Silsi, an Eritrean pasta sauce

What is now Eritrea was once art of the Ethiopian Empire until the Italians came ’round.  Because of that, there’s a fair amount of influence in the local cuisine.  Silsi is basically a regional spicy pasta sauce that leans on the local traditional onions, garlic, and the hot berbere spice blend.  It’s both quite nommy and requires a minimal amount of prep and ingredients.


Bowl with red lines on the rim containing twisty (rotini) pasta with tomato sauce on top


Shopping List:

  • Plenty of a neutral cooking oil
  • 1.5 to 2 pounds onions*
  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • One pound pasta of your liking
  • Garlic
  • Berbere spice blend (you can find it on Amazon or I have a mild version here). **
  • Rosemary twig (optional)

* the amount of onions in this range wont’t really affect the flavor, but more onions make a thicker sauce

First up, mince the onions and at least 3 tbsp garlic. Separately chop the tomatoes.  I know it seems like there should be more mise en place but I have to disappoint you.

To start cooking, heat up 4-5 tablespoons of oil, and add in the onions and garlic. Cook stirring frequently until the onions are soft.

Then add in 2+ tablespoons of berbere**, turn the heat down and stir together. Add the tomatoes and combine until the tomato juice starts coming out

Add a couple rosemary twigs (if desired) and simmer for 20-30 minutes

Serve over pasta.

** Traditional berbere is wicked hot, so you can add or subtract some as desired without affecting the flavor. I developed the mild version as Kat can’t handle hot dishes anymore