Each summer, Dominican New Yorkers head for the woods and lakes with a big pot of spaghetti

For Dominican families in the Bronx and Washington Heights, summer wouldn’t be the same without a trip north to Harriman, New York’s second-largest state park, with a big steel pot of spaghetti in tow. Empaguetadas, or spaghetti tossed in homemade criollo red sauce, at the beach or Harriman’s lakes is a tradition that dates back to the days of longtime DR dictator Rafael Trujillo. Eater reports that spaghetti arrived in the Dominican Republic after Italian immigrants came to the country in the late 19th century. But it became a true staple of Dominican diets during the 1950s when Trujillo opened a pasta factory called Molinos Dominicano. Soon, spaghetti became cheaper than just about every other common food: rice, plantains, beans, and meat. Families began packing pots of spaghetti to take on trips from Santo Domingo to beaches like Boca Chica, and a tradition was born. Recipes vary from family to family, but there are some uniting characteristics: The pasta is broken into small pieces and cooked until it’s soft, then coated in a tomato sauce made with peppers, garlic, onion, achiote, and butter. Pieces of smoked pork, olives, or chicken can be added for extra oomph. It’s usually paired with a soft loaf of bread and can be served hot or cold. After driving from the city and into the woods, no one is too fussy. 

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