Hands down, Spaghetti and Meat Sauce is one of my favorite meals. Comforting and homey, hearty and meaty, saucy and delicious, it always hits the spot. It’s beloved by the adults and children in our household – a family favorite that’s on regular rotation. It’s the perfect quick and easy, pantry raid, budget-friendly, weeknight meal. Pull out the checkered tablecloth and wine for something a little more romantic. Make a triple batch and serve a crowd. Best part: leftovers taste better than first-day Spaghetti and Meat Sauce.
Needless to say, I have made and eaten my fair share of Spaghetti and Meat Sauce: slow cooked homemade affairs, store-bought noodles and sauce, and semi-homemade meat sauces. Bolognese is far superior to the others, but who has time in a busy weeknight to make it? Some weeknights I can barely muster enough energy to survive through dinner, and on these days clean-up is the bane of my existence. (most days!) Enter: one-pot cooking, where an easy meal is followed by an easy clean-up. Hallelujah one-pot cooking, you had me at easy!
Like all good things in life, there are downsides to easy. With one-pot cooking, you lose flavor and noodle texture because the noodles cook in with the sauce and the sauce gets diluted to sufficiently cover the uncooked noodles. With flavor in mind, you need to compensate by way of stock and spices. In terms of noodle texture, these won’t be perfectly al dente noodles, so if that’s your jam you won’t like one-pot noodles and sauce. At most family-friendly restaurants al dente noodles are a thing of the past so my children are used to noodles with less texture. You can’t regulate noodle texture as easily as you can in a pot of water, but the one-pot noodles are not mushy.
Don’t forget salt is your friend. Traditionally you would cook the noodles in sufficiently salted water, and now that water is part of the sauce, you need to salt during the cooking process and after. So one-pot cooking saves cleaning a noodle pot and colander, is it worth it? It can be, especially with an Instant Pot and its press and forget it features. But even on the stovetop with a dutch oven or pressure cooker, one-pot cooking is a cinch.
You can go the super simple route and cook the noodles in the pot with the jarred sauce and water sans aromatics and spices, so simple and easy in a pinch. But I like to go the semi-homemade route and throw some onion, fresh garlic, peppers, mushrooms, and spices into the pot. Five minutes of prep adds flavor and love. In an Instant Pot, you don’t need to fully cook the meat and aromatics before adding the noodles, a bonus time-saver, but use lean ground beef if you use the dump and go route.
One-Pot Spaghetti and Meat Sauce is a time-saver and lifesaver on a busy weeknight. When I don’t need to use my brain any more than necessary and can grab a jar of spaghetti sauce, noodles, and one pot, life is good. When I get to relax after dinner and not schlep away in the kitchen, life is really good. When leftovers are a bonus meal people in my family relish, life is downright awesome.