Lightened Up Slopped-Up Spaghetti


When I was a kid, my grandma watched my sister and I quite often. She lived about a mile from the Catholic school where we attended grade school and I remember walking to her house after school or being dropped off there so she could watch me when I was sick. We would watch Days of Our Lives. She would smoke cigarettes. And she would make me lunch. My favorite dish of all time as a child, and to this day, is my Grandma’s Slopped-Up Spaghetti recipe. I remember there was a time when I tried to recreate her recipe at home. It never really tasted like hers did. I mean sure she used her own canned tomato sauce and I used store bought tomato sauce but how could there be such a huge difference? Turns out, there can and is.

She can make her Slopped-Up Spaghetti dish in about 30 to 60 minutes so it made for a quick lunch or supper. The recipe doesn’t require a ton of ingredients and it’s the best tasting pasta dish in the whole world. I promise. I wouldn’t lead you astray on this.

When my coworker gave me three pounds of Roma tomatoes this past week I thought long and hard on what I could make to use all those dang tomatoes. I had some whole wheat spaghetti sitting on my counter and I thought it would be nice to recreate a slimmed-down version of my grandma’s pasta dish. I swapped her ground chuck for ground turkey, white noodles for wheat noodles, canned tomato sauce for roasted tomatoes + pasta water and I have to tell you … it’s pretty darn close to my Grandma’s famous spaghetti! No one will ever make the pasta dish as good as she can but I’ll settle for pretty close.



  • 2 lbs low-fat ground turkey (go as low-fat as you can tolerate)
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 3 lbs Roma tomatoes, halved and roasted in one table spoon olive oil
  • 16 oz whole wheat spaghetti
  • ¼ c. tomato paste
  • 3 to 4 c. pasta water
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Roast the tomatoes. You can do this the day before. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread tomato halves on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for two to three hours or until the tomatoes have shrunk and begun to char slightly.
  2. Cook ground turkey over medium-high heat along with chopped onion until turkey is cooked through. Drain or suction any grease you see in the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions to make the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta reserving approximately 4 cups of the pasta water.
  4. In the pot where you cooked the pasta, combine noodles, ground turkey mixture, tomato paste and tomatoes. Slowly stir in pasta water. You want there to be enough water in the pot so that the dish can simmer without drying out. The water sauce will reduce and/or be absorbed by the pasta so don’t worry if it looks a bit runny.
  5. Simmer the pasta over low heat for approximately 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. You can serve immediately or cool down and store in the fridge. It should taste even more flavorful the next day. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if you wish. I grew up eating the Kraft grated kind that came in the green can so I’m happy to use that kind. Use the “real” Parmesan cheese if you wish!

I got approximately 12 one-cup servings from this recipe.


This lighter version of my Grandma’s famous dish takes a bit longer to make than the one I grew up eating. My issue is that I do not have any of my Grandma’s homemade canned tomato sauce so the only thing I can do is try to recreate her dish using other ingredients. I think the roasted tomatoes and pasta water worked great. I ended up adding the tomato paste on a whim toward the end because it seemed like it needed more of a tomato flavor. I almost put that the paste is optional but I do think adding the paste really brought the dish together. Perhaps if I had used more tomatoes I wouldn’t have had to have used the paste, but alas, my coworker cheaped out by giving me only three pounds of tomatoes instead of four. What can a girl do?

Recipe rating: 



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