a large pan, covered with a lid, over low heat until the sauce is warm enough to toss in cooked and drained spaghetti.
* If you buy Turkish red pepper paste, make sure that is written tatlı biber salcası on the label. If it says acı biber salcası then the paste will be spicy instead of mild. I usually buy salça from a brand called Öncü.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 745
Keywords: simple pasta sauce recipe, summer pasta dishes, typical turkish food