Espagueti rojo (Mexican red spaghetti) is a rich, creamy, and slightly spicy spaghetti dish. It's a fusion of Italian and Mexican ingredients, creating the best of both worlds! This flavor-packed meal is simple to make and great for leftovers.
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📖 What is espagueti rojo?
Espagueti rojo is a Mexican-style pasta dish. It's a budget-friendly, simple, and filling recipe that combines ingredients and cooking techniques from both Italy and Mexico.
The three most popular Mexican spaghetti dishes are:
Each version features different ingredients in the sauce to achieve its respective color. For red Mexican spaghetti, tomato salsa is mixed with crema fresca to create a rich, creamy, and vibrant pasta dish.
While not necessary, we really enjoy adding chipotle peppers for a slight spice and smoky element.
Around the 19th century, many Italians migrated to Mexico. This was in part because of Mussolini, but it was also due to efforts from the Mexican government to introduce new agricultural techniques to Mexico.
Some Italians eventually moved onwards to the United States, while others stayed and settled in pueblos like Chipilo in the state of Puebla.
They brought new farming methods, culture, and foods to the pre-colonial Mexican diet that consisted mainly of corn, beans, squash, and chiles.
Many of the same ingredients are integral to both cuisines, so dishes like espagueti rojo quickly became a favorite “italo-mexicano” fusion.
For more information about the fusion of Italian and Mexican ingredients, visit Mex Connect.
🍝 Tips for making al dente spaghetti
- Heat: Heat water in a large pot over high.
- Boil: Salt the boiling water, then add spaghetti (don't forget the salt!).
- Taste: Start tasting your pasta ~1-2 minutes before it reaches the cooking time indicated on the package to see if it's al dente.
- Drain: Once the pasta is tender and chewy, drain it in a colander (saving the water).
🌱 Is espagueti rojo vegan?
Espagueti rojo is not typically vegan-friendly, but there are a few easy switches to make a 100% plant-based recipe!
Crema — Swap out dairy-based crema and use cashew crema instead.
🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
Spaghetti — Our go-to for Mexican spaghetti is Spaghetti No 3 from Rummo. But, you can use angel hair or any other pasta in your own recipe.
Tomatoes — We stick with fresh Roma tomatoes to keep this dish Mexican-inspired. You can also use canned tomato varieties like San Marzano.
Mexican crema — We use a vegan Mexican crema in this recipe, but you can try dairy-free Greek yogurt or sour cream too.
Onion, garlic — Our preference is always fresh garlic and onion. If you're short on time or don't have any on hand, use garlic and onion powder.
Oregano — Mexican oregano is best here, but you can try Mediterranean oregano if that's what you have stocked.
Chipotles — Chipotles in adobo add a gentle spice and smoky flavor. If you prefer a mild sauce, you can omit them altogether.
Vegetable broth — To add flavor to the broth (pasta water will also work).
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Step 1 — Core and slice the tomatoes in half. Add them to a blender with the onions, garlic cloves, and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Mix on high until smooth.
Step 2 — Heat some vegan butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low. Strain the salsa in through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any seeds or chunks.
Step 3 — Cook the salsa for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the color deepens.
Step 4 — Add drained cashews, chipotles, lime juice, vegetable broth, and Mexican oregano to a blender. Blend into a smooth consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times.
Step 5 — Transfer the cashew sauce to the pan of tomato salsa and carefully stir to combine. Add more pasta water or vegetable broth as necessary to achieve a creamy and smooth consistency.
Step 6 — Once the sauce is well combined, taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking and remove from heat.
Step 7 — Bring a stockpot of water to boil. Salt it generously, then cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, or until al dente.
Step 8 — Drain (don’t rinse), then add the spaghetti to the skillet with the sauce. Mix well, then serve immediately with a garnish of vegan cotija or queso fresco on top. Happy eating!
If you have questions about this espagueti rojo recipe, check out our FAQs or leave a comment down below!
🥗 What to serve with Mexican spaghetti
Although we usually eat espagueti rojo on its own, there are a few great side dishes that pair well with this meal:
Calabacitas — Squash cooked with corn, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and Mexican spices.
Cactus salad — Tangy nopales mixed with tomatoes, onions, savory seasonings, and cashew queso.
Elotes — Grilled corn dipped in crema and topped with almond cotija cheese, chile-lime seasoning, and hot sauce.
