Here’s a really simple meal to throw to together that’s pretty kid friendly too. It has ground beef, pasta, tons of flavor, cheese and spinach.
I felt like having some meaty pasta and decided to try it out in the slow cooker. Usually I’ll make the meat sauce and let the flavors marry once it sits in the fridge. The longer it sits, the better it gets so I figured this process could also be done in the slow cooker.
As for the pasta, I cooked it al dente and tossed it in towards the end. Putting in cooked or uncooked pasta in the beginning will make for one soggy mess. I have not tried using uncooked pasta but it’s entirely possible, I just have not tested it yet. I read somewhere that you should add it in 30 minutes towards the end though with enough liquid to fully coat the pasta.
The marinara sauce is mildly sweetened to balance out the tartness from tomatoes. I’ve also added some beef bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce to enhance the beef flavor. It’s more than a bland marinara and pasta sauce with some beef dumped in. The seasonings bring it a depth of flavor.
The ground beef should be pre-cooked to get rid of any fat. While you can technically make this pasta in the oven as a pasta bake or on the stove top, a long cooking time that comes with slow cooking allows the flavors to marry. Richer, deeper flavors.
I used frozen spinach but if you want to use fresh spinach, toss in the cleaned leaves once it’s all done cooking and mix. The residual heat will be enough to cook them. It’s the same reason I tossed in the cooked frozen spinach last. Cooking spinach for too long will make it tough and leathery. There’s no such thing as undercooking spinach since you can eat it raw anyway but there is such a thing as overcooking it!
It’s pretty important to do the taste test before slow cooking the sauce so you have it just the way you like it. It’ll be a little tougher to do once you’ve mixed everything together.
And if you like mushrooms, you can toss it in with the onions and let them cook down awhile. Mushrooms always release a lot of liquid once they’re fully cooked so this has to be done in the skillet. Cook them until their liquid boils down so you don’t thin out the pasta sauce.
And that’s about it! Like I said, a really simple meal if you’re craving some meaty pasta and happen to like cheese!
- 2 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 15 oz. marinara sauce
- 15 oz. stewed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 beef bouillon cubes
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 10 oz. frozen spinach, cooked
- 1 lb. penne/rigatoni/bow tie pasta, cooked al dente
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1½ cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Over medium high heat, brown the beef until cooked. Drain any fat
- Remove beef and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent
- Transfer onions and beef to a slow cooker and pour in marinara sauce, tomatoes, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, crumbled beef bouillon cubes and sugar
- Stir to mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste
- Cook for 6-8 hours on low
- Cook the pasta till al dente, according to package instructions. Drain well and add cooked pasta, Parmesan and Mozzarella to the meat sauce and stir to combine
- Cook on high for 30 minutes
- Mix in cooked or raw spinach leaves and stir well
- Dish and serve hot