"Wow. This is the best spaghetti sauce I've ever had," I said. "Can I get the recipe?" "Nope. Sorry, but it's a family secret," he replied. "There's something in there that really makes the sauce, but I can't quite put my finger on it. What is that?" I asked.
"Yes, that's the secret ingredient," he said. "But like I said, I can't tell you; it's a secret family recipe.
"C'mon...I won't tell anyone." I pleaded. But he just shook his head and smiled. "OMG- is this guy for real?" was all I could think.
The guy I was trying to get the recipe out of was a fellow student I worked with at my first summer job as a University student over 20 years ago. And that exchange happened during our first group potluck. I spent the remainder of the summer trying to get that secret sauce ingredient out of him.
Since that time I've eaten a lot of really good spaghetti sauces and an equal amount of bad. But when I eat the good stuff I always make a point to ask: "What's in it?" And fortunately, unlike that guy, the majority of people aren't guarding some ridiculous family secret and will simply just tell you.
So, I've picked up some really great tips along the way. And in my quest to create the ultimate spaghetti sauce, I've also done a lot of my own research and tried every crazy concoction out there (including chocolate and HP sauce). And I believe I've finally achieved the best spaghetti meat sauce recipe! And it's Weight Watchers Friendly only 8 WW points on the blue plan!
So, what was that secret ingredient in the spaghetti sauce all those years ago?!
For this homemade spaghetti sauce, you'll need:
- extra lean ground beef
- brown sugar
- mushrooms *you can use fresh or canned
- green pepper
- tomato paste
- canned diced tomatoes
- minced garlic
- Heinz chili saue
- Worcestershire sauce
- fresh basil
- fresh oregano
- fresh cilantro
- fresh rosemary
- crushed red pepper flakes
- see recipe card for quantities
And the secret spaghetti sauce ingredient is.... I honestly don't know. I'm guessing it was Worcestershire sauce but I will never know for sure. Seriously, no matter how I hounded him, I could never get the guy to tell me. I'm not sure what higher purpose he thought he was serving, but he wouldn't cave. And honestly, I stop caring many years ago. But more importantly, I believe I've discovered the secret(s) to an even better sauce!
Given that my palate has probably developed quite a bit since those Kraft dinner-fueled starving student days anyway, if I were to eat his silly secret spaghetti sauce now, I doubt I'd be very impressed.
This recipe is 6 WW points for the sauce. Add additional points, depending on what type of spaghetti noodles you are using.
💭 Top tips
But what I have learned along the way is that there are a few things you can do to really elevate your spaghetti sauce and that Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar are key ingredients in taking it to that next level.
Tomato sauce is very acidic and the brown sugar is necessary to tone down the 'tart' in the tomatoes and balance the flavors. But I think it’s the Worcestershire that is truly the secret ingredient and gives it that ‘ je ne sais quoi’! The herbs cilantro, oregano, rosemary and basil are also critical. And although fresh is best, if you don't have fresh, dried will do too.
🥗 Side dishes
- garden salad
- Garlic Bread (from Baguette)
- Everything Bagel Cloud Bread Recipe (WW friendly)
- Quick Cucumber Kimchi (WW friendly)
- Bread Machine Italian Breadsticks (shown)
- Spinach Salad
And for dessert.... Chocolate (Genoise)Italian Sponge Cake with berries!
👪 Serving Size
This recipe makes 6 servings. But you can double or triple the recipe by simply clicking on the blue serving number and selecting the number of servings you'd like. The ingredient quantities will automatically adjust.
Store this spaghetti sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days in a sealed container. It freezes well for up to 3 months. Store spaghetti noodles in a separate container.
So, if you're looking for a yummy homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch, then give this secret ingredient spaghetti sauce a try! Unlike that guy, I think that delicious recipes are meant to be shared with the world.
But in a weird way, I'm kind of glad that he never told me what the secret ingredient in the spaghetti sauce was. Because, if he had told me, ` I never would have been motivated to figure it out myself and create this recipe. In fact, if I saw him again, I'd simply thank him for helping to make me become a much better cook!
💭 Leftover Spaghetti Noodles
If you have leftover spaghetti noodles, like I always do, check out these 12 Easy Leftover Spaghetti Noodle Recipes!
And if you are looking for additional pasta recipes, be sure to check out my Pasta Recipes Board on Pinterest!
Here's what others are saying:
"Amazing recipe; delicious! I made marinara last night and the family raved!! Can't wait to try it in meat sauce!!! Great website. Great stories! Thanks for sharing, You upped my game a few notches!"⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
🍝 Secret Ingredient Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
- 1.5 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 Small onion
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ⅔ cup mushrooms, chopped
- ½ green pepper
- 1 -5 oz can tomato paste
- 2 -28 oz cans of canned tomatoes
- 3 cloves minced garlic * add more or less to your liking
- ¼ cup Heinz chili sauce
- ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil * can substitute 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 tablespoon fresh, chopped oregano * can substitute 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ tablespoon fresh, chopped cilantro * can substitute 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
- 2 teaspoon fresh, chopped rosemary * can substitute ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ -340 g -box spaghetti noodles *(½ of a 12 oz box)
- Cook ground beef and onions together until ground beef is browned
- Meanwhile, mix tomatoes, tomato paste, green peppers, mushrooms, garlic, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, herbs and spices together in a large pot and cook over medium heat on stovetop.
- When ground beef/onion mixture is browned, drain thoroughly and add to tomato mixture.
- Simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
- While sauce is cooking, cook spaghetti as per package directions. Drain and serve with desired amount of sauce on top.
- Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and fresh oregano or basil, if desired.