BBQ Spaghetti Is A Must-Try Dish When In Memphis

Some people like to shop for souvenirs when they travel, others love to take in the sights at all the local landmarks, but when I travel, food is my top priority. With a rule to try eating something new during a trip, I like to do a bit of research before I touchdown in the city. During a recent visit to Memphis, Tennessee, I knew that BBQ was going to be the highlight, but what I didn't know was that BBQ Spaghetti would be the thing that I would think about weeks after.

Lyndsay Cordell

It's a dish of simplicity; perfectly cooked spaghetti noodles tossed in a tangy bbq sauce and topped with succulent pulled pork. Served as either a side dish or a main entree, barbecue spaghetti is a staple of Memphis barbecue.

Where did BBQ Spaghetti Originate?

According to Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce, and Soul, the Italian and Memphis mashup was introduced by Brady Vincent, a former railroad cook who owned Brady and Lil's, a popular barbecue restaurant in Midtown. The husband and wife team made almost everything from scratch on an old-fashioned pit.

Before retiring, Vincent shared all his barbecue knowledge and fundamentals with Frank & Hazelteen Vernon before retiring in 1981. The Vernon family changed the name to The Bar-B-Q Shop, and they still make bbq spaghetti using Brady Vincent's original, and very guarded, recipe.

Lyndsay Cordell

In an interview with The Southern Food Alliance, Frank Vernon shared what makes their bbq spaghetti sauce unique.

"Nobody else probably can come close to this barbecue spaghetti because it's--we make a base that nobody else--everybody else probably takes barbecue spaghetti and puts barbecue sauce in it, chop meat up; we got a base that we actually cook on the pit and this base right here is the secret."

In fact, Bobby Flay tried to get a hold of the secret sauce recipe! Be he wasn't the only Food Network star with connections to homemade bbq spaghetti.

Across the way at Interstate Bar-B-Q, Jim Neely (Uncle of Patrick Neely, cohost of the cooking show, Down Home with the Neelys) serves up a similar spaghetti recipe for customers. Neely, who opened his shop in the 1970s, learned the original recipe from Brady Vincent when he was just opening his business. Over the years Neely has changed his recipe to include extra back flap meat from racks of ribs as well as onions, green bell peppers, and spices.

How to Make BBQ Spaghetti at Home

While I highly suggest trying this dish in Memphis, you can recreate it at home pretty easily. The Neely's have a recipe on the Food Network site that you can use and get pretty close to the real thing without using a smoker. I would suggest purchasing pulled pork or smoked pork from your local smokehouse or BBQ joint to really turn the meal up a notch instead of using ground beef which is somewhat suggested in the recipe.

The Neely's suggest making their barbecue sauce with ketchup, apple cider vinegar, light brown sugar, ground black pepper, onion powder, ground mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce.

Once the sauce is made, heat a large skillet over medium heat and saute some peppers and yellow onions with garlic. Add in the sauce and cook, then add in the meat. Pour the sauce on al dente spaghetti noodles and serve with a side of Texas toast.

It's not exactly the same sauce you'll get in Memphis, but it is pretty darn close!

Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Related Videos