Cowboy spaghetti is not your regular old spaghetti. The sauce is still red with flavors that are smokey, tangy, slightly sweet, and delicious.

We are going to be thinking outside of the box today so if that generally frightens you, turn away, eat some chocolate and rejoin us when you are ready.

This spaghetti is really not spaghetti, if you know what I mean, especially if you view spaghetti as spaghetti noodles topped with an Italian-style red sauce.

Plate full of spaghetti topped with sauce, cheese, and black olives.

What you have here is a variation of a meal I ate growing up that took the idea of spaghetti, spun it around, turned it upside down and did about 30 cartwheels.

And the resulting chaos is utterly fantastic.

The sauce is still red, I’ll give you that, but instead of being rich and robust with classic deep tomato flavors and Italian herbs, it is smoky and tangy and slightly sweet…and absolutely delicious.

My kids were skeptical when I put what looked like regular ol’ spaghetti sauce on the table but then followed it with a plate of olives, cheese and green onions. What the what? Mommy knows what she’s doing, kids, she’s not crazy, I promise.

But the combination works – and works well (and comes together really quickly!).

I love the sweet and smoky flavor of the sauce, and then the little niblets of bacon and olives and green onions and cheese and tender ground turkey (following me?) just send it into the crazy-good atmosphere.

The lesson we should all learn here, clearly, is that just because it’s spaghetti doesn’t mean it’s spaghetti. Got it? Good.

A white plate with cooked spaghetti topped with red sauce, shredded cheese, and black olives.

What to Serve With This

One Year Ago: Orange Cashew Rice {With Baked Tilapia}
Two Years Ago: Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Truffle Cookies


Cowboy Spaghetti

5 stars (4 ratings)


Pasta and Sauce:

  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles
  • 6 slices regular or turkey bacon, diced
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey or beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
  • ¼ cup BBQ sauce (see note)


  • Sliced olives
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sliced green onions


  • In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Scoop the bacon onto a plate lined with paper towels and drain the grease, if needed, leaving a teaspoon or so in the skillet for cooking the ground beef.
  • Return the skillet to medium heat and cook the ground turkey or beef with the onion, salt and pepper. Break the meat into small pieces as it cooks and continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Drain any excess grease.
  • Stir in the cooked bacon (reserving any for sprinkling on top, if desired), crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano, Worcestershire, liquid smoke (if using) and BBQ sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer cook for 10-15 minutes (the mixture can gently simmer for up to an hour).
  • Boil the spaghetti noodles according to package directions until al dente. Serve the sauce over hot noodles and garnish with toppings of your choice.


BBQ Sauce: it is key here to use a BBQ sauce that you really love (as in, if you dip your finger in to have a taste, you’ll end up dipping it in 50 more times because it’s that good). It might not seem like 1/4 cup is very much but it definitely influences the flavor of this dish.
Homemade Sauce: I use my favorite homemade BBQ sauce which has a delicious smoky, spicy and sweet flavor.
Serving: 1 Serving, Calories: 570kcal, Carbohydrates: 76g, Protein: 30g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 1142mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 15g

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe