We advocate the use of a novel compressed sensing technique for accelerating the magnetic resonance image acquisition process, coined spread spectrum MR imaging or simply s2MRI. The method resides in pre-modulating the signal of interest by a linear chirp, resulting from the application of quadratic phase profiles, before random k-space under-sampling with uniform average density. The effectiveness of the procedure is theoretically underpinned by the optimization of the coherence between the sparsity and sensing bases. The application of the technique for single coil acquisitions is thoroughly studied by means of numerical simulations as well as phantom and in vivo experiments on a 7T scanner. The corresponding results suggest a favorable comparison with state-of-the-art variable density k-space under-sampling approaches.