This easy spaghetti recipe with meat sauce takes just a few minutes of prep and then a low simmer on the stove for a deep, meaty-flavored, homemade spaghetti for the best family favorite dinner.
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Before I even started writing this post, I was wrestling with the title.
My Sister’s Favorite Spaghetti Dinner. Because as a kid it was #1 on her request list. And to do this day, all these years later and after eating meals from all over the world, it still is.
My Mom’s Best Spaghetti Recipe Ever! Because it is. And, who doesn’t trust mom to make the best?
The Best Spaghetti and Meat Sauce You’ll Ever Make But Never Guess the Secret Ingredient. Intrigued????
The Dinner to Make When You Want to Perfume Your House With All the Glorious Smells and Then Feed an Army. Perhaps a little lengthy for a title, but still totally appropriate.
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce So Good You’ll Eat the Cold Leftovers Still in the Container Straight from the Fridge. Uh-oh, did I just give myself away????? Busted!
I asked my sister to text me a picture of her copy of my mom’s spaghetti recipe, as seen below. The splatters and drips are proof that my sister is this recipe’s number one fan—and it looks like she’s also quite the stellar recipe tester!
When I finished college and moved into my first apartment, I wrote down my mom’s recipe for our favorite family dinner and plopped it into my tattered recipe binder. Eventually I’d made it so many times I committed it to memory. But as time passed, it didn’t taste quite as good as my mom’s, a fact I didn’t actually realize until she made us all her original version when my sister was visiting. (Naturally my sister got to choose her favorite dish for dinner, because hello, she’s still the favorite 🙂 ).
That dinner is when I realized I was missing one very crucial ingredient that makes this spaghetti better than the rest, and isn’t often found in spaghetti sauce. Have you spied it yet? I’ll reveal in a minute, but first, let’s talk basics…
Homemade Spaghetti Ingredients
This it the type of recipe you can easily have at the ready thanks to a simply stocked pantry and a few foundation refrigerator ingredients I can always find at my local Smith’s Marketplace / Kroger store.
Since working with Kroger for the past few years and because it is my main grocery store for shopping (I spend way too much time wandering the garden section!) I’ve become more and more impressed with the quality of their private label store brands like Simple Truth, HemisFares and Private Selection. And the design geek in me is happy to see the evolution of package design for their staple Kroger brand so that the label matches the goodness within. What can I say? Labels matter.
This spaghetti recipe is both Italian in its inspiration and American in its popularity and is way better than what you’ll find at restaurants like The Spaghetti Factory.
My mom’s spaghetti and meat sauce doesn’t call for anything extraordinary. In fact, it’s totally basic, and that’s what makes it all the better.
- Ground Beef. I use 85% lean ground angus beef for my sauce so it still has flavor but not a lot of fat. My sister has taken to using ground turkey, also a great option.
- Tomato sauce. Plain is best to create a tomato bath for the other ingredients to infuse.
- Diced tomatoes. You could use canned whole tomatoes and then crush with your hands and fingers. But mom’s recipe says diced so that’s what I do.
- Tomato paste. This gives the sauce it’s body, and also a little sweetness.
- Beef broth. Another layer of meatiness. My sister amended her recipe to use condensed, but I used regular here.
- Canned mushrooms. Typically I will always use fresh mushrooms in recipes, but this is one time I never, ever, ever do. There’s just something about the canned version that becomes my favorite part of the sauce, and the reason I typically double the amount the recipe calls for.
- A splash of wine. Mom says to use the empty mushroom can as your measurement guide.
- Onion, celery and fresh garlic. They’re always lollying around the refrigerator crisper waiting to be used.
- Dried herbs, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar for sweetness. Don’t skip out on the bay leaves, they make a huge difference.
