This is one of my favorite winter recipes—perfect for those cold nights when you want a hot meal on the table with minimal time and effort.

All you need is a good pot (or a deep frying pan with a cover) and some basic household ingredients. If you’re really short on time, you can even skip the spices, since most marinara sauces are already quite flavored.

The pasta will cook in the sauce, absorbing the flavors and thickening the sauce at the same time.

It will go from looking like this:

To this:

To this:


  • 2 small onions, diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2–3 small cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
  • 1 tsp. basil (optional)
  • 1 tsp. oregano (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar (optional)
  • 4–5 cups marinara sauce
  • 2–3 cups water
  • 1 lb. raw pasta


  1. Sauté the diced onions in the olive oil and salt over medium-high heat.
  2. Brown the meat with the onions.
  3. Add the garlic, basil and oregano, and cook with the meat for a minute or two. (Note: I’ve listed the spices as optional, because most marinara sauces are already flavored, and if you’re short on time that should be enough. For a more flavorful sauce, however, I recommend using the spices.)
  4. Pour in the marinara sauce and the water, and add the raw pasta. Cover and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook until pasta is cooked and sauce has thickened.
  6. (Optional: If you want to add the brown sugar, do so about 10 minutes before the pasta has finished cooking. It makes a slightly sweeter sauce, which some people prefer. If you’re a more savory person, skip it.)

Note: Refrigerates well for a few days. Add a few tablespoons of water when reheating.