How to Perfectly Season Ground Beef for Pasta Dishes

Pasta dishes like spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna, and pasta skillet recipes often call for seasoned ground beef. Properly seasoning ground beef transforms it from bland and boring to rich, savory, and full of flavor. With just a few simple ingredients and techniques, you can take your pasta recipes from dull to delicious!

Why Seasoning is Important

Ground beef on its own has a relatively mild beefy taste. Without seasoning, it can end up lost and overpowered when paired with a bold tomato pasta sauce. By seasoning ground beef before cooking, the spices have time to penetrate and infuse the meat, rather than just coat the exterior.

Seasoning also enhances and builds layers of flavor. In addition to making the beef taste better, spices like garlic, onion, and Italian seasoning complement and bring out the flavors of the other ingredients like tomatoes and cheese.

Choosing Ground Beef

For pasta dishes, you’ll want to use a ground beef with a fat content around 15-20%. This provides enough fat for flavor while still being lean enough to avoid greasiness. Ground chuck or 80/20 ground beef are good options.

For a budget friendly choice, go for ground beef instead of pricier ground sirloin or 90/10 beef. The extra fat from the ground chuck provides juiciness and beef flavor that you won’t get from ultra lean beef.

Ingredients for Seasoning

When it comes to ingredients for seasoning ground beef, you don’t need anything complicated. A few basic aromatics and herbs are all you need to make your ground beef taste amazing. Here are some key ingredients to have on hand:

  • Onion & Garlic: Finely dice or mince fresh onions and garlic to add tons of flavor. You can also use dried onion and garlic powder.

  • Italian Seasoning: This blend adds authentic Italian flavor notes like basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

  • Salt & Pepper: Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper are essential for enhancing beef’s natural umami flavors.

  • Red Pepper Flakes: For a touch of heat and spice, crushed red pepper brings another layer of flavor.

  • Worcestershire Sauce: The tangy umami punch of Worcestershire elevates the savory flavors.

  • Tomato Paste: In addition to thinning out ground beef as it cooks, tomato paste adds sweetness and tomato flavor.

Tips for Maximum Flavor

Follow these tips when seasoning ground beef for pasta recipes:

  • Season it raw: Mix in spices before cooking so the flavors penetrate into the meat rather than just coating the outsides.

  • Don’t be shy: Use generous amounts of seasoning. It’s better to make it highly seasoned than under-seasoned and bland.

  • Bloom aromatics: Cook onions and garlic briefly before adding ground beef to mellow their harshness and bring out sweetness.

  • Cook in batches: Avoid overcrowding the pan which can cause meat to steam rather than brown.

  • Don’t ignore fond: Deglaze the pan to pick up crispy browned bits stuck to the bottom for extra flavor.

  • Let it rest: After cooking, let the beef sit for 5-10 minutes to allow flavors to redistribute and meld together.

Simple Seasoned Ground Beef Recipe

This easy recipe for basic seasoned ground beef delivers tons of flavor using just a handful of ingredients:


  • 1 lb ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Add ground beef to a large bowl and let sit out at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to take the chill off. Cold beef won’t absorb flavors as well.

  2. Add diced onion, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper flakes (if using) to the bowl with the ground beef. Gently mix together until combined and spices are evenly distributed.

  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil or butter. Once hot, add seasoned ground beef mixture and cook for 5-7 minutes, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon as it cooks, until no longer pink.

  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked ground beef to a plate. Pour off and discard any excess grease from the skillet.

  5. Return cooked ground beef to the skillet and stir in 2-4 tablespoons of water or beef broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan, until liquid is absorbed.

  6. Allow seasoned ground beef to rest for 5-10 minutes before using in recipes. The resting time allows flavors to set.

This easy technique of seasoning before cooking and blooming aromatics like onion and garlic results in super flavorful beef ready to make spectacular pasta dishes!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best spices for seasoning ground beef?

The best spices for ground beef include garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Paprika, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper also pair well.

Should you season ground beef before or after cooking?

