Spaghetti with tomato sauce is always a recipe for success. Is there anyone who’d turn down a plate of noodles piled high and dusted with cheese? Surely not, although adding some extra meat and veg certainly makes it all the more crave-worthy. And that’s exactly what we’re doing in this version: taking a tried-and-true Italian American classic and filling it out with hearty ground beef and bites of tender zucchini.
Wash and dry all produce. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Quarter zucchini lengthwise, then cut into ½-inch-thick pieces. Halve, peel, and dice onions. Mince garlic. Strip thyme leaves from stems; discard stems. Roughly chop leaves.
Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add beef, breaking up meat into pieces. Cook, tossing, until browned but not yet cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add onions and zucchini to pan with beef. Cook, tossing, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, Italian seasoning, and soy sauce. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Once water is boiling, add spaghetti to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 9-11 minutes. Carefully scoop out and reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain.
Add tomatoes and reserved pasta cooking water to pan with beef and veggies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until thick and saucy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. TIP: If you have time, let the ragù simmer longer. It’ll just get better!
Add spaghetti to pan with ragù and toss to combine. Divide everything between plates, then sprinkle with Parmesan and chili flakes (to taste— you may want to leave them out for the kids).