Naporitan (ナポリタン)

Naporitan (Napolitan) is a Japanese spaghetti dish flavored with tomato ketchup. It is a yoshoku (Western-style Japanese cuisine) made by arranging pasta, a Western cuisine, to suit Japanese tastes.


To make Naporitan, one cooks spaghetti after adding tomato ketchup. Typically, the ingredients include onion and green peppers, as well as processed meat like ham, sausage, and bacon. It is often served along with Tabasco sauce and Parmesan cheese, which are commonly sprinkled on it according to taste. The word Neapolitan, from which Naporitan took its name, means Napoli-style in English.

Napolitan as eaten in Japanese daily life by "dressing cooked ingredients and boiled pasta with ketchup" is believed to have been introduced by the American occupation forces after the end of the Pacific war. Made in large amounts for the troops to eat, it was flavored with easy-to-use tomato ketchup under policies typical to the Army. It was a regular food in the US Army barracks, and was widely used as a ration (canned food in battle) during the war. Its cooking method was introduced into the Japanese market by Japanese cooks who worked at US military bases.


Existing records suggest that Shigetada IRIE, the executive chef of the Hotel New Grand located in Yamashita-cho, Yokohama City, created Naporitan in Japan. The hotel was taken over by the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ) soon after the war, and it still has a room in which General Douglas MacArthur stayed. Based on these historical backgrounds, it is believed that spaghetti and ketchup, which were then not yet part of the Japanese diet at home, were used for cooking to suite the tastes of US troops. Inspired by spaghetti mixed with tomato ketchup, one of the military rations of the occupation troops, IRIE added not only ketchup but tomato puree, seasoning and ingredients to make an authentic dish called 'Spaghetti Naporitan' and put it on the hotel menu. According to the recipe from those days, Spaghetti Naporitan in the Hotel New Grand was different from the Naporitan later popularized, but was apparently closer to the Napoli-style sauce described below. Since it was not well received at the hotel's tasting events by their Japanese customers, who were not yet familiar with the texture of al dente pasta, IRIE cooked spaghetti 70 percent through and let it stand overnight in fridge to obtain a texture like udon, to fit the tastes of Japanese (according to Mirai Sozodo, a Japanese TV show). Once this Naporitan started to be served at average restaurants, ketchup replaced tomato puree, which was still not easily available to the public, and sausage made from mixed meat with red-colored casing replaced expensive meat, then becoming the dish seen today. This Naporitan with the common touch became popular as a staple dish at kissaten (Japanese-style coffee shop) and inexpensive eating places throughout Japan, and enjoyed continued popularity.

During the Showa period when the idea of cooking rehydratable pasta noodles al dente was not common, people used noodles which were boiled and let them stand beforehand to reheat in a frying pan while seasoning it. It was cooked in a way close to yakisoba (fried soba seasoned with yakisoba sauce based on Worcester sauce) and yakiudon (fried udon). Because Naporitan was very easy to flavor with ketchup, it was often served at school meals, home, kissaten, and lunchrooms.

Before the Italian-cuisine boom during the economic bubble, meat sauce (Bolognese sauce) and Naporitan were the two major spaghetti dishes in Japan. It was also a routine as a kids' lunch and a side dish to yoshoku. Although it is still a firm favorite, Naporitan has less frequently been seen with the decrease in the number of privately managed kissaten now that varieties of authentic pasta is available. Naporitan has been reassessed, however, as a result of the growing trend to look back on the Showa period in recent years.

Situations in other areas and countries

Although Naporitan is sometimes called Italian in the Kansai region, some restaurants have both Naporitan and Italian on the menu with slightly different ingredients, which leaves the definition of Naporitan up to the restaurants. There is a spin-off of Naporitan called Italian Spaghetti in Nagoya. Additionally, in the Kanto region including Tokyo, deep-fried spaghetti flavored with salt and pepper (soy sauce) only and without ketchup is sometimes called 'Italian,' which is also a dish unique to Japan and not seen in Italy.

According to the recipe for Naporitan in the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama, which is believed to have created the first Naporitan in Japan, its Naporitan was closer to Spaghetti a la Napolitana in France than the ketchup-tasting spaghetti known as Naporitan in Japan now.

There is no such pasta dish as Napolitan (alla Napolitana in the Italian language) in Italy. Tomato ketchup is an American seasoning and is not commonly used in cooking in Italy. Even in the US, tomato ketchup is rarely heated to season food. There is a sauce named Napolitan in Italy: Neapolitan sauce. This is a sauce made from onion, garlic, spices, and Parmesan cheese, used mainly for pasta.

There is a theory that Napolitan originates from the Italian-style pasta flavored with tomato sauce called 'spaghetti a la Napolitana,' commonly eaten in France.

Spaghetti alla Amatriciana in Italian cuisine is relatively closer in taste to Japanese Spaghetti Naporitan. This is a dish in the region of Lazio, not Campania where Naples is located, eaten in tomato sauce made from pancetta and onion with Pecorino Romano if desired.

In American food, Napolitan suggests a type of ice cream called Neapolitan ice cream.

In China, Napolitan means meat sauce at some restaurants.

[Original Japanese]