This simple meat sauce is perfect for a quick and easy dinner. It's made with a few ingredients in less than an hour, and it tastes like it's been cooking all day! Everyone will love this flavorful sauce, and it is perfect for busy weeknights.
This is the perfect kind of homemade sauce to have on hand for a quick dinner. So why not make a double batch of this delicious spaghetti sauce and freeze what's left for a busy weeknight dinner?
Not only is this easy hearty meat sauce satisfying and flavorful, it's also versatile. You can serve it over pasta, or use it to make lasagna or baked ziti.
Why you will🤍this recipe
- It's an easy meat sauce recipe that is made with simple ingredients.
- It's an easy meal that is versatile, see the recipe variations below.
If you are looking for a more robust meat sauce recipe, try my Bolognese recipe.
Here is what you will need
This is an overview of the ingredients and steps to make this recipe; scroll down for a printable recipe card with exact measurements and detailed instructions.
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- Olive oil
- Ground beef
- Strained tomatoes
- Diced tomatoes
- Fresh basil
- Heavy saucepan or dutch oven
- Cutting board
- Chef's knife
How to make the best homemade meat sauce
Step 1. Cook the meat
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot reduce to medium heat and add the garlic and onions. Cook for a minute or two until they begin to soften. Add the ground beef and continue to cook over medium heat until the meat is almost cooked through.
Step 2. Add tomatoes and basil
Stir in the tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium-low heat. Simmer for at least 30 minutes
Step 4. Add basil
Stir in chopped fresh basil with a wooden spoon and simmer a few minutes longer.
Note: If your sauce tastes acidic, add a small pinch of sugar or baking soda to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes and balance the flavor.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
The complete list of ingredients to make this homemade meat sauce recipe is above. Below are notes about some of the ingredients, along with ideas for substitutes.
Ground Beef - I like to use grass fed ground beef, but you can use any kind of lean ground beef.
Ground beef can be replaced with ground turkey, ground pork or ground chicken.
Tomatoes - I like to use a mix of diced tomatoes and strained tomatoes which is similar to tomato puree for more texture.
You can use all diced tomatoes, all strained tomatoes or tomato sauce. You can also use a can of tomato paste and a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.
Fresh basil - This can be replaced with dried basil, however, dried basil should be added before the sauce simmers and not at the end of the cooking process.
How to store leftovers
Leftovers of this delicious meat sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Serve leftover sauce over pasta, use it to make baked ziti or lasagna or spread it on Italian bread or a flatbread with a little mozzarella cheese for a quick pizza.
How to freeze meat sauce
Sauces like this one often taste much better after they have been frozen, so be sure to double this recipe. Freeze the leftover sauce in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.
Defrost the sauce in the refrigerator overnight or you can heat it from frozen in a double boiler or over low heat on top of the stove.
Spicy meat sauce - Add a few shakes of red pepper flakes to the sauce to spice it up.
Add sausage - Replace the ground beef with Italian sausage or use a combination of both sausage and ground beef.
Add extra veggies - Saute diced vegetables such as red or green bell pepper, carrots or zucchini with the garlic and onions.
Vegetarian meat sauce - Replace the ground beef with 8 ounces of diced meaty mushrooms such as portobello mushrooms.
If you are looking for more easy and delicious ground beef recipes, check out these Grass Fed Ground Beef Recipes!
Serve this hearty meat sauce topped with shredded parmesan cheese over your favorite pasta and a zesty baby arugula salad or chopped Greek salad and garlic bread for a complete and easy meal.
This quick meat sauce also tastes great over zucchini noodles for a low carb and healthy dinner.
- Add a little extra flavor by adding a few chunks of parmesan rinds to simmer in the sauce.
- Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar when the onions and garlic are cooking for a little more flavor.
- If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with a little bit of water, white wine, red wine, pasta water or broth.
- If the sauce is too thin, thicken it up by cooking it longer or gradually add tomato paste.
- If there is a lot of excess fat in the pan after cooking the meat, drain the fat off by pouring it into a strainer or collander.
Fresh plum or San Marzano tomatoes are the best tomatoes to use for pasta sauce. If fresh isn't available, look for low sodium San Marzano, or organic strained tomatoes for the freshest tasting sauce.
Bolognese sauce is a robust sauce that is a slowly cooked meat sauce. It cooks for hours and it's made with garlic, red wine, carrots and celery with a splash of milk added just before serving. Meat sauce is a tomato based sauce that cooks quickly and is not as robust but still delicious.
Most fresh herbs don't retain flavor as they cook so it's best to add them near the end of cooking for a more flavor.
Yes. Brown the meat, garlic and onions in a large skillet. Add it to a slow cooker followed by the remaining ingredients. Cook on low heat for at least 4 hours.
You might enjoy these pasta sauce recipes
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound lean ground beef
- 4 cloves garlic crushed or minced
- ½ cup onion chopped
- 14 ounces diced tomatoes
- 14 ounces strained tomatoes or tomato puree
- 3 tablespoons basil chopped
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot reduce to medium heat and add the 4 cloves garlic (chopped) and ½ cup onion (chopped). Cook for a minute or two until they begin to soften.
- Add ½ pound lean ground beef and reduce the heat to medium heat until the meat is almost cooked through.
- Stir in the 14 ounces diced tomatoes and 14 ounces strained tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium-low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes
- Stir in 3 tablespoons basil (chopped) and cook for a few minutes longer
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used
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