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Bill English’s spaghetti pizza recipe (Image: Archi Banal)
Bill English’s spaghetti pizza recipe (Image: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureNovember 9, 2023

Remember when Bill English put spaghetti on a pizza?

Bill English’s spaghetti pizza recipe (Image: Archi Banal)
Bill English’s spaghetti pizza recipe (Image: Archi Banal)

Six years ago, then-prime minister Bill English’s spaghetti-laden pizza ignited widespread debate. We asked a real-life Italian pizza chef to weigh in.

This story was first published in 2017.

An award-winning chef from one of Auckland’s best Italian restaurants has slammed the prime minister’s attempts at making pizza.

“You can’t even call it pizza,” Farina executive chef Sergio Maglione told The Spinoff. “It’s more like round toast with stuff on top.”

Bill English posted a series of photographs to his official Facebook account last night with the caption “Cooked dinner for the family last night – like if you agree with tinned spaghetti on pizza!”

Three photographs document his efforts to make two pizzas, using tinned spaghetti as a substitute for tomato paste. The other ingredients are fresh chopped tomato, bacon, pineapple and – in what appears to be a late addition – spring onion.

The carefully-calculated post has divided opinion among everyday New Zealanders. While some see it as an affront to their culinary sensibilities, others have praised the prime minister for his fiscal responsibility.

A 420g tin of Homebrand spaghetti costs $0.80 at Countdown, while a 130g tin of Watties tomato paste is $1.30 (club price). From an economics standpoint, spaghetti as an alternative to tomato paste appears to make sense.

The pizza in uncooked form (Photo: Bill English)

But Napoli-born Maglione, who placed among the top 20 pizza makers in the world at the 2015 Campionato Mondiale Della Pizza, says the prime minister’s attempts leave a lot to be desired.

“For me, it’s all about using the best and freshest ingredients available – no processed food,” he said. As a member of the AVPN – Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – Maglione firmly believes in the importance of adhering to traditional pizza making methods. But while broadly disapproving of spaghetti as a substitute for tomato paste, Maglione said he did once put spaghetti on a pizza at the request of a young customer.

“I picked up some raw spaghetti, cooked it, gave it to my pizza chef and he put it in a funky way on the pizza for him, because he was a kid.”

The pizza in its final cooked form (Photo: Bill English)

As for the divisive topic of pineapple on pizza, Maglione was unperturbed, although he wished English had used fresh pineapple instead of tinned pineapple chunks. “Why not buy the best pineapple you can find, buy fresh spaghetti, and teach your kids about the ingredients.”

The inventor of the famous Toto’s metre-long pizza is passionate about pizza education and said he would happily invite Bill English to his restaurant to learn about the authentic traditional pizza making techniques they practice.

“There is a lot to understand,” he said.

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