This easy one-pot spaghetti and meat sauce is on the table in just 30 minutes, is guaranteed to please everyone at the table, and makes use of that leftover ground beef in your fridge. It’s no surprise that we’ve got this one on weeknight repeat.
Adapted from Dini Klein | Prep + Rally | Harvest, 2022
My kids love meat sauce. They always ask me to sign them up for hot lunch at school just so they can take part in spaghetti-and-meat-sauce day. I made a version that not only repurposes leftover meat but cooks all in one pot. Let’s just say the kids don’t ask me for hot lunch as often anymore—they love this more than the school’s version!–Dini Klein
Why our testers loved this
Our testers adored the simple one-pot method this recipe uses and were delighted that it was quick and easy to put together and still tasted like it had been simmering all day.
Mardi Michels summed it up perfectly with her comment, “Tastes like old school spaghetti (in the nicest possible way!) and would be great to serve to last-minute company.”
Notes on ingredients
- Ground beef–You could use any type of cooked ground meat here, including turkey, lamb, Italian sausage, or even a meat alternative. See the tips below on how to make this using fresh, raw ground beef if you don’t have leftovers on hand.
- Marinara sauce–Use your favorite store-bought or homemade pasta sauce here, but do choose one that you like and that has a lot of flavor.
- Vegetable broth–Use your favorite store-bought or homemade vegetable broth. If you use low-sodium, you may need to add a few extra large pinches of salt. If you’ve only got one container of vegetable broth on hand, add a little extra water to make up the 5 cups called for in the recipe.
- Spaghetti–The one-pot spaghetti recipe was designed for regular spaghetti. We don’t recommend substituting a different type or shape of pasta as it may change the amount of liquid absorbed and cooking time.
How to make this recipe
- Combine the beef, marinara, stock, salt, and pasta in a large pot. Make sure the spaghetti is submerged in liquid and bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Cook the pasta. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the pasta is tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed.
- Finish the pasta. Season with salt, as needed, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve, topped with fresh basil and pepper flakes if desired.
Can I add extra vegetables and spices to this one-pot pasta?
Absolutely. Our testers liked this with extra sauteed onions or mushrooms, and feel free to boost the flavor of your meat or sauce with additional spices, such as basil, oregano, pepper flakes, or garlic powder.
Do I have to break the spaghetti in half?
You’ve likely heard that breaking spaghetti is an Italian cooking no-no, and if you want to keep it whole in this recipe, that’s fine, too. We break the spaghetti in half here to make it easier to submerge in the sauce (and it’s also more manageable for small children.) If you choose to leave it whole, make sure that it is fully submerged in the sauce while cooking.
- To use raw ground beef instead of leftover cooked beef, heat 2 tablespoons light olive oil in your large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (454 to 681 g) ground beef, season with a pinch each of salt, some garlic powder, and onion powder, and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks, until browned. Drain off most of the fat and continue with the recipe as directed.
- Make this vegetarian by using Beyond Beef or omit the meat altogether and in its place sauté some finely diced vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celery, and mushrooms (or use up leftover veggies you have on hand) to make it more of a one-pot veggie pasta. Just be sure to sauté the vegetables first until tender and then continue as directed.
- If your pasta sauce tastes too acidic, stir in a couple teaspoons of sugar to balance the flavor.
- Leftover one-pot spaghetti and meat sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or a saucepan over medium-low heat, adding a splash of broth or water, if needed to loosen the sauce. Alternatively, use any leftovers to make spaghetti pie.
More great spaghetti recipes
☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
One-Pot Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- In a large stockpot, combine the beef, marinara, stock, salt, and spaghetti and bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat, being sure the spaghetti is submerged in the liquid.
☞TESTER TIP: Swirl a little vegetable broth in your marinara sauce jar to help get every last drop out.
- Reduce the heat to a very low boil, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is al dente 15 to 20 minutes. The pasta will continue to absorb sauce once it is removed from the heat, so don’t be concerned if it seems like there is too much liquid.
- Season with additional salt as needed and finish with a few tablespoons of good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with basil and chile flakes, if desired, and serve.
- Using uncooked meat–To use raw ground beef instead of leftover cooked beef, heat 2 tablespoons light olive oil in your large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (454 to 681 g) ground beef, season with a pinch each of salt, some garlic powder, and onion powder, and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks, until browned. Drain off most of the fat and continue with the recipe as directed.