Always season ground beef before cooking. This allows the flavor to get infused all the way through the meat. Seasoning after cooking will result in spices only coating the exterior.

How long does seasoned ground beef last?

Cooked seasoned ground beef will last 3-4 days refrigerated. Freeze any leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 months.

Can you use seasoned ground beef uncooked?

It’s unsafe to eat raw seasoned ground beef. Always cook seasoned ground beef to an internal temperature of at least 160°F as measured by a meat thermometer.

What can I serve with seasoned ground beef?

Seasoned ground beef is extremely versatile. It pairs well with pasta, rice, tacos, burritos, nachos, pizza, sandwiches, salads, soups, and more!

Recipes to Make with Seasoned Ground Beef

Now that you know how to perfectly season ground beef, here are some amazing pasta recipes to put it to use:

Spaghetti Bolognese

A classic meaty tomato sauce ladled over pasta. The combination of seasoned beef, tomatoes, wine, and aromatics makes this dish so satisfying.


  • 1 recipe seasoned ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 lb spaghetti, cooked
  • Grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pot, add diced onion and minced garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened.

  2. Add seasoned ground beef and cook, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes.

  3. Stir in diced carrot, celery, tomato paste, and cook for 2 minutes.

  4. Pour in wine and let reduce for 3-5 minutes.

  5. Add crushed tomatoes, beef broth, bay leaves, and oregano. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes.

  6. Remove bay leaves. Stir in half and half. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. Serve Bolognese sauce over cooked pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese.


Hearty layers of meaty sauce, noodles, cheese, and vegetables baked into the ultimate comfort food.


  • 1 recipe seasoned ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Make meat sauce by cooking ground beef with onion and garlic until browned. Drain fat. Stir in crushed tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes.

  2. In a bowl, mix ricotta, egg, and parsley.

  3. Spread 1⁄2 cup meat sauce in bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Top with 3 noodles. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over noodles.

  4. Add 1/3 of the remaining meat sauce followed by 1⁄2 cup mozzarella.

  5. Repeat layering 2 more times, ending with mozzarella.

  6. Cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Pasta Skillet

An easy one-pan meal with beef, tomatoes, and pasta all cooked together.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef, seasoned
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz dried pasta (penne, rotini or farfalle)
  • 1⁄4 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • Grated parmesan cheese


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook seasoned ground beef, onion and garlic until beef is browned and onions are soft.

  2. Stir in chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 5 minutes.

  3. Add uncooked pasta and 3 cups water to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente.

  4. Remove lid and continue simmering until sauce is thickened. Stir in fresh basil.

  5. Serve skillet pasta garnished with Parmesan cheese.


Learning how to properly season ground beef is an essential skill for making incredible pasta dishes like Bolognese sauce, lasagna, and one-pot pasta skillet recipes. With the simple seasoned ground beef recipe and techniques provided above, you’ll be ready to make restaurant-worthy pasta creations at home. The next time a recipe calls for ground beef, remember these tips for maximum flavor:

  • Generously season raw beef with spices like garlic, onion, Italian herbs before cooking
  • Bloom aromatics like onion and garlic
  • Brown meat thoroughly in batches
  • Deglaze the pan with a bit of liquid to pick up flavorful fond
  • Let sit for 5-10 minutes after cooking to allow flavors to meld

Armed with perfectly seasoned, ultra-flavorful ground beef, your pasta dinners will be better than ever. Mangiamo!

Classic Spaghetti and Meat Sauce | Meat Sauce Recipe | The simple way


How to season ground beef for spaghetti?

Use salt and pepper to season ground beef, turkey, or pork. Add garlic, onions, bell peppers, oregano, basil, parsley, or Italian seasoning for extra flavor. Stir red pepper flakes, chili powder, or hot sauce into the meat for a spicy kick.

Do you season ground beef before or after cooking?

Season the Ground Beef When it comes to seasoning your ground beef, wait until after it has been browned and drained. Adding salt to raw ground beef pulls out moisture, drying the meat out and creating steam while it cooks, which prevents it from browning properly.

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.

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