How to Make Delicious Spaghetti with Ground Beef and Ragu Sauce

Spaghetti with meat sauce is a beloved family meal that never goes out of style. When made right, the combo of noodles, savory tomato sauce, and hearty beef is comfort food at its finest. While you can always use jarred pasta sauce for convenience, preparing homemade ragu with ground beef takes this dish to the next level.

With just a few simple techniques and quality ingredients, you can learn how to make tender beef and rich tomato sauce that beats any store-bought option. Keep reading for an easy step-by-step guide to preparing perfect spaghetti and meat sauce using Ragu.

Ingredients Needed

To make enough sauce for 1 pound of spaghetti, you’ll need:

  • Ground Beef – 1 to 1 1⁄2 pounds of 85% lean ground beef provides plenty of meaty flavor.

  • Onion – 1 diced onion adds aroma and depth.

  • Garlic – 2 to 3 cloves minced garlic gives a punch of flavor.

  • Tomatoes – One 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes, preferably San Marzano.

  • Tomato paste – 2 tablespoons concentrate the tomato flavor.

  • Herbs and seasonings – Dried basil, oregano, salt, pepper and optional red pepper flakes.

  • Ragu pasta sauce – 1 jar of traditional Ragu or Ragu Tomato Garlic & Onion flavor builds rich ragu flavor easily.

  • Pasta – 1 pound of spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.

  • Grated parmesan cheese – For topping individual portions.

Step 1 – Brown the Ground Beef

Browning the meat thoroughly is key for full-bodied flavor. Follow these tips:

  • Add 1 tablespoon oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  • Break up meat chunks as you add beef to the hot pan.

  • Cook until no pink remains and meat is nicely browned, about 10 minutes.

  • Drain excess grease after cooking.

Browning builds rich umami flavor and pleasing texture. Be patient and let the beef cook undisturbed at first for the best results.

Step 2 – Cook the Aromatics

Onion and garlic add aromatic flavor to round out the sauce:

  • Reduce heat to medium and add diced onion to the pan.

  • Cook onion about 5 minutes until translucent and softened.

  • Add minced garlic and cook 1 minute more until fragrant.

Cooking the onion and garlic before adding tomatoes prevents them from becoming burnt or bitter.

Step 3 – Simmer the Tomato Sauce

Canned tomatoes make this sauce quick and easy:

  • Pour crushed tomatoes and juice into the pan with onions and beef.

  • Fill empty can about halfway with water and add to pan.

  • Stir in tomato paste, Italian herbs, salt, and pepper.

  • Simmer 20 minutes to meld flavors.

The liquid from the tomato can helps create the right sauce consistency while preventing sticking or scorching.

Step 4 – Finish with Ragu

Stirring in ready-made Ragu enhances flavor with just one step:

  • Add entire jar of Ragu Traditional or Tomato Garlic & Onion sauce.

  • Stir thoroughly and simmer 5 minutes more.

  • Adjust seasoning with more herbs or salt and pepper if needed.

The spices, tomato puree, onions, and garlic in Ragu boost the depth of flavor easily. It takes this sauce from ordinary to extraordinary.

Step 5 – Cook the Pasta

With flavorful sauce ready, cooking pasta is all that’s left:

  • In a large pot, boil salted water and cook pasta al dente according to package directions.

  • Drain pasta well, reserving 1⁄2 cup of starchy pasta water.

  • Return pasta to pot and add several ladlefuls of meat sauce.

  • Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water if needed for creaminess.

  • Serve pasta in bowls with more sauce ladled on top and grated parmesan cheese.

Mixing the pasta and sauce together allows the noodles to absorb maximum flavor. Adding reserved pasta water helps the sauce cling to the noodles.

Ragu Variety for Different Flavor Profiles

While original Ragu works wonderfully, trying different Ragu flavors can create exciting new taste experiences:

  • Ragu Robusto Italian Sausage – Hearty chunks of sausage make a perfect partner for beef in the ragu.

  • Ragu Cheesy Light Parmesan Alfredo – A creamy, cheesy twist on traditional tomato sauce spaghetti.

  • Ragu Chunky Garden Tomato, Garlic & Onion – Bright garden tomatoes shine through with this lighter sauce.

  • Ragu Roasted Garlic Parmesan – Roasted garlic adds rich, mellow flavor that melds beautifully with meat.

Feel free to experiment with Ragu flavored or style sauces to find new favorites to liven up your regular spaghetti routine.

Make it a Meal with Simple Additions

While noodles and sauce make a complete meal, a few easy extras can round it out:

  • Garden salad – Fresh mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, olives dressed with oil and vinegar.

  • Garlic bread – Toasted baguette slices brushed with garlic butter.

  • Meatballs – Pan-fried beef or turkey meatballs for extra heartiness.

  • Wine – A glass of Chianti, Merlot, or other red wine.

Add a salad, bread, or meatballs to satisfy cravings for greens, carbs, or extra protein. Sipping wine is the perfect adult beverage pairing.

Cooking Tips for Ragu with Ground Beef

Follow these helpful tips for best results making homemade ragu sauce:

  • Use 85% or 90% lean ground beef for flavor – not extra lean.

  • Browning the meat thoroughly adds savory depth.

  • Simmer the sauce 20+ minutes for rich flavor melding.

  • Stir in Ragu near the end to preserve fresh taste.

  • Use diced or crushed tomatoes – not puree or sauce.

