Get Sauced

Growing up in Missouri, one of the first things my mom taught me to cook was spaghetti. 

She didn't use jarred sauce, and there was no family recipe for sauce that simmers for hours.   The recipe?  A can of tomato paste, water and a packet of spaghetti seasoning mix.  Plus a package of ground beef.

I frequently made spaghetti for my parents and brothers.  No sharp knives or fancy equipment required, so this was something 10-year-old Amy could cook with minimal risk to the kitchen or myself.

After moving to New York, I discovered that Manhattan was a veritable wasteland when it came to hunting down my favorite seasoning mix.  So for years, I stocked up when traveling. 

When I recently spotted McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Seasoning Mix at a store in East Harlem, I might have heard a chorus of angels singing.  The ensuing lively Facebook discussion revealed a local demand among non-native New Yorkers for this Midwestern delicacy.

Over the years, this recipe has become known as "Aunt Amy's spaghetti," because our nieces and (especially) nephews request it when I am around.  When we have people over for lunch after church on a cold day, I might make a batch on Sunday morning, and simmer it in the slow cooker until we get home.  My own version of your Italian grandmother's "Sunday gravy."

So, here is the recipe. The magic dust is the Thick & Zesty.  I cannot vouch for any other seasoning you might use.


  • 1/2 pound ground beef, turkey or chicken
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pkg. McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Seasoning Mix
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups water


Brown ground beef in skillet.  Pour off oil and keep beef warm.  In a separate pan, heat olive oil, and sauté onion until soft and translucent.  

Add ground beef to onion, and stir in seasoning, tomato paste and water. 

Bring to a boil (keep an eye on it - it boils very quickly).   Turn down the heat to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes.  While sauce simmers, boil water and cook spaghetti or your favorite pasta according to package directions. Pour sauce over cooked, drained pasta and enjoy!

I intentionally do not recommend a specific amount of pasta here.  To my taste, one recipe of the sauce is good for about half a pound of pasta and three to four people.  But we are "sauce" people here, so you be the judge of how much pasta you need.

Buon appetito!