One of my favorite hot lunches in elementary school was Wednesday’s spaghetti and meat sauce. Italian food was so new and exotic to me back then. To this day, The One and I do face plants into big ole plates of spaghetti with red sauce on a regular basis.

What I love about this particular recipe is everything you need is right there in your pantry. And remember that big bowl of leftover ground beef in the fridge? The one from Taco Tuesday? Or from your famous sloppy Joes? Well, pull it out because this dish is just begging for it.

david caricature

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.”

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • 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

A large pot with spaghetti, ground beef, and marinara, and broth being poured into it.
  1. Combine the beef, marinara, salt, and pasta in a large pot.
  2. Pour in the vegetable broth.
A pot of simmering pasta and tomato sauce and a pot with finished spaghetti and meat sauce.
  1. Bring to a boil over high heat, and make sure the spaghetti is submerged in liquid.
  2. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the pasta is tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed.
  3. Finish the pasta. Season with salt, as needed, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve, topped with fresh basil and pepper flakes if desired.

Common Questions

Can I add extra vegetables and spices to this one-pot pasta?

Absolutely. Our testers liked this with extra sauteed onions or mushrooms. 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 liquid while cooking.

What should I serve with one-pot spaghetti?

Serve this easy comfort food meal with a loaf of crusty bread or garlic bread and an Italian salad.

Helpful Tips

  • To use raw ground beef instead of leftover cooked beef:
    • Heat 2 tablespoons of light olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat.
    • Add 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (454 to 681 g) of ground beef.
    • Season the meat with garlic and onion powders and a bit of salt, and cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until well 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 of 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 a spaghetti pie.
A plate of one-pot spaghetti and meat sauce, topped with fresh basil, and a glass of wine in the background.

More Great Spaghetti Recipes

Write a Review

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

A skillet filled with spaghetti and meat sauce with a pair of tongs and two basil sprigs on top.

One-Pot Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

5 / 4 votes
Spaghetti, leftover ground beef, and pasta sauce mingle in a single pot to create an easy weeknight meal that everyone will love.
David Leite
Servings5 servings
Calories603 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 1 pound leftover seasoned and browned ground beef
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • Pinch kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti, cracked in half
  • Good quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing
  • Fresh basil, for serving (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)


  • 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.


  1. Using uncooked meat–To use raw ground beef instead of leftover cooked beef, heat 2 tablespoons of light olive oil in your large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (454 to 681 g) of ground beef, season with a pinch of salt along with garlic and onion powders, 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Adjusting your pasta sauce flavor–If your pasta sauce tastes too acidic, stir in a couple of teaspoons of sugar to balance the flavor.
  4. 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 a saucepan over medium-low heat, adding a splash of broth or water, if needed to loosen the sauce.
Prep And Rally Cookbook

Adapted From

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 603 kcalCarbohydrates: 79 gProtein: 30 gFat: 18 gSaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 62 mgSodium: 1710 mgFiber: 5 gSugar: 10 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 Dini Klein. Photos © 2022 David Leite. All rights reserved.

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.

A white bowl filled with spaghetti and meat sauce with a fork scooping out a bite.

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 bit 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.

A white bowl filled with spaghetti and meat sauce with a basil chiffonade on top.

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, plus 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 two weeks ago, I took advantage of a local farm’s 25-pound 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 recipe is the secret to an easy weeknight dinner, a homemade meal you can feel good about serving with fewer 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 by replacing the meat with four 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 nine 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 onepound 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 five 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. Ten 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 stocks, as that was what I had. And I’d say that you could make the dish with either or with a combination. This could easily serve four as a main dish and six 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 four-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 a TC designation because of its simplicity; I can imagine children making this dish with minimal supervision (certainly assistance). Served it 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. It’s one of my husband’s favorite dishes in general, and 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 found that by cooking everything in one pot, and having the dry spaghetti noodles slowly absorb the veggie broth and spaghetti sauce, made this taste like the best leftover spaghetti possible…but on the first day!

This was incredibly tasty…and easy! It made six nice-size 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 had baked earlier in the day. I didn’t 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 four servings, there’s easily enough for 6 generous portions.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious and I’ll make it again. I’ll cut the recipe in half (one person) but I thought it was amazing and so easy.
    GS in Ontario Canada

    1. Wonderful, Gail! We’re delighted that you enjoyed this and it turned out so well. Please let us know what you make next.