The Surprising Ingredient Nigella Lawson Adds To Spaghetti

If you've watched any food television over the past decade or so, chances are you're familiar with Nigella Lawson, the British "Domestic Goddess" who rose to popularity with her cooking series "Nigella Feasts" and "Nigella Kitchen." Known for her cheeky sense of humor, freewheeling cooking style, and, undoubtedly, movie star looks, Lawson has gone on to captivate home cooks with additional shows as well as a number of cookbooks, including "Nigella Bites," "Nigellissima," and (naturally) "How to Be a Domestic Goddess."

Rarely known to prepare a classic recipe to the T, Lawson instead likes to improvise in the kitchen, adapting dishes to her own tastes and encouraging her readers and viewers to do the same. Her take on the timeless southeastern French Salade Nicoise, for example, might not include every single ingredient considered indispensable to the traditional recipe, and she's fine with that, writing, "I put in what I have at home from, broadly, the accepted canon, but not necessarily everything the purists would" (via Nigella).

Given Lawson's improvisational tendencies, it perhaps comes as no surprise that one of her favorite ways to prepare pasta includes an ingredient few of us would associate with spaghetti.

Marmite: "Love it or hate it"

Have you ever tasted Marmite, the salty, yeast-based spread that many Brits like to spread on toast? If so, you undoubtedly have strong feelings about the product. With an extremely bold flavor as well as a sticky texture, according to Allrecipes, it's a divisive condiment that the Marmite Food Company called out beginning in 1996 with the tagline, "Love it or hate it" (via Marmite Museum).

Count British television personality and cookbook author Nigella Lawson in the "love it" camp: she uses a dab of the stuff in her recipe for Spaghetti with Marmite. As Lawson explains, she first found a version of the dish in the Italian writer Anna Del Conte's memoir "Risotto with Nettles." And although she admits that the concept indeed "sounds odd," Lawson says that it actually makes sense in light of a similar recipe that is enjoyed all over Italy.

"I know the combination of pasta and Marmite sounds odd to the point of unfeasibility, but wait a moment, there is a traditional day-after-the-roast pasta dish, in which spaghetti is tossed in stock ... which use a crumbled stock cube, along with some butter, olive oil, chopped rosemary and a little of the pasta cooking water to make a flavoursome sauce for spaghetti," Lawson writes. "If you think about it, Marmite offers saltiness and savouriness the way a stock cube might. I'm glad this recipe is here, and I thank Anna for it."