Spaghetti with meat sauce is the perfect weeknight dinner! My meat sauce recipe packs a punch of flavor and even freezes well for future meals. Recipe includes a how-to video!
My Favorite Meat Sauce Recipe
Looking for a new dish for your dinner rotation? Spaghetti with meat sauce is one of my family’s favorite weeknight meals! My recipe comes together in one pot on the stove, and it’s just as easy as making sloppy joes (another family favorite!).
Why you’ll love it:
- Incredible flavor: my recipe has a classic, restaurant-quality flavor that is so much better than anything from the store.
- Freezes well: this recipe is great for making ahead for an even quicker weeknight meal.
- Simple: most of the time in this recipe is spent letting the sauce simmer (I use this time to get the kitchen straightened up and table set!).
- One pot dish means minimal clean-up!
I focused a lot on flavor when developing this meat sauce recipe. So many recipes or store-bought sauces fall flat, but I promise you this one doesn’t. It has depth from the garlic and the seasoned meat, body from the wine (this can always be substituted with broth), and plenty of fresh basil as the cherry on top. Trust me, you’re going to want to try this!
What You Need
I carefully selected these ingredients so this meat sauce recipe would be FULL of flavor! Here are the most important ones you’ll need today.
- Ground beef. Ground beef is a classic choice, but you could switch things up and use half or all Italian sausage instead. Sweet Italian sausage would be my choice, but if you like a little spice or are an arrabiata sauce fan, spicy Italian sausage would work well too.
- Canned tomatoes. Whole tomatoes work best here and are my preference, I love using them in many of my sauce recipes including my vodka sauce. I recommend grabbing san marzano tomatoes if you can find them. In a pinch, you could substitute an undrained can of crushed tomatoes.
- Spices. Including parsley, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and a bay leaf. I personally love using fresh basil here (the flavor is unparalleled), but I know not everyone has access to it, so I made sure to include measurements for fresh or dry.
- Wine. Dry red wine in a classic choice here, but a cooking wine will work too. Or, if you’d prefer to skip the wine altogether, you can use beef, vegetable, or chicken stock instead.
- Pasta. I think spaghetti works really well here, but you can use your favorite pasta. I include instructions for stirring the pasta right in or serving separately.
SAM’S TIP: A tablespoon of sugar might seem out of place here, but it helps counteract the acidity of the tomatoes without making this sauce taste sweet (just like in my tomato soup and ziti recipes. You always could skip this, but I recommend adding it for best results.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Cook the onion in olive oil until softened, then stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the meat is browned, then drain off any excess grease.
- Stir in the tomato paste and sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste caramelizes.
- Drizzle in the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go. Cook until the wine loses its pungent alcohol smell and the mixture is reduced by half.
- Stir in the water and tomatoes and use a spoon or spatula to crush the tomatoes as they cook.
- Add the remaining spices and let simmer partially covered for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve with pasta and parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
SAM’S TIP: Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water and use a few splashes to help the pasta and sauce combine easier. This creates a glossy, perfectly textured sauce that clings to the noodles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Just make sure to freeze it in an airtight, freezer-safe container. Also, note that I don’t recommend freezing the pasta, just the sauce.
While they are both technically sauces that contain meat, bolognese typically includes some dairy like milk or cream and occasionally vegetables like carrots and celery. