Suugo Suqaar (Pasta Sauce with Beef)
Note: Italy’s colonization of southern Somalia during the 19th and 20th centuries had a lasting impact on Somali cuisine. Suugo is the most popular of Somali pasta sauces and resembles an easy weeknight meat sauce, but the added flavor of Xawaash Spice Mix makes it distinctly Somali (and distinctly tasty). You can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken in place of the beef if you’d like. Serve with cooked pasta (any shape will work, whether it be a strandlike spaghetti or a shorter cut like penne). From “In Bibi’s Kitchen,” by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen ($35, Ten Speed Press).
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 small green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
• 1 small red onion, finely chopped
• 1 lb. ground beef
• 3 tbsp. Xawaash Spice Mix (see recipe)
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
• 2 tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
• Cooked spaghetti (or whatever shape pasta you like)
• Coarsely chopped cilantro, for serving
Place the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, bell pepper and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the beef, Xawaash and salt and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the beef, until the meat is browned, about 15 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes and their juices. Fill the tomato can halfway with water and add it to the pot. Stir well to combine, being sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Increase the heat to high and bring the sauce to a boil, then decrease the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally as the sauce cooks, for 30 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt.
Serve hot over cooked spaghetti, with the cilantro sprinkled on top.
Xawaash Spice Mix
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
Note: Xawaash (pronounced HA-wash) comes from the Arabic word hawaij, which is used to describe Yemeni spice blends. Xawaash touches just about every Somali dish. It’s like the garam masala of Somalia, and the mix of flavors is truly the flavor of the Indian Ocean. Each Somali home cook prepares it differently. This is how Hawa prepares hers. She always makes a large batch so she has it on hand to add to dishes as she cooks, adding layers of deep, warm flavors to everything from Digaag Zumbe (Chicken Stew with Yogurt and Coconut) to Suugo Suqaar (Pasta Sauce with Beef). You can also toss it on vegetables or chicken before roasting or use it as a dry rub on any type of meat before grilling. From “In Bibi’s Kitchen,” by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen ($35, Ten Speed Press).
• 1 (2-in.) piece cinnamon stick
• 1/2 c. cumin seeds
• 1/2 c. coriander seeds
• 2 tbsp. black peppercorns
• 6 cardamom pods
• 1 tsp. whole cloves
• 2 tbsp. ground turmeric
Place the cinnamon stick in a small zip-top plastic bag, seal it, and bang it a couple of times with a rolling pin, skillet or mallet (anything firm and heavy) to break it into small pieces.
Place the cinnamon pieces, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, cardamom and cloves in a small heavy skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the smell is very aromatic and the spices are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
Transfer the mixture to a clean coffee grinder and grind into a fine powder (or use a mortar and pestle and some elbow grease). Transfer the ground spices to a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and sift. Regrind whatever large pieces remain in the sieve and add them to the bowl with the ground spices. Add the turmeric. Whisk well to combine and transfer the mixture to an airtight jar. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.