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School Cafeteria Spaghetti

A tasty, nostalgic recipe, this School Cafeteria Spaghetti is an easy homemade dinner meal that will bring you back to the good old days. With simple ingredients and tons of flavor, this is a recipe your family will make over and over!

AN OLD SCHOOL SPAGHETTI RECIPE

Do y’all remember when they used to let the school cafeteria ladies actually make the food? My Mom used to work in our school’s cafeteria back in those days. I’m not sure if it was my youth (and nostalgia) that have me thinking that food was delicious (and because I was always hungry as a kid) but I remember those lunches with fondness. This School Cafeteria Spaghetti is one recipe that I have hung onto for years. With simple ingredients, this comes together in just about 30 minutes. If you want to go back in time for an evening, then you absolutely have to make this School Cafeteria Spaghetti recipe!

Plate of School Cafeteria Spaghetti with cheese garnish.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Can I use another meat?

While traditionally ground beef is used, you can use ground turkey or chicken if you want another flavor. Or you can use a mixture of ground beef and Italian sausage.

Can I use diced tomatoes?

Yes if you would rather use canned diced tomatoes you can do that. This original recipe used whole canned tomatoes that were then diced by hand. I think I actually prefer that particular texture in this over the ones already diced. Plus you can dice them as big or as small as you like.

What does adding sugar do?

This cuts the acidity of the sauce that comes from the tomatoes. You can leave it out if you want, but again, this was in the original recipe and I stay true to that.

Can I use other pasta?

Yes, if you are not a spaghetti fan you can use any other pasta that you like. We’ve made it with rotini and penne pasta too. Just make sure that you use 1 pound.

How do I store leftovers?

This can be stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to 4 days. This can also be frozen. Place in a freezer container and it will keep for up to 3 months. To defrost, remove to the refrigerator overnight. To reheat place in a microwave safe bowl, cover with a paper towel and reheat until warmed through (about 1 ½ – 2 minutes).

Pinterest image of a plate full of School Cafeteria Spaghetti with cheese and basil leaf.

INGREDIENTS NEEDED: (FULL RECIPE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST)

  • ground beef 
  • yellow onion 
  • dry spaghetti sauce mix 
  • canned whole tomatoes
  • tomato paste 
  • granulated sugar 
  • Worcestershire sauce 
  • Italian seasoning 
  • dried basil 
  • garlic powder 
  • salt and pepper
  • spaghetti 
  • shredded parmesan cheese 
Ingredients needed: ground beef, onions, dry spaghetti sauce mix, whole tomatoes, tomato paste, granulated sugar, worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, spaghetti and parmesan cheese.

HOW TO MAKE SCHOOL CAFETERIA SPAGHETTI:

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef with minced onions. Be sure to smash beef into small pieces while cooking. 

Cooked ground beef and onion in pan.

While meat is cooking, prepare tomatoes. Remove whole tomatoes from can and dice them to your preferred size (keep the tomato juice in the can for the next step).

Add diced tomatoes and juice from tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a large bowl.

Tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, sugar, worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper added to bowl.

Stir the mixture together well.

Tomato mixture stirred together in bowl.

When meat is done, drain any fat. Stir in dry spaghetti sauce mix.

Dry spaghetti sauce mix added to ground beef mixture.

Add tomato mixture to meat and stir together. Bring to a slow boil. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Tomato mixture added to beef mixture.

While the meat/tomato mixture is simmering, prepare spaghetti noodles according to package directions and drain.

Cooked spaghetti being drained.

When sauce is thickened, stir cooked pasta in.

Pasta stirred into meat sauce.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Spaghetti topped with cheese.

Serve and enjoy.

Fork holding up some School Cafeteria Spaghetti off of plate.

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Close up square image of a plate of the School Cafeteria Spaghetti.

School Cafeteria Spaghetti

A tasty nostalgic recipe, this School Cafeteria Spaghetti is an easy homemade dinner meal that will bring you back to the good old days. With simple ingredients and tons of flavor, this is a recipe your family will make over and over!
5 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 packet dry spaghetti sauce mix
  • 56 ounces whole tomatoes, undrained (2-28 ounce cans )
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef with minced onions. Be sure to smash beef into small pieces while cooking.
  • While meat is cooking, prepare tomatoes. Remove whole tomatoes from can and dice them to your preferred size (keep the tomato juice in the can for the next step).
  • Add diced tomatoes and juice from tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a large bowl.
  • Stir the mixture together well.
  • When meat is done, drain any fat. Stir in dry spaghetti sauce mix.
  • Add tomato mixture to meat and stir together.
  • Bring to a slow boil. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  • While the meat/tomato mixture is simmering, prepare spaghetti noodles according to package directions and drain.
  • When sauce is thickened, stir cooked pasta in.
  • Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. Serve and enjoy.

Notes

  • You can use other meats: ground chicken, turkey or Italian sausage.
  • Other pasta can be used, just make sure that you use a pound.
  • This can be frozen, see above on how to do that.
  • You can use canned diced tomatoes if you’d like. This original recipe was made with canned whole tomatoes that are then diced up by hand. 
  • The sugar is used to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. I highly recommend using it.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American

Nutrition

Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 14g | Sodium: 910mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“The Country Cook” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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Recipe Rating




3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Spaghetti sounds good I’m gonna try it. I hope it turned out OK. I never would’ve thought to put Worcestershire sauce in it.

  2. 5 stars
    My husband and some of my kids love spaghetti, but I rarely make it any more because I am so sick of it and don’t enjoy it. However this recipe intrigued me because I remember loving the school spaghetti as a kid.

    I made this recipe, and I really liked it! I even voluntarily ate it for lunch leftovers a couple times. And that is saying a lot ☺️ Thank you!