Food Hack: Pancake House’s Spaghetti

Words: Dwight Co/Photography: Mylene Chung/Styling and Recipe Development: Katherine Jao/October 11, 2012


No other country in the world has debased spaghetti as much as the Philippines. While Jollibee leads the pack of spaghetti Frankensteins with sugar and bright red hotdogs, Pancake House comes in a very close second with a semi-sweet sauce, processed cheese and a few unusual ingredients that you can find in the recipe below.

It’s ironic how Pancake House lives by the tagline, “Come Home to Real Food” when this spaghetti is as fake as your Greenhills Louis Vuitton. The good thing is, it’s good fake. While purists would argue that Pancake House’s spaghetti is some sort of half-assed bolognese, pomodoro or even American meatball spaghetti, I think it’s an entirely different beast that deserves to have its own name.

Sometimes, I’d be in a pasta conversation with seasoned chefs like Jeremy of  Mr. Delicious. While he’d ramble about his food adventures in some complicated sounding place in the middle of Europe, he’d talk about proper pasta. Pretending to be sophisticated, I fabricate an agreeable nod and tell him that I’d love to try all that noodle he’s telling me about. In truth, I’m just waiting for him to leave. A few minutes later, I find myself in an orange room filled with movie posters and a plate of this spaghetti down my throat. I’ve won.

Authentic spaghetti: 0. Scumbag spaghetti: 1.

Pancake House Spaghetti

Total Time: 90 minutes / Yield: 3 servings


  • 1/2 kg ground beef
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1 kg tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cumin, or less
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 liter water, or more


  1. Heat pan over medium flame, and sauté garlic oil for 3 minutes.
  2. Add in ground beef and sauté for 7-9 minutes.
  3. Add in tomato sauce, tomato paste, seasonings and water. Boil for 1 hour.
  4. Mix and check water every 10 minutes.
  5. Season to taste and serve on top of cooked spaghetti noodles.
  6. Serve with grated cheese on top.

Dwight Co


Dwight co-founded Pepper in 2012. Currently, he builds restaurants (Hole in the Wall, Bad Bird, The Beef, Fowl Bread, Wrong Ramen), manages a tiny design studio, and is trying to get a startup called Tablecrafter off the ground. See More.

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  • LOL!! @jeremy slagle

  • Marla Darwin

    3/4 cup sugar!!! No wonder! Ack.

    • Imagine that. A plate of spaghetti with more sugar than your drink and dessert combined!

    • yikes!

  • Gaaah. Never liked their spaghetti anyway. Or any of their pasta. The only thing I order there at Pancake House are the banana pancakes and tacos. the latter, out of habit since I always had tacos at a Pancake House branch nearby St. Luke’s hospital.

    • It’s really a childhood thing. I don’t think I’ll like this stuff if I didn’t learn how to eat it when I was a kid.

      • Amen! My sentiments exactly. It’s more of the memories of childhood eating there brings. 🙂

  • tremendum

    thanks for sharing this, will try it soon. can you help me decipher the dressing they use for their fiesta taco salad? i’ve been trying to find that out for years and can’t get anywhere!!!

    • I haven’t tried it. But I heard it’s loaded with cumin.

    • I second this. The oragne room’s Spaghetti and Taco combo is my ultimate comfort food. I love cumin. I wonder what they use in their salsa? Sweetened vinegar?

    • If it’s the same as the dressing they use in the taco, then it’s a mixture of olive oil, vinegar and sugar. I don’t know the exact proportions because we just eyeball it when we make it at home. Just taste as you go and go light on the vinegar initially.

  • i wonder if i could use a spaghetti sauce instead of the tomato sauce + tomato paste combination … coz i dont like the taste of tomato paste in my pasta …. what do you think?

    • Of course you can, but it won’t be the same. 🙂 If you’re looking for a natural tomato taste, then you’re better off following proper recipes.

  • I can’t say for sure, but I think there was a time Pancake House changed the taste of their spaghetti, though the version above is the one they do serve now. I still go crazy over the chocolate marble waffles paired with banana syrup though, and the fried chicken.

    • oh god, that fried chicken is ridiculous. It’s citrusy-strange and usually overcooked, but I still order it every single time. 😐

    • Yeah, I remember that time, too. I keep complaining to them and telling them to change it right back to the way I used to know it since I was a kid in that old Pancake House restaurant beside the Magallanes theater. Thank goodness, they’ve heeded to the loyalists’ cries. ;p

  • Johann

    Dear Food Hack: could you also hack Pancake House’s Roast Beef? Thanks!

  • Kat

    Thanks for this!! Can’t wait to try it out. I hope there’s food hack for their chicken and gravy too.

    • Sherilyn

      Ditto!!! I love Pancake House’s gravy. Please hack!!!

  • mrdeliciousph

    For your crimes against gastronomy retribution will be swift and unforgiving. You too, Dwight, shall bow your head and pay homage to my superior noodle.

    • I will suck your noodle without regret.

  • Joseph

    Oh, cumin. Kaya pala it tastes mildly curry-ish (more like Japanese curry though). I think they also put Reno liverspread in it.

  • 1kg tomato sauce?!? Whoa

  • Den

    Hack the fried chicken plz! And the mashed potato! And the gravy. My god, that gravy.

    • very addictive gravy!

    • disqus_03Mn80Kri0


    • Bwahaha. That’s gotta be the strangest gravy out there. The consistency almost like jam and it reeks of Knorr. We’ll see what we can do!

  • Makati Supermart Spaghetti in Unimart Greenhills. FTW!

    • U8mypinkcookies

      Yeah i love thaT! Food hack of this recipe pls. And the ff. spaghetti dishes too — jollibee, amber’s spag with meat sauce, yellow cab charlie chan and world chicken’s asian noodles. Hehehe. 🙂

    • Stefhoney

      Yes, please do a Makati Supermarket spaghetti hack please. I now live in the States and it is one of the things I am craving for.

    • Angeli Antonio


  • Can you do a food hack on Myron’s bread pudding, please?

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  • Bib

    Too sweet

  • mom

    I tried this recipe last night, not even close to pancake house’ spaghetti 🙁 but it’s good.

    • andi

      i was looking forward to trying this recipe but then i read your comment… kinda disappointed. 🙁 pancake house’s spaghetti is my all-time favorite and i’ve been looking for the recipe for their sauce.

      • mom

        It’s my fave too that’s why I immediately bought the ingredients for this recipe. It turned out to be really good but not really close to pancake house’ spag. I ended up adding mushrooms and spam bits just to enjoy the sauce more.

  • andi

    I always thought that their sauce had liver spread in it and that’s what gave it a unique taste

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  • Lia

    Try adding corned beef to the ground beef. I did it before and i think it comes a little closer to the flavor profile of pancake house spaghetti.

  • flynster

    Cumin!?! Ahhh. I have always wondered what spice they used. I actually thought it might either be nutmeg or cloves. Thanks!

  • Ohspaghetti

    Hack Makati supermart spaghetti, please 🙁

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  • Mark Angala

    Pancake House Spaghetti recipe should include LIVER SPREAD!! This is not even close!

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