Classic Italian Meat Sauce

5 from 10 votes

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If you are a meat sauce family (my family is a serious meat sauce family), then a pot of this in the fridge, or a container of this in the freezer is just pure peace of mind.

Two yellow bowls of noodles topped with Meat Sauce.

Spaghetti Meat Sauce

If you are a meat sauce family (my family is a serious meat sauce family), then a pot of this in the fridge, or a container of this in the freezer is just pure peace of mind.  This is the best meat sauce recipe, thick, hearty and robust. It’s perfect with any kind of pasta, from spaghetti to penne to ziti. It also works beautifully in lasagnas and baked pastas.

Meat Sauce in a pan and on noodles.

Meat Sauce Ingredients:

  •  Olive oil – I can’t think of an Italian pasta sauce that doesn’t taste even better with a little bit of added olive oil (occasionally butter).
  • Meat! – For my meat sauce I use a combo of ground beef and fresh pork sausage squeezed from the casing. This has some seasoning built right in from the sausage and the beefy flavor that my people crave. You can also use a combo of ground beef and pork and veal, if you like.
  • Chopped onion and garlic – I love the combination of onion and garlic in my tomato sauces. If possible use fresh garlic, not the pre-chopped jarred stuff – it makes a difference.
  • Dried herbs – This sauce has a generous mix of oregano and basil. If you have the opportunity to use fresh, you can – just add those herbs towards the end of the cooking stead of early on, as you would the dried. Note that in many cases fresh is preferable to dried, but for spaghetti sauce and meat sauce I actually think the dried versions convey that more authentic red sauce/gravy flavor.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste – of course
  • Wine – this is optional but if you have a bottle open, add a big glug or two of red or white wine. Alcohol amplifies and carries flavor, and even a little bit can add another
  • Canned tomatoes – most of the time I use crushed tomatoes, preferably in the puree. You can also crush your own whole canned tomatoes, or use diced if you want a chunkier sauce. San Marzano tomatoes from Italy cost more, but they have great flavor and texture. You can also think about using low-sodium canned tomatoes to have more control over the salt.
  • Red pepper flakes – these are optional but give the sauce a nice kick. Skip them, or add more if you want a spicier sauce.
Meat Sauce in a blue Dutch oven.

If you are a meat sauce family (my family is a serious meat sauce family), then a pot of this in the fridge, or a container of this in the freezer is just pure peace of mind.

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Storing and Freezing Meat Sauce

The sauce will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, and 6 months well sealed in the freezer.   Freeze it in pint or quart containers, or better yet in freezer-proof zipper-top bags which you should seal, removing as much excess air as possible.  Lay the bags flat and freeze them until solid, then you can store them flat, or standing up like books. Label it so you don’t think it’s chili when you take it out!

Ladle scooping Meat Sauce over noodles.

You are more than welcome to use ground turkey, and turkey sausage which I do often (and that’s what is in my first book, The Mom 100 Cookbook).  

What Kind of Pasta Goes with Meat Sauce:

Classic cooking wisdom says for a chunky sauce you want a chunky noodle.  I think use whatever noodle you like! But yes, bulky noodles like penne rigate, rigatoni, ziti, cavatappi, and any pasta that has been bronze cut are great, as they have a slightly rougher exterior.  Try and find a noodle with some texture or ridges on the outside which helps them grab onto the meat sauce.

Both of noodles with Meat Sauce and parmesan cheese.

You can also use a thicker long pasta like linguine, bucatini, or fettuccine.

Whatever shape noodle you feel like boiling up, toss it with some of this ragu-like sauce, sprinkle over some Parm, add a salad, and things are going to feel a-ok. More than a-ok.

What to Serve with Pasta with Meat Sauce:

Woman sprinkling parmesan cheese onto a bowl of noodles with Meat Sauce.

Other Meat Recipes:

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5 from 10 votes

Classic Italian Meat Sauce

If you are a meat sauce family (my family is a serious meat sauce family), then a pot of this in the fridge, or a container of this in the freezer is just pure peace of mind.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 10 Servings
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Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound fresh pork sausage squeezed from the casing
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Big glug or two of red or white wine if you have a bottle open 
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes preferably in puree
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional

Instructions 

  • In a large saucepot, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add both the ground beef and the sausage together and cook, stirring frequently, and breaking up the meat so that it’s very crumbly and browned throughout, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Turn it into a strainer and let it the fat drain off.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pot over medium heat (don’t clean it!  All those little bits of flavor from the meat will season the sauce). Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano and basil and cook, stirring for 2 more minutes, until you can smell the garlic and herbs. Add the wine, if using, and stir for one more minute, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom, until the wine pretty much evaporates.
  • Add the canned tomatoes and red pepper flakes if using, and stir to combine everything.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the browned meat, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  Taste, and season gently with the salt and pepper (the sausages provide a whole lot of seasoning). 

Notes

The sauce will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, and 6 months well sealed in the freezer.   Freeze it in pint or quart containers, or better yet in freezer-proof zipper-top bagswhich you should seal, removing as much excess air as possible.  Lay the bags flat and freeze them until solid, then you can store them flat, or standing up like books. Label it so you don’t think it’s chili when you take it out!

Nutrition

Calories: 341kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 65mg, Sodium: 531mg, Potassium: 740mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 397IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 81mg, Iron: 4mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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9 Comments

  1. Bonnie Clark says:

    Easy to make and wonderful taste!

  2. Jo Ella says:

    Best meat sauce I have ever made. Thank you

  3. Barbara says:

    Excellent!! Very tasty and easy to prepare. I will be making it again very soon!!

  4. Annie says:

    Quarts of this in my freezer is money in the dinner bank!

    1. Katie Workman says:

      Totally agree! Which is why we are having meat sauce in the middle of July!

  5. Melissa Andrix says:

    I can’t wait to try this. Been looking for a sauce recipe and this looks wonderful!

    1. Katie Workman says:

      fan favorite!

  6. Pamela says:

    I really like the look of the new site. I didn’t know where else to leave a comment about it so here it is!!!

    1. Katie Workman says:

      thank you so much! 7 months in the making!!