- Dried whole cloves! My mom learned this trick from her friend Virginia, and adding a few whole cloves was the secret ingredient I’d been missing lo these many years. My mom uses 5-6 cloves but my husband prefers four. The cloves give it an earthy, spiced flavor that’s not often easy to place. It’s a total surprise when I tell people they’re in there, or if they discover one on their own hidden in their spaghetti-sauced bite if I forget or can’t find them to fish them out before serving.
How to Make Spaghetti Sauce
Truly fantastic homemade spaghetti sauce is easier to make than you’d think, but it does take time. To make the best spaghetti sauce, you simply need to brown the ground beef and drain off any excess fat. Then, throw in the chopped celery, onion, and garlic and cook until the vegetables soften. So far, so good?
Dump the rest of the homemade pasta sauce ingredients into the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the spaghetti sauce is boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer on the stove for another 3 hours. I know 3 hours sounds like forever, but that’s how long it takes to make a rich, flavorful meat sauce.
Once the homemade spaghetti sauce has had time to simmer, all that’s left to do is boiling the spaghetti noodles according to package instructions and dish it up!
How to Reheat Spaghetti
If you wind up with leftovers from this homemade spaghetti recipe, you can easily reheat them the next day. I recommend reheating leftover spaghetti in a covered saucepan over medium-low heat. You may need to add a splash of beef broth to loosen up the pasta.
Can You Freeze Spaghetti?
The best way to freeze leftover spaghetti is to freeze the homemade spaghetti sauce separately and then make fresh spaghetti noodles when you’re about to eat it. Defrost the sauce in the refrigerator for 1 day, or, add to a large pot, cover, and heat on medium to medium-low until thawed.
To make for meal prep, freeze the sauce in gallon freezer bags. Lay them down flat so you can stack them flat or upright side by side in the freezer.
What Type of Red Wine Should I Buy?
The key to cooking with wine is to purchase one that is of the same quality you’d be willing to drink. I’d say look for a bottle that costs around $10 or so (I tend to use a blended red or Pinot noir in this spaghetti recipe).
Can I Omit the Wine?
Technically, yes, but I highly recommend adding it to the homemade spaghetti sauce since it adds so much flavor. Remember: the alcohol cooks out of the sauce and is only a flavoring.
However, if you’re out of wine or are opposed to using it, you can add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar instead to add a little acid and umami.
Tips for Making Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
While the easy homemade spaghetti sauce cooks low and slow for 3 hours, make sure to stir it occasionally. You don’t want anything sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning, as that would add a bitter flavor to the meat sauce.
We always serve this meat sauce with regular spaghetti noodles, but I imagine it would be just as good with any other twirly pasta, or over tortellini or ravioli or even as a filler for lasagna.
This homemade spaghetti recipe makes a lot so it’s great for serving to a crowd or a big family. If you’re making for two or a few, it makes excellent leftovers for lunch all week long or divide the sauce into gallon freezer and save for later.
What to Serve with Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
We always serve this with a super crunchy iceberg salad tossed with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and dressed in my favorite red wine vinaigrette and a few slices of buttery garlic bread. If you’re looking for a little bit more, here are a few recipe ideas to make your meal.
- Caesar Salad With Garlic Croutons
- Killer Garlic Rolls
- Easy 5-Minute Parmesan Zucchini
- Arugula Salad With Shaved Parmesan Three Ways
- The Best Caprese Salad (Plus A DIY Caprese Salad Bar)
- How To Make Classic Tiramisu
- Wine. Plenty of wine.
If you try this recipe, please let me know! Bookmark this recipe and leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
More Italian Recipe Ideas
- Pasta Pomodoro Sauce — the authentic sauce I learned how to make in Italy!
- Linguine Con Vongole (Linguine With Clam Sauce)
- Easy Homemade Pesto Pasta Recipe
- Gnocchi With Pomodoro Sauce — a total time saver made with jarred sauce
- Crab Spaghetti With Lemon Gremolata
- How To Make Homemade Chicken Parmesan
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This post is in partnership with Kroger. As always, thank you for reading and for supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.
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