Whenever I think about SpaghettiOs, I do so with some nostalgia. I didn’t eat them terribly often as a kid, but when I did, I loved them. As I grew up, I realized foods like instant ramen had bolder flavors that rewarded my palate a bit more, so the can of plain round noodles in tomato sauce never really made their way into my shopping cart as an adult. But a new flavor seems designed to shake me from my lapse in SpaghettiOs consumption.
SpaghettiOs has released a decidedly punchier, more grown-up version of the diminutive pasta rings, merging the signature sweet tomato sauce with Frank’s RedHot hot sauce. It’s an interesting choice, and another marker of the spicy food movement we’ve been seeing on store shelves for a few years now. Campbell’s sent us a can of the new product to taste, and I gave them a whirl to see if this mashup would appeal to my more matured palate.
How do Frank’s RedHot SpaghettiOs taste?
When I popped the can open in our office break room, I immediately noticed the vinegary smell of the hot sauce wafting right out of it. Frank’s has that distinct bottled Buffalo wing scent, and I took its prominence here as a pretty good sign. The contents of the can also looked a little redder than the SpaghettiOs of my youth.
After cooking them for 90 seconds in the microwave, I took a bite—and was instantly hit with mixed feelings. The SpaghettiOs were about as sweet as I recall, but the sweet tomato sauce was muted in favor of a thin vinegar flavor that tasted faintly like Frank’s, but not identifiably so. The flavor became even more pronounced after a few more spoonfuls, but not any spicier.
I sat there trying to figure out why this can of noodles wasn’t firing on all cylinders with me. Then I realized it was because they had lost too much of their essence. These don’t taste like regular SpaghettiOs with a little bit of hot sauce mixed in. They taste like the sauce has been entirely supplanted by a watered-down version of Frank’s RedHot. Having mingled with the noodles for so long within the confines of the can, this unusual sauce completely permeates every bite.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Frank’s RedHot. I usually keep a bottle at home on the shelf in case I want to make Buffalo-flavored anything or toss a dash on a dish that would otherwise be bland. But that’s the thing about applying your own hot sauce: You get to choose precisely how much to use. In the case of these SpaghettiOs, we’re at the mercy of whatever’s been meted out in the can.
I’m one of those people who likes to dash a bit of hot sauce on top of food without mixing it in, so as to fully taste the bold contrast of flavors. If you’re someone who mixes hot sauce into a dish to assure a uniform result, then you might like these SpaghettiOs better than I do (and I’d like to hear if you do!). Ultimately, I think I’d be happier reliving my childhood with a regular old can of the classic stuff, letting my inner kid enjoy a few mouthfuls before applying some Frank’s RedHot when the adult in me wants to enjoy some too.