Try this homemade spaghetti sauce recipe made with lean beef and veggies, served over whole wheat noodles.
Disclosures: This recipe was created in partnership with Beef Loving Texans. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting this blog!
Why did we all grow up eating spaghetti? Because it feeds a crowd, is fairly easy to make and everyone loves it! There’s nothing more frustrating as a parent than spending time preparing a meal, only for the kids to ransack the pantry instead. Today I’m sharing the best beef spaghetti recipe using lean beef, loaded with veggies and served over whole wheat noodles for a balanced meal the whole family can enjoy.
(Pro tip: You can use this same homemade spaghetti sauce recipe in a lasagna!)
Best Homemade Spaghetti
This recipe is all about the spaghetti sauce, and the best news is it’s mostly a dump and go recipe! You’ll start by browning your lean beef on the stovetop. I use a 93% lean ground beef – which BTW has more iron, zinc, selenium and vitamin B12, with less calories and total fat than 93% lean ground turkey (1). After browning, toss your ground beef into the slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients and let it cook on low for 4-6 hours or all day. Voila! Cook your noodles and your work is done!
Beef Spaghetti as a First Food
With two toddlers in my house, serving balanced meals a majority of the time is top of mind for me. The more I can do to make every bite count towards health, the better. Offering beef in ways that are developmentally appropriate for my kids is important to help provide adequate protein, iron, zinc and choline for their growing bodies and developing brains.
For the first time ever, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) outlines nutrition recommendations from birth to 24 months. Researchers found that ~77% of breastfed infants have inadequate iron intake and 54% breastfed infants have inadequate zinc intake, both of which are found in beef (2,3)! Further, beef is a source of two additional under-consumed nutrients of public health concern for older infants – protein and choline (2,3). Notably, the DGAs also recommend toddlers shift from eating high sodium meats to lean ground meats (2). This spaghetti recipe offers a delicious way to introduce the nutrients our kids need in a safe texture for all ages!Beef is a source of 4 of the 6 under-consumed nutrients of public health concern for infants 6 to 11 months – protein, iron, zinc and choline. Make every bite count with this lean beef spaghetti + veggies recipe over whole grain… Click To Tweet
For more science on “why” and a greater dive into specifics on how to safely offer beef as a first food at about 6 months of age, check out my piece Early Years: The How and The Why for Introducing Beef to Babies and Toddlers here.
Modifying Texture for Babies
Early eaters may benefit from you mashing the noodles and beef spaghetti sauce with a fork before serving. For parents who choose baby-led weaning, you can serve this sauce over whole wheat penne or rotini noodles which can be easier for infants to pick up with their fists. If using spaghetti noodles, older infants and toddlers will likely only need the noodles cut for easier eating, and breaking up any ground beef chunks that might be too large for their eating skills. As always, keep a close eye for safety on all infants and toddlers while they are eating.
What to Serve with Homemade Spaghetti
If you’re familiar with my Plan Your Plate guide, this homemade spaghetti sauce over whole wheat noodles is already a:
- source of lean protein – 93% lean ground beef
- source of non-starchy veggies – mushrooms, onion and green pepper
- and a high fiber starch/grain – whole wheat spaghetti noodles.
I like to serve mine with an additional non-starchy veggie option like my easy roasted broccoli, or a simple side salad (even a bagged salad is fine!), a fruit, and if I have a spare three minutes, my “cheater garlic bread” – whole grain bread topped with olive oil, Italian herbs, mozzarella or parmesan cheese, garlic salt, toasted in the toaster oven for 2 1/2 minutes!
Serving side dishes I know my kids enjoy helps my kids have options for days when they are feeling more particular about what’s on their plates!
As always, I hope you love this homemade spaghetti recipe! I love it as a well-balanced way to serve nutrient-rich lean ground beef alongside veggies and whole grains in a delicious way!
Best Homemade Spaghetti Recipe
- Slow cooker
- 1 lb 93% lean ground beef
- 1 28-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 1 12-oz can tomato paste
- 1 1/2 c onion, chopped (~1/2 large onion)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 mushrooms, roughly minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 c pimento-cheese stuffed green olives, sliced (optional)
- 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 c water
- 1 16-oz box 100% whole wheat spaghetti noodles (or other whole wheat pasta, if preferred)
- Brown meat on stovetop over medium heat. Drain any excess fat.
- Add meat and all remaining ingredients, except pasta, to slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or all day, stirring occasionally if desired. Remove bay leaves from sauce and discard.
- Cook pasta according to package directions and drain water.
- Serve spaghetti sauce over pasta.