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An easy homemade pasta sauce made with five simple ingredients. This recipe has been in my family for over a century and is a go-to for pasta dishes and lasagna or over vegetables or eggs.
Believe it or not, this homemade spaghetti sauce has been on my editorial calendar for months.
And, how timely, it sort of situated itself right when we could all use it– a time when we’re looking to pantry staples to fuel our meals, and recipes that can make bellies happy now and bellies happy later (hello, beautiful leftovers).
Many months ago, I decided to finally bring my family’s easy meat sauce recipe to the blog for a few reasons.
First of all, I love sharing savory recipes scattered between the dessert ones.
I am first and foremost a baking blog, but since we can’t survive on just cookies and cakes alone (darn!), I like to share things that we eat for other meals every once in awhile, and they usually get just as much attention as the ones we eat in moderation.
Second, I think there are some really great pasta sauces out there that you can buy from the store. But there are too many that are packed full of a billion ingredients, completely masking the basic, fundamental spaghetti sauce recipes that my great grandparents brought with them from Italy.
(That’s the one that’s here today, if you hadn’t gathered that!)
This homemade meat sauce recipe is very very simple (five ingredients). And I am going to be very very snobby-ish about why (so that Nonna and Nonno DeAngelis don’t haunt me for obliterating their recipe).
We don’t need a ton of spices or herbs, or WINE, or, god forbid, SUGAR for simple spaghetti meat sauce.
Like I mentioned, we only need five (yes, only FIVE) things:
4) crushed tomatoes (more on these in a bit*)
5) tomato paste
You also don’t need a ton of time– just a bit more than “wham, bam, thank you ma’am.”
This is a fairly quick meat sauce recipe, so when I say you only need about 2 hours from start to finish, know that about 1 and ½ of those hours are used for simmering.
As most meat sauce recipes go, you’ll start out by sautéeing an entire onion and garlic with your browning meat.
While my family has typically always turned to ground pork for this homemade meat sauce, you can certainly use ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or even Italian sausage.
If you choose to go with poultry or a lean ground beef, you may want to use a little extra olive oil while cooking your onions and garlic so everything doesn’t dry out.
Now, before I go any further, let me go on the record right now and say that sugar absolutely does not belong in pasta sauce. If you’re looking for subtle sweetness, that’s where a sweet onion comes in.
My dad has always used a white onion, but I find that I really enjoy the natural sweetness of tomatoes + a sweet onion. It’s absolutely perfect against all that savory meat flavor. Use whatever you prefer.
In fact, when he emailed me the recipe, he said, in his typical silly humor “during this entire process, ensure that your sugar container remains in your cupboard.”
Yes, sir, dad!
Moving right along…
Once your meat of choice is browned and your onion and garlic have thoroughly seasoned it up, it’s time for the tomato components.
CRUSHED TOMATOES AND TOMATO PASTE KEEP THIS RECIPE SIMPLE
As listed above, you’ll only need crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. While my dad has only ever used canned crushed tomatoes you make be looking for an easy homemade meat sauce with fresh tomatoes.
Guess what? I have GOOD NEWS– you can absolutely use fresh tomatoes in place of canned crushed tomatoes. See my notes at the bottom of the recipe for how to make homemade crushed tomatoes.
The crushed tomatoes + tomato paste make the perfect simple base for this meaty spaghetti sauce without drowning out the flavors of the meat or making the sauce too runny.
Sometimes I find that store-bought meat sauces can be a little too thin for my liking, and what I love about this particular homemade meat sauce is that you can absolutely cook it to your liking.
If you like a hardy, thick sauce, cook it for a longer time than you might if you prefer a thinner one. The good news is if you cook it down too far, you can always add back in some water or continue to cook it if you feel it isn’t quite thick enough.
That’s the beauty of a simple recipe for spaghetti sauce: you don’t have to try to find more wine or more jarred sauce because you’re working with nothing but meat and tomatoes (that’s like “meat and potatoes” but the Italian version).
My mission at Fresh April Flours has always been to help you get back into the kitchen and down to basics while living in a fast-paced, instant gratification world.
This recipe is so timely, and I think it will serve all of us to sit back and remember that sometimes we have to work with less than what we’re used to…
So why not do it with a big plate of spaghetti with meat sauce, completely homemade from what we’ve recently acquired at our latest large grocery haul?
Stay safe, well, and happy, my friends.
Homemade Meat Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons (27g) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion I prefer a sweet one
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 and ½ to 2 pounds (680-907g) ground meat I prefer pork– if you use a lean meat, add more olive oil
- 28 ounces (794g) crushed tomatoes*
- 12 ounces (340g) tomato paste
- ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
- Add the olive oil to a large warmed skillet or saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, and ground meat and cook until meat is browned and onion is translucent.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt to the skillet, then simmer sauce on low at least 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until desired thickness. Add water if sauce is too thick for your liking. Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 1 week. Sauce freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.