Thursday, April 16, 2015

Simple Weeknight Italian Spaghetti With Ground Beef

Oh, the things one finds when spring cleaning. I found this recipe safely tucked away in a drawer. I've had it since at least the late 1980's. Spaghetti was never really a staple meal in our household when I was growing up. We were, after all of Polish/Lithuanian descent. And, my tastebuds are sensitive to acidic, tomato-based sauces. But when I was served this by neighbors in the Indiana town where I taught school, I enjoyed it so much that I asked for the recipe.

If you like Stouffer's frozen spaghetti (and I do), you will like this recipe -- which I think is even better.

Thanks to the packaged, dry sauce mix that contains potato starch, this is  a thick sauce. It uses basic, pantry staples one usually has on hand. I suggest making the recipe as is before adjusting it. At the end, I will suggest options that I have tried.

  • 8 ounces chopped yellow onion ( a good one cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves pressed or finely chopped
  • 2 additional small garlic cloves, peeled and set aside
  • 8 ounces chopped green pepper (about one large)
  • 1-lb. ground chuck
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or to taste (optional)
  • 1, 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1, 12-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1, 2-4 ounce can sliced black olives, undrained
  • 1 package McCormick Italian Spaghetti Sauce Mix with Mushrooms
  • 1, 10-ounce can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano, lightly crushed
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons dried sweet basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 to one pound dried spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese for grating

Add a bit of olive oil to a medium Dutch oven. Sauté ground chuck until crumbly and no longer pink. Remove to a bowl. Add a bit more olive oil to pan. Add chopped onion and bell pepper. Saute until soft. Add the two chopped/pressed garlic cloves. Add red pepper flakes, if using. Stir for just a minute or two.

Add the tomato paste. It's important to cook out the tomato paste for a bit ...

Add the remaining ingredients in order listed except for the dried spaghetti and Parm. Mix well and bring to a slow simmer. Cover partially and simmer two to four hours. Periodically, uncover and add some slices from the extra garlic or to taste.  Keep tasting and adjust seasonings as necessary, especially just before serving. Add water, if necessary.

Cook pasta. Drain. Add a cup or two of the sauce. Mix well to coat. Mound pasta on individual plates and top with meat sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.


  • Add a bit of chopped bacon to the ground beef.
  • If you have them, add a rind or two of Parmesan cheese.
  • Add sliced mushrooms when browning the ground chuck.
  • Use a dry red or white wine in place of the water.
  • Use the lesser amounts of  dried basil and oregano. About one-half hour before serving, chop up about 3/4 tablespoon of fresh to add to sauce.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed when browning meat mixture.

  • While I have not done this, throw in a couple of Italian sausages the last hour of cooking.

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