To cook the best spaghetti we have a few simple tricks:

  • Check the package directions of the spaghetti you plan to cook. On the box, there should be an approximate cook time for “al-dente,” which means the pasta will be tender, but not mushy. It will still have a bit of a bite, which is perfect.
  • When you know the suggested cook time, set a timer for a minute or so before it. So if the box suggests 10 minutes, set a timer for 8 minutes. This way, at the 8-minute mark, you can check on the spaghetti to make sure it isn’t done already. The box directions are a helpful guide, but it’s always a good idea to check the pasta early!
  • Cook the spaghetti in salted water. The water should taste salty. This seasons the pasta as it cooks and is necessary for the best-tasting pasta.
  • Toss the cooked spaghetti with a flavorful sauce — like our homemade spaghetti sauce. Don’t just spoon the sauce on top of the pasta. By tossing the pasta and sauce together, the pasta starts to absorb some of the flavors in the sauce. It just tastes better this way.

Makes 5 cups of sauce and approximately 6 servings

YOU WILL NEED

SPAGHETTI AND MEAT SAUCE

1 pound lean ground meat like beef, turkey, chicken or lamb

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup (130 grams) chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup water, broth or dry red wine

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Handful fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

12 ounces dried spaghetti or favorite pasta shape

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS, SEE NOTES

2 to 3 teaspoons fish sauce

3 to 4 anchovy fillets, minced with some of their oil or use anchovy paste

Pinch sugar

1 leftover rind from a wedge of parmesan

  • MAKE SAUCE

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat (we use a Dutch oven). Add the meat and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. As the meat cooks, use a wooden spoon to break it up into smaller crumbles.

Add the onions and cook, stirring every once and a while, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring continuously for about 1 minute.

Pour in the water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits of meat or onion stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and a generous pinch of black pepper. Bring the sauce to a low simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a low simmer for 25 minutes. As it cooks, stir and taste the sauce a few times so you can adjust the seasoning accordingly (see notes for suggestions).

  • COOK SPAGHETTI

About 15 minutes before the sauce is finished cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil then cook pasta according to package directions, but check for doneness a minute or two before the suggested cooking time.

  • TO FINISH

Take the sauce off of the heat, and then stir in the basil. Toss in the cooked pasta, and then leave for a minute so that the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. Toss again, and then serve with parmesan sprinkled on top.