Salpicón — A light and refreshing salad with mixed vegetables, shredded jackfruit, and a zesty dressing.
🌡️ Storage & reheating
We love how simple spaghetti is to store and reheat. Follow these steps to see just how easy it is:
Fridge — Store in the fridge for 3-4 days. We use glass containers to ensure the best flavors.
Freezer — The sauce can freeze for up to 3 months as long as it's kept in a freezer-safe container or bag.
Reheat — Reheat the leftovers in a frying pan on low-medium until warm if you've stored the sauce and spaghetti together. Add vegetable broth or water to make it creamy.
Note: Cook fresh pasta each time and reheat the sauce separately for the best flavors and consistency.
White — Leave out the tomatoes and chiles to make this an espagueti blanco.
Protein — Serve this red Mexican spaghetti with soy chorizo, lentils, or chickpeas for a protein-rich meal.
Vegetables — Try adding green beans, cauliflower, spinach, or carrots to this dish for even more health benefits.
Gluten-free — Swap in a gluten-free spaghetti for a celiac-friendly version. You can use your favorite brand or try the GF spaghetti by Rummo.
🧑🍳 Top tips
Soak the cashews — For the smoothest sauce, make sure to soak your cashews for a few hours (preferably overnight).
Salt the pasta water — Adding salt to the boiling water helps to season the spaghetti inside and out.
Serve immediately — As your espagueti rojo sits, the sauce soaks into the spaghetti. For the silkiest consistency, serve it right away.
Use good quality pasta — Since it's the main part of the dish, you can really taste the difference.
Speed it up — To save time, cook the spaghetti while you are simmering the tomato sauce.
This recipe has a slight kick since we've added chipotle peppers to the sauce. If you are sensitive to spice, omit one or both of the chipotles.
Absolutely! Espagueti rojo can be enjoyed with other varieties of pasta like penne, fettuccine, or fussili.
You can replace the fresh tomatoes with canned diced or crushed tomatoes. San Marzano is the richest in flavor.
🍴 More pasta recipes
If you like pasta, be sure to check out these other delicious dishes:
- Espagueti verde: Green spaghetti made with poblano peppers.
- Espagueti blanco: White spaghetti made with creamy cashews.
- Sopa de conchas: Shell pasta soup with a tomato-based broth.
- Ensalada de coditos: A quick and easy elbow macaroni salad.
- Lemon garlic pasta: A vibrant, zesty, and summery Italian spaghetti recipe.
Best Espagueti Rojo
- 4 Roma tomatoes, halved ($0.64)
- ½ white onion, roughly chopped ($0.12)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled ($0.12)
- 1 cup vegetable broth ($0.05)
- 1 ½ tablespoons vegan butter or olive oil ($0.16)
- Salt & pepper to taste ($0.02)
- ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight ($1.29)
- 2 chipotles in adobo ($0.08)
- 4 tablespoons lime juice ($0.24)
- 1 cup vegetable broth ($0.05)
- 1-2 teaspoons Mexican oregano ($0.02)
- 12.35 ounces spaghetti, angel hair, or linguine ($0.25)
- Core and slice the tomatoes in half. Add them to a blender with the onions, garlic cloves, and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Mix on high until smooth.
- Heat vegan butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low. Strain the salsa in through a fine-mesh strainer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add drained cashews, chipotles, lime juice, vegetable broth, and Mexican oregano to a blender. Mix into a smooth consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times.
- Transfer to the pan of tomato salsa and stir to combine, adding more pasta water or vegetable broth as needed. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Remove from heat.
- Bring a stockpot of water to boil. Salt it generously, then cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, or until al dente. Drain (don’t rinse), then add the spaghetti to the skillet with sauce.
- Mix well, then serve immediately with a garnish of vegan cotija or queso fresco on top. Happy eating!
- Soak the cashews — For the smoothest sauce, make sure to soak your cashews for a few hours (preferably overnight).
- Salt the pasta water — Adding salt to the boiling water helps to season the spaghetti inside and out.
- Serve immediately — As your espagueti rojo sits, the sauce soaks into the spaghetti. For the silkiest consistency, serve it right away.
- Use good quality pasta — Since it's the main part of the dish, you can really taste the difference.
- Speed it up — To save time, cook the spaghetti while you are simmering the tomato sauce.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe to recipe. All prices are in USD.