If you’re familiar with my Homemade Meat Sauce then you’ll know just how delicious it is but also just how much time you have to invest in it. If you have the time and inclination then definitely give that one a try: it’s worth every bit of the wait. If you need something quicker then look no further. With this Weeknight Spaghetti recipe, you can have a delicious, flavorful meal on the table in just over 15 minutes.
The meat sauce that makes up the bulk of this Weeknight Spaghetti would be great anywhere you need one, so feel free to add it to your lasagnas, zitis, and whatever else. I think you’ll be pleased with just how varied the flavors are, especially for something that comes together so quickly! I hope you’ll come back and let me know what you thought if you try it.
Weeknight Spaghetti Ingredients
Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Weeknight Spaghetti recipe:
- Ground beef: I almost always use 93% lean ground beef. If you use beef with a higher fat percentage you might need to drain the excess grease out of the pan before you the other Weeknight Spaghetti ingredients. You can substitute sausage, turkey, or whatever other protein you’d like if you don’t want to use ground beef. With turkey or another super lean meat, you’ll likely want to add fat to the pan first, to help get that nice char.
- Spaghetti noodles: So it doesn’t HAVE to be spaghetti, but this recipe is called Weeknight Spaghetti so my autistic little brain would love for you to use spaghetti noodles. I can’t make you tho, so use what you want or what you’ve got.
- Crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, water: You can use peeled tomatoes instead of crushed, but I would chop them up into smaller pieces before I did that. For the fire-roasted tomatoes make sure you don’t pop in a can of Rotel, OK? Those are not the flavors we’re looking for here. If you can only find seasoned fire-roasted tomatoes choose the simplest version you see, there’s usually a garlic or herb one. The water is to help build the sauce and can be replaced with broth or stock if you want.
- Dried oregano, ground oregano, dried parsley, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes: Seasonings. Herbs and other aromatics that will give heft and complexity to this very very quickly made Weeknight Spaghetti. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the balsamic, but only if you absolutely have to.
- Onion powder, garlic powder: A hefty amount of each. If you’d like to use fresh garlic and onion in this recipe you can, just reduce the amount of powder called for in the recipe by half.
- Light brown sugar: This is optional and completely to taste, but it’s extremely rare I make a red sauce that I don’t feel needs it, likely because I almost never start with a mirepoix. If your sauce seems bitter, tangy, or acidic, sugar will combat that. It will not make your sauce sweet unless you add too much. You can substitute dark brown sugar or granulated sugar.
- Aged parmesan: To grate over the top of individual servings. You could also stick a rind of parmesan in the sauce while it simmers for a warm, kinda salty, earthy undertone to the sauce.
How to Make Weeknight Spaghetti
Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of this Weeknight Spaghetti recipe:
- Char the Meat. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and allow it to preheat until slightly smoking, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pan and use a wooden spoon or spatula to press the meat into the surface of the pan, spreading it out, almost like you would smash a burger. Once the ground beef is in a single layer spreading out across the pan, sprinkle a few heavy pinches of Kosher salt over the surface and walk away. Allow the meat to sear undisturbed for 4-5 minutes. After this amount of time it should have a nice char: go ahead and break it up into small pieces while flipping the meat over. Once the majority of the meat has been flipped over you can switch to stirring. Continue stirring and breaking the meat up into small pieces until no more pink remains – another 3-4 minutes.
- Build the Weeknight Spaghetti Sauce. Drain the excess grease from the pan, if needed. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and fire-roasted tomatoes, then pour the water into the fire-roasted tomato can. Slosh it around to grab any liquid from the tomatoes stuck to the sides of the can, then pour that water into the crushed tomatoes can. Shake this can too, to grab any tomato liquid, then pour the water into the pan along with the meat and tomatoes. Next, add the bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, ground oregano, dried parsley, Italian seasonings, crushed red pepper flakes, and one teaspoon of Kosher salt. Stir together until the dried herbs are well distributed among the sauce and give it a taste. Add more salt, about a quarter of a teaspoon at a time, if the sauce tastes bland. If the sauce is bitter or tangy, stir in the light brown sugar.
- Prepare the Spaghetti. Once you’re happy with the flavor, bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover it with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the pasta sauce to simmer while you prepare the spaghetti noodles according to the package instructions. When your pasta is drained and cooked, ladle half of the sauce into the pot with the pasta and stir it together. Dassit! To serve, portion the spaghetti into individual bowls, then ladle on a decent amount of sauce over the top. Finish with a fresh shaving of aged parmesan over the top.
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