Whole Wheat Penne with Spicy Red Sauce

I make some sort of pasta dish about once every two weeks. It’s easy, fast, and doesn’t require a lot of expensive or unique ingredients. I’ve experimented with different red sauces over the past couple of years and I finally found a flavor combination that fits both my and Robert’s taste preferences. That’s what I love most about cooking this type of dish- there’s no right or wrong answer. Whatever your in the mood for, just toss it in the pan.

This sauce is slightly sweet from a little bit of brown sugar, but there is a punch of heat because of the red pepper flakes. I also added in mushrooms and onions and a little bit of the zinfandel we opened for dinner. There is ground beef in this recipe, but it could easily be left out for a vegetarian dish. As far as the pasta, I switched over to the whole wheat variety two years ago and I never looked back. The texture is a little bit different than regular pasta, but I think it tastes just as good.

Cooking is a way to express yourself. Recipes are meant to be tailored to reflect your personality and this whole wheat penne with spicy red sauce does just that.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Whole Wheat Penne with Spicy Red Sauce

Printable Version


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, such as portabello
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1-6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup red wine, such as Zinfandel
  • 1- 12 oz box whole wheat penne
  • 1-2 Tbsp reserved pasta water
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan, brown the beef over medium heat. Drain the excess grease. Place the beef in a bowl and set aside. Pour the olive oil into the same pan. Saute the onion and mushroom until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the the minced garlic and saute 1-2 minutes longer.

Add in the tomato paste, sauce, diced tomatoes, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low to simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. When cooked, reserve about 1-2 Tbsp of the pasta water. Add in the reserved pasta water and wine into the red sauce. Stir and and carefully stir in the cooked pasta.

Portion into bowls and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan.

Source: Lolly’s Sweet Treats

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Selby says:

    I think I could make this one!! 🙂 Looks and sounds delish!!

  2. I find that a good red sauce is the perfect way to add enough flavor to a dish that my kids don’t even notice that it’s whole wheat pasta underneath.

    1. Lolly says:

      Good idea! Kids seem to love pasta, might as well give them a little more bang for their buck 🙂

  3. This sounds great! I love using the whole wheat pastas. They have so much more flavor. And this sauce sounds like a great complement to it.

    1. Lolly says:

      Thanks, Janet. I usually prefer whole wheat to the regular variety as well. 🙂

  4. molly oneill says:

    Yum! i’m going to try it tomorrow without the meat. I’ve recently read that adding the pasta water to the sauce is a secret to great flavor and texture. I might add a little fresh basil from my garden, but the thyme is nice, too.

    The sugar added is a Midwestern custom.

    1. Lolly says:

      Molly, I’ve read that pasta water is key as well and I can tell a difference. The starchy water helps thickens the sauce just a bit. Let me know if you like it. 🙂 Fresh basil sounds like a great addition- my basil unfortunately died already.

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