We Tried Making the Spaghetti Sauce from ‘The Bear’

We tested the family meal from the FX/Hulu tv show so you can make it for your family.

If you haven’t discovered FX/Hulu’s “The Bear,” it’s time. This television drama about a chef who returns to his hometown of Chicago to run his late brother’s Italian beef joint is funny and sad, joyful and serious. And the food scenes are intoxicating. 

Lots of folks have blogged their attempts to recreate the dishes featured on the show. One of those dishes, “family meal spaghetti,” really hooked me. On the show, the written “recipe” has just three ingredients – garlic cloves, basil steeped in oil, and San Marzano tomatoes. Doesn’t sound like much, but with some tinkering (and there’s plenty of that online), it’s something all right. 



We want to see your best work. Architects, interior designers, renovation experts and landscapers: Enter your residential projects in Milwaukee Magazine’s new design competition. 

The recipe I ended up following, more or less based on a recipe at thegourmetbonvivant.com, includes the technique of heating fresh basil, garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, letting the herbs steep, then blending into a chunky infused oil that is added to the stewed tomatoes. Along with the onion seared in butter, this creates a full-bodied, impressive tomato sauce (sugo di pomodoro, as it’s called in Italian cookery). I leaned heavy on the crushed red pepper, which made mine spicier than other versions that call for just a one-quarter teaspoon, but I liked that lip-tingling quality, along with the level of tomato intensity. With no kitchen staff to feed, I had delicious leftovers for days.  


Family Meal Spaghetti  


6 garlic cloves

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves (rinsed and blotted dry)

1 tsp. red pepper

3 tbsp. butter

1 yellow onion, skin removed and cut in half 

28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes 

1 lb. dried spaghetti

Sea salt, to taste


1. Peel and crush the garlic cloves. To a small saucepan, add the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and basil leaves and cook on low-medium heat until the leaves are wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside. 

2. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and add the two onion halves, cut side down. Cook, stirring the butter until specks of brown start to appear and the onion sides turn golden. Carefully add the can of tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to break down the tomatoes into a mash. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low, put the lid on and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove the onion halves.

3. Now turn back to the saucepan with your oil and basil. Using an immersion blender, gently pulse the herbs, garlic, etc. into small pieces. You don’t want a purée. (You can also pour the mixture into a food processor and lightly pulse until you have a chunky sauce.) Add the mixture to the tomato sauce, stir and continue cooking on low for about
10 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt, as desired.

4. In a large saucepan, bring 5 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti, stir and cook about 8-10 minutes. You want the pasta to be just short of al dente. Remove from heat, drain in a colander, then carefully add the pasta to the tomato sauce. Stir until well combined. Pop the lid on and cook on low for another 2-3 minutes. 

Serve topped with grated parmesan, a few sprinkles of sea salt and extra basil leaves.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s March issue.

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.