by Olena

Homemade Meat Sauce (Video)

by Olena

5 from 3 reviews

meat sauce garnished with basil in a pot

Italian Meat Sauce

I feel like I finally perfected juicy, meaty and flavorful meat sauce. Every cook should have meat sauce recipe in their back pocket. Prep time is 3 minutes, kids love it and it’s much easier than bolognese sauce or meatballs!

And homemade meat sauce is such easy but fancy Italian dish you could entertain with. Serve it over quality al dente pasta garnished with Parmesan cheese and a bottle of good red wine. And your guests will be knocking on your door next weekend.

Maybe that’s not a good thing after all…

All right. So, here is how I do it.

homemade meat sauce served over pasta and garnished with Parmesan cheese on a plate

Homemade Meat Sauce Ingredients

When it comes to meat for tomato meat sauce, I like a combination of grass-fed or organic ground beef and lean tender ground turkey. I feel 1.5 lbs is perfect amount, where as 1 lb of meat is not enough.

I add traditional dried herbs and bay leaves. And I personally love addition of sweet balsamic vinegar and rich olive oil.

And one secret punch of flavor I got from my neighbour is a pinch of cinnamon. You will not believe that extra touch of sweetness and warmth it adds to this quick meat sauce. Just trust me!

meat sauce recipe ingredients

Best Tomatoes for Meat Sauce Recipe

All right, tomatoes.

I like to use what I always have on hand which are cases of organic low sodium canned tomatoes from Costco. Italians might argue it is not the best brand but I’m not Italian. I’m Ukrainian with a quarter heart of Italian for food.:)

So I perfected this Italian meat sauce recipe using a combination of canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. Each of them layers different texture on top of another texture making the best spaghetti meat sauce!

This meat sauce is thick, chunky and flavorful! It’s perfect!

3 cans of best tomatoes for meat sauce

How to Make Meat Sauce

how to make meat sauce - browning beef, turkey and adding onion and spices

1. Cook ground meat in a hot cast iron pot breaking and stirring with spatula constantly. Takes about 5 minutes.
2. Add onion, garlic and dried seasonings. Please note onion doesn’t need to brown but herbs benefit from high heat to release maximum flavors.

how to make meat sauce - adding tomatoes and cooking for 45 minutes

3. Add canned tomatoes and liquid seasonings. Stir, cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 30 minutes. Covering the pot prevents red splatters all over the stove.

how to thicken homemade meat sauce

4. To thicken meat sauce: Open the lid a little bit to the side and cook for 15 minutes. Moisture will evaporate making perfect hearty and thick meat sauce.

Healthy Pasta for Meat Sauce

When it comes to pasta for meat sauce, the default is spaghetti.

My personal preference is short pasta with holes or grooves to scoop up the sauce. Like penne, rigatoni, corkscrew or even macaroni.

I always try to buy whole grain and preferably organic pasta. But it’s real life and not every store carries healthy pasta. I do what I can. We have been eating whole grain pasta for 15 years now and my kids don’t know the difference. It contains the bran and more fibre than traditional white pasta. Organic is the best to avoid consuming carcinogenic glyphosate.

Tip: Cook pasta in salted water to prevent sticking.

best pasta for meat sauce

I promise you can make the best homemade meat sauce yourself! I hope you enjoy this recipe and we are working on a video for it next week.

What to do with leftover spaghetti meat sauce? Freeze it. I like to freeze food in glass containers. I know many freeze flat in plastic Ziploc bags but unless it’s healthy freezer meals, I avoid using plastic for health reasons.

You can also use this meat sauce for lasagna. Oh my, let me know when you are making one.:)

Freeze Leftovers?

Definitely “yes”. Meat sauce is perfect for freezing because it doesn’t contain cooked starches or watery vegetables that become soggy once thawed. So make sure you don’t mix it with cooked spaghetti.

How long can you freeze meat sauce? For up to 3 months in an airtight container. I prefer glass for health reasons and environment as much as I can. But real life strikes, I get it.

More Healthy Family Pasta Dinners:

meat sauce recipe closeup with bay leaves and fresh basil

Watch Olena Make Meat Sauce

And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel for weekly cooking videos!


Homemade Meat Sauce

5 from 3 reviews

One secret ingredient make this easy and hearty meat sauce recipe extra sweet and warm!

  • Author: Olena of
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 58 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: DInner
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 1.5 lbs mix of ground beef and turkey*
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tbsp basil, dried
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes, low sodium
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce, low sodium
  • 6 oz can tomato paste, low sodium
  • Parmesan cheese, for garnish
  • Whole grain pasta, for serving


  1. Preheat large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot on high heat and add ground beef and turkey. Cook breaking into small pieces and stirring with spatula constantly, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes , stirring a few times. Please note onion doesn’t need to brown but herbs benefit from high heat to release maximum flavors.
  3. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and bay leaves. Stir, cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 30 minutes. Covering the pot prevents red splatters all over the stove.
  4. Open the lid a little bit to the side and cook for another 15 minutes. Moisture will evaporate making perfect hearty and thick meat sauce.
  5. Stir and serve hot over whole grain spaghetti or any tubular pasta, garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight or on a stovetop covered on low.


You can use all ground beef or all ground turkey if you wish.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys and a wife to Alex. And this is our healthy family recipes blog. I grew up in Ukraine on real food. As an adult, I tried many diets without results. Now for over 10 years, I cook quick and easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

What You Will Find Here

Healthy family recipes with simple ingredients. Many are inspired by my Ukrainian heritage. I share mostly dinner recipes because it just never ends... I’m obsessed with healthy freezer meals. And more than in love with my Instant Pot.

A Little More About Me

Originally from Ukraine, I now reside on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada with my family. I started this blog in 2012 when I ended up at home with 2 small kids unemployed and a wee bit chubby.

7 comments on “Homemade Meat Sauce (Video)

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  1. I came across your blog the other day and decided to make this recipe first as my youngest girl (16) is crazy about pasta. I cooked it today and it definitely got her approval. She loved it and so did we. It’s very tasteful. I’ll definitely cook it again. For now I have a large portion to go into the freezer. Thanks for sharing! Greetings from The Netherlands, Ingrid

  2. In the instructions you mention adding bay leaves yet the ingredients do not include them
    Should there be bay leaves?

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