This week I had a killer craving for some classic spaghetti and meat sauce. I haven’t had that in forever, so it went on the menu, but I couldn’t just make regular old spaghetti and meat sauce, could I? Noooooo. So I made Spaghetti with Vegetable and Meat Sauce.
My favorite trick for extending ground meat in recipes is to use vegetables or beans to replace half of the ground meat. This time I decided to use a medley of shredded vegetables, which mimicked the texture of the ground meat, but added a subtle sweetness and a whole lot of nutrition. There were so many vegetables, in fact, that I think I could have added a second jar of sauce and stretched the recipe even further. Perhaps next time, because there WILL be a next time for this recipe. In fact, I already want to make a second batch. This sauce is so delicious that I couldn’t stop sneaking spoonfuls while I took photos and I kept having to remind myself that if I ate it all now, I’d have nothing for the rest of the week!
If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, I suggest mincing an 8oz. container of mushrooms and sautéing them with the onions and garlic. The minced texture will again mimic the ground meat and mushrooms have that umami flavor that is similar to ground meat.
This sauce should freeze great, if you want to make a double batch and have it on hand in your freezer for busy nights. I regret not doing that myself!
See This Recipe in Action:
Spaghetti with Vegetable and Meat Sauce
Basic meat sauce gets an upgrade with a medley of shredded vegetables and extra herbs and spices for more flavor AND nutrition.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
- 1/2 lb. lean ground beef $3.46
- 1 yellow onion $0.14
- 2 cloves garlic $0.16
- 1 zucchini (about 1/2 lb.) $0.71
- 2 carrots $0.17
- 1/2 tsp basil $0.05
- 1/2 tsp oregano $0.05
- 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
- Freshly cracked pepper $0.05
- Pinch red pepper flakes (optional) $0.02
- 24 oz. jar pasta sauce* $1.65
- 12 oz. spaghetti $0.97
- Add the olive oil and ground beef to a large, deep skillet. Brown the ground beef over medium heat until cooked through.
- While the beef is browning, finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Once the beef has cooked through, add the onion and garlic to the skillet and continue to sauté until the onion is soft and transparent.
- While the onion and garlic are sautéing, shred the zucchini and carrots using a large-holed cheese grater. You should have about 1 to 1.5 cups of each once shredded.
- Add the shredded zucchini and carrots to the skillet along with the basil, oregano, some freshly cracked pepper, salt, and a pinch of red pepper. Continue to sauté until the vegetables are tender (about 7-10 minutes).
- Add the pasta sauce and heat through. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain in a colander. Return the drained spaghetti to the pot with the heat turned off. Add one cup of the prepared sauce to the pasta and stir to coat. Divide the pasta into serving bowls and top with additional sauce.
*I used "three cheese" flavored pasta sauce so that I wouldn't need to add additional Parmesan to each serving.
Spaghetti with Vegetable and Meat Sauce
Step by Step Photos
Start by browning 1/2 lb. ground beef in a large deep skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil (medium heat).
While the beef is browning, finely dice one yellow onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Add them to the browned beef and continue to cook until the onions are soft and transparent.
While the onions are sautéing with the meat, shred one zucchini (about 1/2 lb.) and two carrots. You should have about 1 to 1.5 cups of each once finished (the photo makes it look like less).
Add the shredded vegetables to the skillet along with 1/2 tsp basil, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, some freshly cracked pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Continue to sauté the vegetables until they become tender (about 7-10 minutes).
Finally, add one 24oz. jar of pasta sauce and stir to combine. I used a “three cheese” flavored pasta sauce (generic brand), but you could use any flavor you’d like. I wanted the three cheese because I figured that way I wouldn’t be as tempted to add more Parmesan to the top of my pasta.
Stir to combine and heat through (this should only take a few minutes).
Cook 12oz. of spaghetti according to the package directions, then drain in a colander. Return the pasta to the cooking pot with the heat turned off and add about 1 cup of the sauce. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce, then divide into serving bowls. Top each bowl with additional sauce.
After I ate this, I was like, “Please, sir, more?” #olivertwist SO GOOD!