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Ground beef (Recipe: Chinese "spaghetti and meat sauce")

Chinese spaghetti and meat sauce

Remember Henry David Thoreau, that 19th Century philosopher-writer-transcendentalist guy who lived in a cabin at Walden Pond?

He believed in living simply, with the seasons.

Even though he was right here in New England, he probably wasn't thinking about the seasons in quite the same way we do: pear tree pruning season (February), mud season (March), mowing season (April), burger-on-the-grill season (May).

I'm ready for May all year round; ground beef is a staple in my pantry freezer. I use it for more than burgers, of course, and I buy the "happiest" and leanest ground beef I can find.

Grilling season started a few weeks early this year. I wish Thoreau were still around. I'd invite him over for a burger.

What is ground beef?
In a word, it's beef that has been ground, but it's not quite that simple. According to the USDA, "beef fat may be added to hamburger, but not to ground beef. A maximum of 30% fat is allowed in either hamburger or ground beef. Both hamburger and ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, phosphates, extenders, or binders added."

How/where to store:
In the refrigerator for a day or two at most; in the freezer for 3 months; if you've bought from the supermarket, remove from the packaging and wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, or in a ziploc bag.

More facts about ground beef, and ingredient photos, on The Perfect Pantry:
Ground beef (Recipe: burgers)

Asian spaghetti and meat sauce

Chinese "spaghetti and meat sauce"

We use ground beef in many ways besides burgers. In our non-Asian house, this dish is the ultimate comfort food, just like the spaghetti and meat sauce we ate when we were kids. Serves 3-4.


8 oz fresh noodles or dry spaghetti
1 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
1/2 lb ground beef
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp chili paste with garlic
2 tsp oyster-flavored sauce
3 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup mung bean sprouts (optional)


Cook fresh noodles or dry spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water, until they are just underdone. Drain and set aside.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the oil, then the beef, and cook, stirring and breaking up the beef as you go, until the beef is lightly browned. Add scallions and mushrooms, and continue stir-frying until the mushrooms are starting to brown. Stir in the chili paste, oyster sauce and soy sauce, then add the noodles and stir to combine everything. Top with bean sprouts, and serve hot.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Mexicali meatloaf
Rotini with spicy meat sauce
One-one-one spaghetti sauce
Chipotle meatloaf
Football season chili

Other recipes that use ground beef:
Ground beef and sauerkraut soup, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Puffy tacos stuffed with ground beef, from Homesick Texan
Indian ground beef and potatoes (keema alu), from Rainforest Recipes
Ground beef burrito bake, from Are you hungry?
Celery root mashed with sage ground beef, from La Tartine Gourmande

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


with a 7 year old who loves pasta and noodles in any form this is going to be a hit. i prefer ground beef than the mix we get here in germany beef and pork. it's leaner and simply tastes better.

I adore this dish. It's different yet all the ingredients are in most people's pantry.

I am a huge proponent of eating with the seasons. This pasta looks delicious. I love the non-traditional twist.

So going to try this using fresh udon noodles. Sounds so tasty.

Those USDA regulations are kind of funny ... and scary that the beef can have 30% fat! Yikes!! I get quesy at 20%, I can't imagine any more.

i just love when you make these types of entrees. your lo mein? remember that? well, that is now a staple in my house. one of these days i will photograph it and put it up, but it is absolutely a perfect recipe.

Coming from an Asian household, this is very similar to a noodle dish we prepare. From a brief glance, I'd say the main differences are that our recipe uses hand-pulled noodles, black beans and no mung. Extra spice-heat is appreciated by me and my daughter. I agree this would go well with udon.

