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Meat Sauce

This homemade Meat Sauce recipe is perfect for serving with any kind of pasta! It has the best blend of classic Italian flavors and comes together quickly with ground beef, diced onions and peppers, and simple seasonings.

Serve this with spaghetti, penne, ravioli, or in a pasta bake! (And don’t forget a side of Garlic Bread with Cheese!)

Spaghetti topped with Meat Sauce on a white plate with a fork and parsley on top.

Meat Sauce

Nothing beats a hearty meat sauce that you can throw together with whatever meat, pasta, and veggies that you have on hand! This is one Italian feast that the family will always agree on, especially if a side of cheesy garlic bread is involved. 😉

This recipe is pretty classic in that it includes diced onions, peppers, garlic, and ground beef. Once the vegetables are softened and the meat is cooked, the pot is deglazed with red wine. From there, the base of the sauce is enhanced with tomato paste, seasonings, and some subtle flavor enhancers. Tomato sauce and diced tomatoes are the finishing touch before the sauce is left to simmer, reduce, and concentrate. 

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Soften the onions and cook/crumble the ground beef. Drain grease and add the garlic/bell peppers. Cook for 3 minutes, then deglaze the pot with red wine. Reduce for 5-6 minutes, then add the seasonings, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and sugar. Toss to coat.

Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and bay leaves.

Adding tomato paste, seasonings, diced tomatoes, and crushed tomatoes to meat to make meat sauce.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover partially and let the sauce simmer, reduce, and concentrate for 45 minutes, or until desired thickness/consistency is obtained. Serve with pasta of choice and garlic bread with cheese.

Meat sauce in a pot before and after simmering.

Meat Sauce vs. Bolognese

  • Meat sauce generally has more tomato sauce in it than Bolognese Sauce, which usually has just a touch. White wine and milk are also common ingredients in Bolognese sauce, which is also typically simmered slowly for a longer period of time.
  • Bolognese sauce also starts off with a mirepoix, (onions/carrots/celery). 

Adding Sugar to Pasta Sauce

  • Adding sugar to tomato based sauces can be controversial, but the sugar really can be that “it” factor that certain tomato based sauces need if the tomatoes aren’t naturally sweet enough. It also helps balance out the acidity.
  • Feel free to start with 1 tbsp. of sugar in this recipe and add more after simmering if desired. This is very much a personal preference so go with your taste. Some people like to add up to 4 tablespoons, just be careful not to go overboard and add slowly.
  • To add sugar into your sauce naturally: Consider caramelizing onions and carrots in the pot for up to 40 minutes first, then remove and use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to blend them into the crushed tomatoes. This is my favorite trick when making my tomato soup and tomato tortellini soup recipes.

A Great Bulk Recipe

  • This is a great recipe to make in bulk because it freezes and reheats so well for easy weekday meals.
  • This makes about 9.5 cups of sauce, which can easily satisfy 3 pounds of pasta at approximately 25 oz. per pound.
  • The number of servings are at the top of the recipe card in the middle. Hover over the servings and a slider will appear, which will allow you to adjust the number of servings up/down as needed. The ingredient quantities will automatically adjust.

Make-Ahead Method

  • Prepare the sauce as outlined and let it cool completely. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for 3-4 months.
  • Reheat in the microwave or over low heat on the stove top. If it’s frozen, de-thaw it overnight in the refrigerator first for best results.

What to Add to Meat Sauce

  • Diced carrots and celery make a great addition to the onions in this sauce, similarly to how you would start off Spaghetti Bolognese.
  • Mushrooms also make a great addition to this sauce: I like to sauté them separately and add them to the sauce at the end, this allows them to release liquid, concentrate their flavor, and obtain a nice golden color and ideal texture.
  • A combination of ground sausage, pork, and veal can be combined with the ground beef in this recipe.
  • Up to 4 oz. of softened cream cheese is a really nice addition to this sauce, it balances everything out. Up to ¾ cup heavy cream can also be added.

Pro Tips

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. This meat sauce freezes really well.
  • Reheat in the microwave or over low heat on the stove top. If it’s frozen, it de-thaw overnight first in the regrigerator for best results.

A pot filled with Meat Sauce with a wooden spoon in it.

Tools For This Recipe

(Amazon affiliate links)- Check out all of my kitchen essentials here.

  • Le Creuset 4.5 quart Dutch Oven– This is the one I use for this recipe, it’s the perfect size and it conducts heat really well.
  • Measuring Spoons I have these magnetic ones which stay nice and organized in my utensil drawer.
  • Pinch Bowls for measuring out seasonings ahead of time.
  • Chefs Knife– I have this one. It’s affordable but high quality.

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Spaghetti with Meat Sauce on a white plate with a fork.