- Make it vegetarian–Make this vegetarian by using Beyond Beef or omit the meat altogether and in its place, sauté some finely diced vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celery, and mushrooms (or use up leftover veggies you have on hand) to make it more of a one-pot veggie pasta. Just be sure to sauté the vegetables first until tender and then continue as directed.
- Adjusting your pasta sauce flavor–If your pasta sauce tastes too acidic, stir in a couple teaspoons of sugar to balance the flavor.
- Storage and reheating–Leftover one-pot spaghetti can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium-low heat, adding a splash of broth or water, if needed to loosen the sauce.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
A one-pot pasta recipe is always a welcome sight, especially after a long day. This dish was quite delicious but more important is how versatile the technique is.
I used one pound of ground beef, marinara sauce, and a generous dash of red pepper flakes. I also had some leftover sautéed onions and red pepper that needed to be used; they were a perfect addition. Finishing it with a sprinkle of parmesan was perfect.
My sauce was a little watery, so I ended up needing to cook the pasta a little longer. I felt the pasta was a little overcooked, but everyone loved it. I think next time, provided I use the same marinara, I’ll decrease the amount of broth.
My beloved mostly turns up his nose at leftovers, but there’s one dish he’ll eat over and over again without complaint: spaghetti with meat sauce. I was psyched to try a one-pot version, and this was so simple – even with browning the ground beef (I didn’t have any leftovers), it was a quick and easy weeknight meal.
Throughout the cooking process, I fretted that there would be too much liquid left at the end. It was indeed quite saucy when I served it, but by the time I put leftovers away, it had tightened up and settled into perfect proportions.
I loved that the pasta was imbued with flavor from the vegetable stock and marinara – I used veggie Better Than Bouillon and a jar of Rao’s. It reminded me of my Granny’s goulash, a sweet taste memory. I topped ours with fresh basil and olive oil, which was delish.
I tried a bite with grated Pecorino Romano but, surprisingly, found I preferred it sans cheese! The tomato and basil shone without it.
This makes a TON – we each had generous portions, I gave two portions to our neighbor, and we still have leftovers! Luckily, it reheats like a dream. And he’s not complaining about eating these leftovers.
I LOVE LOVE LOVED this one-pot spaghetti dish – so easy and so hearty and made excellent leftovers as well. Tastes like old school spaghetti (in the nicest possible way!) and would be great even to serve to last-minute company. Depending on the pasta sauce you use, it tastes like you spent way more time in the kitchen than you did!
About 2 weeks ago, I took advantage of a local farm’s 25lb box of end of the summer tomatoes and prepped two huge pots of marinara sauce and then stuck it in the freezer. I couldn’t resist trying out this one-pot spaghetti and meat sauce and putting my tomato sauce to work.
This one-pot spaghetti and meat sauce recipe is the secret to an easy weeknight dinner, a homemade meal you can feel good about serving with less dishes and very little prep. I love that depending on what leftovers you have to pull from in the fridge, this one pot dinner meal could be on the table in about 20 minutes.
I made a vegetarian version of this dish by replacing the meat with 4 cups of diced and sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, celery, and carrots. After everything was combined into the pot and it began cooking, I stirred only once after 9 minutes.
I removed the lid after 15 minutes of cooking as I began to fear I was going to be serving spaghetti soup. Three more minutes of simmering was just the right amount of time. I highly recommend the serving suggestion of topping with fresh basil and chili flakes and of course, we added grated Parmesan too.
Paired with a loaf of crusty bread and a salad, everyone enjoyed the pasta as I pondered whether to share how easy it was to make. It may have to be my little secret.
I had taken 1 pound of ground beef from the freezer and defrosted it for…some reason that was not clear after it was thawed. Since it was thoroughly thawed, I figured cooking it and making a new plan was the best option.
I had some events coming up that would require quick evening meals, so it seemed to be a good option over noodles or rice or put into tortillas. I had browned the beef with garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (which is, essentially, Italian seasoning).
When I came across this one-pot spaghetti with meat sauce recipe, it presented a perfect use for my hastily cooked ground beef. I started out a little skeptical, but it came out pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll give a TC as a good shortcut, on-the-fly meal.
Since the meat was pre-cooked, most of the fat had been drained off. There was a little fat still clinging to the cooked meat, which was plenty for the one-pot meal. I only added a small drizzle of evoo at the end, about one quick pass over each plate.
While the liquid was not all absorbed when the spaghetti was dished out, it had been absorbed by the time the meal was over and it was time to pack leftovers away. Perhaps letting this sit for 5 or so minutes before dishing it out is a good way to go if you don’t want excess liquid.