Regarding fat content - try making batches of potstickers from both lean pork and fatty pork, but otherwise using the same recipe, for side-by-side tasting. The fatty pork potstickers will taste a lot better. In China, these are not an everyday meal like Americans imagine. Potstickers (like cookies for Cookie Monster) are a sometimes food.

wow - what a great twist! why not use ground beef! I agree with Peter too. lots of folks would have most of these pantry items and the ground beef already in the freezer just begging to be used in something other than the ubiquitous meatloaf, spaghetti, etc!
(if you really want to get fancy.. grind your own and freeze...that is what I do with chuck roasts on sale. It is really not hard with help of the kitchen aid and then I know "what" and "what parts" went into my ground beef!)

Yum, I love this kind of dish. I think it's one of the many reasons I keep so many Chinese sauces on hand.

I don't often associate ground beef with Asian dishes, so thanks for making me hungry with this delicious dish, Lydia.

I hope you realize that we are making this next time I'm in RI :)

This would be a big hit in our house (except with my husband, who would have to pick out the mushrooms). Now only are mushrooms my favorite vegetable, but Asian flavors appeal to my salt-loving palate. Great dish!

Very nice recipe. I enjoy adding an Asian twist on familiar dishes.

Meeta, here in the US there's a mix sold in the markets of ground beef, pork and veal. I think they call it "meatloaf mix". We always use all-beef, though.

Peter, I'm always encouraging people to keep basic but authentic Asian ingredients in the pantry. It makes dishes like this a snap to put together.

Joanne, burger-on-the-grill season is one of our favorite seasons!

Lynne, fresh udon noodles would be perfect for this sauce.

Julia, same here. We've gotten so used to eating 7% or even 5% fat beef. I know the additional fat is what makes some burgers juicy when others are dry, but I can't stand to put that fat into my stomach. And for this sauce, it's certainly not needed.

Vanillasugar, thanks so much. I'm delighted that you've made the lo mein your own. It took me years to figure out how to make it, and this dish is quite similar, so I'm sure you're going to like it, too.

Marten, I really don't use fermented black beans enough, though I always have some in a bag or jar in my pantry. Thanks for the tip about the dumplings, too. They're certainly not everyday food in our house -- though they could be, because they are one of my favorites.

Carol, I don't have the grinding attachment for my KitchenAid, but this is a great reason to buy one.

Amy, same here. We're so lucky to have access to great Asian markets.

Susan, this is one of those dishes that comforts and takes the chill off raw, rainy New England days like today.

Maris, it's a promise!

Cookin' Canuck, you can leave out the mushrooms and use something else: broccoli, snow peas, or more scallions. Or just make the mushrooms large enough to pick out easily, and he can give his to you!

Joan, so do I. And if involves noodles, even better.

This looks absolutely fantastic! I love the Asian spin on "spaghetti and meat sauce." I think I prefer this version to the Italian one :)

This looks delicious! I have some chile garlic paste which I have been dying to use, so will definitely give this a try!

Elina, I prefer it, too. But then again, I love anything spicy!

Radhika, get that chili paste out of the pantry! It's my favorite condiment.

Finally got round to making this last night. Discovered I'd run out of chilli paste so used quarter cup sweet chilli sauce instead. Worked out fine and was a hit with the family. We reheated the leftovers for tea tonight ha ha Next time I will put more scallion in though. I felt two got a bit overwhelmed by the mushrooms, beef and noodles.

We love this recipe! We use dried udon noodles, add a spoonful of red pepper paste, and double the mushrooms (oyster and crimini). I always make a double batch so we have leftovers.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Thank you for this recipe. After a season of barbecues, this is a refreshing ground beef recipe...and I am part of a semi-Asian family. My picky 4 year old ate his whole bowl (minus the mushrooms). I added additional cloves of garlic while stir-frying the beef to pump up flavor, and cut down the chili paste to half teaspoon to accommodate my son. Will definitely use this again and again!

Any recommendations for a replacement for oyster sauce? My hubby is veg & I can make his version with veg crumbles; just not sure what oyster sauce tastes like. . .thanks for your help!

Angie, oyster sauce is thick and salty. You could use something like hoisin, which is a bit sweeter. Or you could use some additional soy sauce, with a cornstarch or arrowroot solution (in water) for the thickener.

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