There are few dinners more comforting to me than a plate of hearty, saucy spaghetti. Whenever we would have large family dinners at my grandmother’s, spaghetti often made an appearance, likely because of its crowd-pleasing nature and affordability. My grandmother’s Midwestern spaghetti sauce always included ground beef and green bell peppers, which isn’t authentically Italian, a fact I didn’t realize until I was an adult.
This equally inauthentic version of spaghetti with red sauce includes spicy jalapeños in lieu of bell peppers, but maintains the hearty, affordable protein of ground beef. In addition to the beef and peppers, there’s a bit of bacon for some smoky goodness, lots of sautéed onion for a savory base and a bit of chili powder for spice. Toss the sauce with some just-undercooked cooked spaghetti before blanketing it with cheese, bacon and more jalapeños, and you have a comforting, hearty dish that’s bound to please.
To begin, brown the ground beef with the chopped onion and fresh jalapeños. I like to de-seed some of the jalapeños so the finished sauce isn’t too hot, but feel free to leave the seeds in if you’re feeling brave. (To de-seed, I just scrape out the seeds and ribs using a spoon. I left one half with all the seeds and ribs for just a bit of spice.)
Add the peppers to the pan with the ground beef and onions, sautéing until the beef is cooked through, the onions are translucent and the peppers have just begun to soften. Once that’s done, mix in the chili powder.
Once the tomatoes are added, cook the sauce a bit longer to let the flavors meld, then toss with the pasta and top it with any remaining sauce.
Finally, add the cheese! (If you want to make it ahead and freeze, stop at this point. Let the casserole cool, cover with foil and freeze. It should store for up to three months. To bake, simply thaw overnight in the fridge and bake as directed in the recipe below.)