by Olena

Homemade Meat Sauce

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Olena Osipov
5 from 11 votes

My dream Homemade Meat Sauce is hearty, thick and easy to make with simple ingredients. And you are looking at it right now!

It tastes delicious in zucchini lasagna, spaghetti, or with zoodles. Plus, it’s better and cheaper than any Italian restaurant.

meat sauce garnished with basil in a pot

Spaghetti Meat Sauce

I feel like I finally perfected juicy, meaty and flavorful homemade meat sauce. Every cook should have meat sauce recipe in their back pocket. The prep time is 3 minutes, kids love it and it’s even easier than bolognese sauce or meatballs! And homemade meat sauce is such easy but fancy Italian dish you could entertain with.

I recommend serving it as part of an entire Italian spread. Start with an Italian chopped salad or simple bread with a garlic olive oil dip. Then serve up this healthy spaghetti meat sauce served over al dente pasta or spaghetti and garnished with parmesan cheese served with a tomato mozzarella side salad and a good bottle of red wine.

Your guests will be knocking on your door next weekend. Maybe that’s not a good thing after all… Well, I guess it means you have lots of taste testers. Maybe next time you can serve up Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana or healthy Tuscan chicken pasta. During summer, I definitely recommend starting the meal with this Italian pasta salad and some high-quality crusty bread.

For now, let’s

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

Ingredients You Will Need

  • Ground beef and turkey: 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.
  • Diced tomatoes and tomato paste: Which are the best and substitutes are in details below.
  • Onion and garlic: These sauteed veggies is the first layer of flavor.
  • Balsamic vinegar and rich olive oil: Both add richness and another layer of flavors.
  • Seasonings: I add traditional dried herbs and bay leaves.
  • Cinnamon: And one secret punch of flavor I got from my neighbor 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

What Are the Best Tomatoes for Meat Sauce?

All right, tomatoes.

  • Low sodium: 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.:)
  • A mix: 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 Homemade Meat Sauce

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

Tip: You can also use this sauce for lasagna.

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

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

how to thicken homemade meat sauce

What Is the Best Pasta for Meat Sauce?

  • Long pasta: When it comes to pasta for meat sauce, the default is spaghetti.
  • Pasta with holes: My personal preference is short pasta with holes or grooves to scoop up the sauce. Like penne, rigatoni, corkscrew or even macaroni.
  • Healthy choices: I always try to buy whole grain and preferably organic pasta. But it’s real life and not every store carries it. So, I do what I can. 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

How to Store, Reheat and Freeze

Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Reheat meat sauce in a skillet or saucepan with a splash of water. Simmer on low, half-covered with a lid to prevent splashing and stirring occasionally. Shouldn’t take more than 5-7 minutes.

Freeze: 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.

For up to 3 months in an airtight container. I prefer glass for health reasons and the environment as much as I can. But real life strikes, I get it.

I promise you can make the best homemade meat sauce yourself!

More Family Pasta Dinners

meat sauce recipe closeup with bay leaves and fresh basil

Homemade Meat Sauce

Homemade Meat Sauce

My dream Homemade Meat Sauce is hearty, thick and easy to make with simple ingredients. And you are looking at it right now! It tastes delicious in zucchini lasagna, spaghetti or zoodles. Better and cheaper than any Italian restaurant.
5 from 11 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 58 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 180kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

      Video

      Notes

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

      What Is the Best Pasta for Meat Sauce?

      • Long pasta: When it comes to pasta for meat sauce, the default is spaghetti.
      • Pasta with holes: My personal preference is short pasta with holes or grooves to scoop up the sauce. Like penne, rigatoni, corkscrew or even macaroni.
      • Healthy choices: I always try to buy whole grain and preferably organic pasta. But it's real life and not every store carries it. So, I do what I can. 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.

      Nutrition

      Serving: 1cup | Calories: 180kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 550mg | Potassium: 476mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 161IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 2mg
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      olena osipov in the studio

      Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

      My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

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