"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 on my personal plan for the sauce. You can click HERE to find out how many WW points this spaghetti and meat sauce is on your plan! Add additional points, depending on what type of spaghetti noodles you are using (based on your plan).
💭 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
- Everything Bagel Cloud Bread Recipe (WW friendly)
- Quick Cucumber Kimchi (WW friendly)
- Bread Machine Italian Breadsticks
- 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 to 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.
Thanks for sharing YOUR secret ingredient! This sounds amazing.
You’re welcome, Joss! Let’s keep sharing!!!
The secret ingredient is nutmeg 😉
Great recipe... just missing a tsp of nutmeg and Worcestershire is the secret to many recipes, just a small amount in spaghetti sauce though, it's overwhelming to the tartness which is trying to be tamed with the sugar.
Added some of your tips to my repertoire lol
Nooooo! I have PTSD from nutmeg in anything savory. I worked at a restaurant years ago, where the cook was obsessed with putting nutmeg in everything savory. People loved his stuffed potatoes with nutmeg (which I couldn't stand) and he got out of control after that and put it in way too many dishes. I would never put nutmeg in my spaghetti - it belongs in sweet pumpkin things and maybe a tiny bit in pumpkin soup and that's it! 🙂
What a great background story! Honestly, sometimes I just love to eat my spaghetti with really high quality canned San Marzano pomodoro but I bet Worchestershire is a really great addition!
Thanks, Bernice 🙂! I have never tried that sauce-obviously I need to!
I make spaghetti sauce often and I've never thought to add Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. I can see how that would combine well with tomatoes. I can't wait to give this a try the next time I make spaghetti! Happy New Year!
Thanks, Leanne! I hope you enjoy it!
Katherine | Love In My Oven
We just had spaghetti with meat sauce last night! We love it so much, and I am always open to trying new ways of cooking it!! I want to dig right into this!! Pinning for sure!
So yummy! I love the Worcestershire and brown sugar, it really adds depth and richness. Thanks for sharing your secret ingredient lol, I’m with you, let’s share good recipes 🙂
Yes, Sabrina-let’s keep sharing good food with the world!!!
I've never understood people who won't share. Like, so what if you make sauce as good as mine? Isn't that the whole point?! I guess on the flip side, you're still thinking about it after all these years. LOL Sauce looks delish! Thanks for sharing YOUR secret!
In searching the web for a special spaghetti sauce with a secret ingredient, I came across yours. Years back we were invited to dinner by friends. We had the most delicious spaghetti I’ve ever tasted. I asked our host for the recipe and he replied “sorry, it’s a family secret”. Uggh! I was so disappointed and could not understand why even after begging he would not give it to me. I have never forgotten that sauce. I cannot wait to try your recipe and see how it matches up. I hope it is better than his so that I too can say it was worth the search
I'm sorry you had the same experience I did. What is it with these people and their silly family secrets, hey?! I really hope you like the sauce!
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. You definitely rock, Terri!
Thanks for sharing, You upped my game a few notches!
Thanks so much, Jeff! I'm glad you loved the spaghetti and are enjoying the website 🙂
A friend gave me secret ingredient spaghetti sauce Recipe she had and coffee was the ingredient
I did try coffee but that didn't do it for me 🙂
Cant wait to try this! I usually just use canned and dont really like it. Thanks so much for this.
I hope you enjoy it, Donna!
Dash of nutmeg few minutes before finished cooking.
Great idea, Dean! Personally, I don't like nutmeg in savory things (I worked at a restaurant where they overdid it) but I'm sure a lot of other readers would enjoy that!
I was very happy and surprised that you used worcestershire sauce.l have been using it for 20 year in my sauce every time someone new tries my spaghetti sauce they want the recipe they can't believe that I put Worcestershire in the spaghetti sauce and I do believe this is a secret but they think I'm crazy try it you'll love it
That's so awesome, Bill! It's so great to find a spaghetti sauce kindred spirit! 🙂 I'm sure it was what that guy used in his!
The Secret ingredient is coffeeThe Secret ingredient is coffee
I've tried coffee and do not feel it's the secret ingredient 🙂 But that's great if you do!
My moms sauce always had a different taste. It was a dash of cinnamon. Try it for a different flow or in any sauce . I can’t wait to try this sauce .thank you for posting .
Cinnamon, hey? I never thought of that as a secret ingredients! Well, I hope you like this one - enjoy! Terri
Not sure on this recipe I guess I leave the tomatoes whole and they cook down I blended everything together for ten minutes then simmered for a half hour and it tastes blan as hell another waste of money I went wrong somewhere
I'm not sure what happened either? You cooked it for ten minutes or blended it? What did you blend it with? Bland is never a comment I've had about this recipe. I'd like to help you figure out what went wrong too.