I only had a one-quart box of vegetable stock, so I supplemented with one cup of water, which worked fine. The amount of marinara needed was about one 28-oz. jar of Rao’s, which is good to know for next time, so I don’t have to measure it out again!
We had this with a Caprese salad which also had some sliced artisan salami on it.
On a rainy Sunday, I love to be able to cook with what is in my house, this recipe checked that box. I doubted that it would be good, I doubted that it could work. Wrong on both counts. Incredibly easy to make this is a dish that will go on repeat in my house.
I used raw ground beef instead of leftover cooked beef. I did think that it was absolutely necessary to drain the fat from the pan before continuing with the recipe and the next time I think I will increase the meat slightly. I used one pound this time.
I think the dish would be great with some fresh garlic and sautéed onion and I imagine the addition of any cooked vegetable could enhance the dish.
I was sure my finished product would resemble soup but after 20 minutes the pasta was cooked and tender and most of the liquid had been absorbed. 10 minutes later when we sat down to eat it, the dish had further absorbed the liquid and was even better. I didn’t finish it with basil or chili flakes but imagine that those would be great on it.
I used a combination of vegetable and chicken stock as that was what I had and I would say that you could make the dish with either or with a combination. This could easily serve 4 as a main dish and several more as a side. It was a perfect rainy Sunday non authentic Italian style dish!
After the week I had, I needed something easy, and this was it. I was happy to use the vegetable version of this recipe; it’s what I had a lot of, and the hardest thing was chopping vegetables. Easy, right?
Everything went together, no mess, no fuss, but l had to fudge the marinara and stock amounts a little; stock and broth come in 4-cup containers, and marinara in 24-ounce jars, both a little bit less than what the recipe called for. I just subbed in water for the remainder, and the result was just fine.
I gave this recipe an eight and a TC designation because of its simplicity; I can imagine children making this dish with minimal supervision (certainly assisting). Served with garlic toast.
I live in greater Philadelphia, and I’m hearing my Philly friends complaining about the direction for breaking spaghetti, not to mention jarred sauce/gravy, but I don’t care. I liked it and you and your family will too.
We adored this clever, one-pot spaghetti with meat sauce dish. One of my husband’s favorite dishes in general, we were excited to see how this version came together.
You know how hearty dishes like spaghetti sauce and chili are always better the second day? Well, we thought that by cooking everything in one pot, and having the dry spaghetti noodles slowly with the veggie broth and spaghetti sauce, this dish tasted like the best leftover spaghetti possible…but on the first day!
This was incredibly tasty…and easy! It made 6 nice-sized servings. Next time I want to try making this dish with a mix of ground beef and mushrooms.
This one-pot spaghetti recipe is an easy way to make pasta without having a separate pot for the water. It definitely works, although in my cooking of it, there was still a lot of liquid left even after the pasta was cooked through. When I make this again, I would start with a cup less water and then just check to see if it needs more water as it’s cooking.
I wanted to taste the dish without any optional ingredients. If I were making it again, I would add a lot more spices to the dish or choose a jarred pasta that has extra spices.
I think this dish is simple, quick to prepare and only requires one pot, so it is worth inclusion as it allows a quick and easy mid-week meal, with minimum washing-up. I might suggest the addition of grated cheese on top of the finished dish.
Reminiscent of the comforting spaghetti my mom used to make, this is my new go-to pasta recipe.
I used ground beef that was left over from making chili and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and Mexican oregano. I was a little nervous that the seasoning on the meat would clash with the jar of store-bought marinara I had on hand. There was no need for concern as the flavors came together delightfully.
Sauteed mushrooms from the previous evening’s dinner also went into the pot. While the one-pot spaghetti was cooking, I had just enough time to make a salad and open a bottle of Malbec while my husband sliced up the loaf of Pan de Cristal I baked earlier in the day. I did not add the basil or crushed red pepper but did use olive oil and a dusting of grated parmesan cheese to finish the dish.
My husband raved about the spaghetti. All the years of standing at the stove trying to perfect a red sauce with the right blend of meat and all I needed to do was use leftovers and pantry items! While the recipe says 4 servings, there’s easily enough for 6 generous portions.
I loved how easy and quick this one-pot spaghetti and meat sauce recipe was! I had cooked ground lamb and tomato sauce already available. I thought this might turn out soupy, but it was a perfect balance of pasta, sauce, and meat. With a generous amount of freshly grated Grana Padano on top, we had a lovely one dish dinner.
We enjoyed it with a nice red blend wine. It made more than 4 servings, which was nice because I have enjoyed leftovers for lunch these past 2 days.