  • Cook pasta only until al dente to avoid mushiness.

  • Add starchy pasta water to help sauce coat noodles.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

Like many dishes, spaghetti with meat sauce tastes even better the next day. Store and reheat leftovers properly:

  • Let sauce and pasta cool completely before storing.

  • Put sauce and pasta in separate airtight containers.

  • Refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.

  • Reheat sauce in a saucepan with a splash of water or broth.

  • Microwave pasta with a damp paper towel to refresh it.

  • Combine just before serving.

Separating noodles and sauce prevents the pasta from absorbing liquid and becoming mushy during storage. Proper reheating brings flavors back to life.

Make Your Own Signature Spaghetti Ragu

Once you’ve mastered the basics, try making this family favorite your own with unique additions:

  • Sneak in veggies – Add diced carrots, mushrooms, zucchini or spinach to the sauce.

  • Go Greek – Stir in cinnamon, allspice, parsley or mint for Mediterranean flair.

  • Heat it up – Use spicy Italian sausage instead of ground beef or add crushed red pepper.

  • Get cheesy – Mix in ricotta or goat cheese for a creamier, richer sauce.

  • Go low-carb – Serve sauce over zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash.

Personalize this traditional dish by switching up ingredients to match your family’s preferences. The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy a Satisfying Meal in Under an Hour

One of the best aspects of spaghetti and meat sauce is that it comes together quickly, so you can have a homemade meal on the table fast:

  • Prep ingredients while water boils – 10 minutes

  • Cook pasta – 8 to 10 minutes

  • Make meat sauce – 30 minutes

  • Total time – About 50 minutes

With mostly pantry staple ingredients, minimal prep, and easy assembly, dinner is ready in under an hour. Kids and adults alike will devour this tasty, timeless classic.

Top Tips for Kid-Approved Spaghetti

Serving up a dish kids will love is easy with simple kid-friendly tweaks:

  • Let them get tactile and help break up the raw ground beef.

  • Set aside plain noodles before adding sauce for picky eaters.

  • Put out shakes of grated parmesan, red pepper flakes and oregano for customization.

  • Use cookie cutters or a knife to cut cooked pasta into fun shapes.

  • Serve with something green – salad, peas, broccoli or green beans.

Giving them cooking tasks, customization options, or inventive presentations makes this old favorite new again.

Satisfy Spaghetti Cravings on a Budget

Part of spaghetti’s family-favorite status owes to its wallet-friendly nature:

  • Pantry staples like canned tomatoes, onions, and pasta are inexpensive.

  • Ground beef is more budget-friendly than pricier cuts.

  • Generic pasta and crushed tomatoes offer savings over name brands.

  • Make extra sauce and freeze in batches for quick future meals.

  • Stick to classic flavors and skip costly specialty ingredients.

Simple ingredients, versatile ground beef, bulk batch cooking, and avoiding spendy add-ins keeps costs down without sacrificing flavor.

Enjoy Vegetarian-Style for Meatless Meals

You can create a protein-packed meatless version with a few substitutions:

  • Swap ground beef for browned lentils, mushrooms, or crumbled tempeh.

  • Add extra chunky vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, peppers or artichokes.

  • Use fire-roasted or tomato-basil crushed tomatoes for bolder flavor.

  • Stir in pesto or tapenade for more savory richness.

  • Sprinkle individual portions with pecorino Romano instead of parmesan.

Pile vegetables in place of meat and punch up flavor with gourmet canned tomatoes, savory pesto or nutty pecorino cheese.

Make Individual Portions for Perfect Leftovers

Cooking once but getting multiple meals from one pot of sauce is easy:

  • Use quart-sized plastic freezer bags to portion out sauce for single servings.

  • Lay bags flat in a freezer and they will stack perfectly.

  • Reheat only what you need easily in the microwave or saucepan.

  • Pair with fresh pasta or veggies for quick meals all week.

Freezing pre-portioned sauce makes whipping up individual meals, lunches, or sides a cinch while preventing waste and repetitive leftovers.

Enjoy a Taste of Italy Any Night of the Week

Now that you’re armed with the simple secrets to preparing perfect spaghetti and meat sauce at home, you can enjoy this Italian favorite any night of the week.

Browning the beef, simmering the sauces, and finishing with Ragu guarantees you’ll have a hit recipe your whole family will request again and again. Mangia!



Should you cook ground beef before adding to spaghetti sauce?

The ground beef should be cooked separately before adding it to the spaghetti sauce. By cooking it separately, you have better control over the browning process and can ensure that it cooks evenly. Once the ground beef is fully cooked, drain any excess grease and then add it to your simmering spaghetti sauce.

What can I add to ragu spaghetti sauce to make it taste better?

Flavor It Even better, season it! Taste the sauce once it’s warm and add some seasoning. Maybe it needs a touch of salt, red pepper flakes, or some fresh garlic to liven it up. You could add dried or fresh herbs too: oregano, basil, thyme, tarragon, parsley—they’re all great!

Is ragu sauce good for spaghetti?

Highly Recommend. I made spaghetti with Ragu Old World Style flavored with meat. It has a great flavor and it’s not too strong. The natural flavors create a smooth and delicious classic Italian taste.

Should I cook ground beef separately or in the sauce?

It is usually better to cook the ground beef first, then add the sauce. To that end you can use the same pan. Just brown the beef until it is, well, brown. Time depends on the quantity of meat and the size of the pan.

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