Meat Sauce

5 from 7 ratings
This homemade Meat Sauce recipe is easy to make with ground beef and serve with spaghetti or your favorite pasta! It has classic Italian flavors that come together quickly for an easy family dinner idea.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 lbs. ground beef, see notes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup dry red wine, see notes
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 28 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves

Seasonings

  • 2 teaspoons each: dried parsley, basil, oregano, mustard powder, salt
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes

Equipment

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and let them soften for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Season the ground beef with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high. Add the ground beef and cook and crumble it for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bell peppers and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Drain excess grease. Add the wine and use a silicone spatula to “clean” the pot with the liquid. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until just a little liquid remains and the alcohol smell is gone.
  • Add the seasonings, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and sugar. Toss to evenly coat the beef.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover partially and let it simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, or until desired thickness and consistency is obtained. Stir occasionally throughout cooking to lift any meat that settles to the bottom.
  • Serve with pasta of choice and garlic bread with cheese.

Notes

Pro Tips:
  • A combination of ground sausage, pork, and/or veal can be added to the ground beef in this recipe as well.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are the best kinds of red wines for this recipe. If needed, you can substitute the red wine with an equal amount of beef broth + 1 Tbsp. of Red Wine Vinegar.
  • Up to 4 oz. of softened cream cheese is a really nice addition to this sauce, it balances everything out. Up to ¾ cup heavy cream can also be added.
  • The Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and mustard powder are all flavor enhancers that you can’t taste outright, the hot sauce doesn’t make it spicy. I use Frank’s hot sauce for this recipe.

Quantity of Sauce:
  • This is a great recipe to make it bulk because it freezes and reheats so well for easy weekday meals.
  • This makes about 9.5 cups of sauce, which can easily satisfy 3 lbs. of pasta at approximately 25 oz. per pound.
  • The number of servings are at the top of the recipe card in the middle. Hover over the servings and a slider will appear, which will allow you to adjust the number of servings up/down as needed. The ingredient quantities will automatically adjust.
  • Leftover meat sauce is great with Easy Lasagna, Lasagna Roll Ups, Baked Ravioli, Pasta Bakes, and Stuffed Shells.

Slow Cooker Method:
Follow steps 1-3 as outlined above. Transfer to the slow cooker and add in the remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Storage:
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. This meat sauce freezes really well.
  • Reheat in the microwave or over low heat on the stove top. If it's frozen, it thaw overnight first for best results.

  • Nutritional facts are per 1 cup of sauce. This recipe makes 9.5 cups total.

Nutrition

Calories: 250kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 59mg, Sodium: 970mg, Potassium: 986mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 673IU, Vitamin C: 29mg, Calcium: 80mg, Iron: 5mg

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21 comments on “Meat Sauce”

  1. Want to make this tomorrow. Can it be made in the slow cooker? What adjustments would you make if so?

    • Hi Jena, I would follow steps 1-3 as outlined, (that part needs to be done on the stove), then you can transfer to the slow cooker and mix in the remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours 🙂

  2. Love it! Best meatsauce i’ve made

  3. If using onions and carrots to sauté for added sweetness instead of sugar how much of each and sauté for how long? Also should you sauté celery and bell pepper along with the onions and carrots and how much and for how long?
    Thanks
    Katherine

    • Hi Katherine, in step 1 I would just add 2 diced carrots and 1 stick of celery along with the onions and just follow as outlined from there, you’ll add the bell peppers at the end of step 2.

  4. This sauce is so good! It’s thick, rich and meaty. It makes a ton, so plenty of leftovers for the freezer, which is so convenient when you don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing a meal. Heat up the sauce, boil some pasta and add a salad and you have a delicious meal. I made the recipe as is and added some heavy cream at the end. Yummy! I love all your recipes, Stephanie, but this one is at the top of my list! Great job!

    • Hi Debbie! You just made my day, I am sooo happy that you love this sauce! I agree, it’s the best secret weapon to have on hand in the freezer! I just gave my in-laws a nice big batch of frozen sauce too!! 🙂 Thank you soooo much for letting me know how you liked it, I really appreciate you taking the time! -Stephanie ❤️

  5. stephanie, can I use stewed tomatoes ((Hunts) in place of undrained diced? I use crushed, whole and stewed tomatoes in my homemade sauce I cook for hours….I really like this easy meatsauce!!!!!!!

  6. Love all of your recipes, one question… which step do you add the cream cheese?
    Thanks! 

    • Hey Brandi! The cream cheese is an optional addition that you can stir in right at the end until it’s fully melted and combined into the sauce 🙂

  7. I made this yesterday,  and it was wonderful. I only used one lb of hamburger, but that was just my preference. This sauce will be great on so many things. Thank you for the recipe!  

    • You’re very welcome Peggy, I’m so happy you enjoyed it. It’s so versatile and can be used in so many ways!😍 Thanks so much for the great review!

  8. Absolutely the best meat sauce I have ever made. I added cream cheese and mushrooms, and I slow cooked carrots and onions for 40 minutes prior to adding the meat. So good!

  9. This Meat Sauce recipe is wonderful…especially with the added wine and cream cheese!!! It made the sauce different and so so tasty. I had some friends come over and I needed a quick but tasty meal to enjoy. Everyone LOVED the sauce and I also paired it with your Cheesy Garlic Bread. What a hit!!! Who knew I could make something so delicious in such a short amount of time. I used a meat combo of pork and beef. So flavorful!!! Thank you!

  10. Omg!!! Best sauce ever!!! Made spaghetti last night, and baked ravioli tonight!!! We love pasta, and your amazing sauce!!! Thank you for another great recipe!!!😊

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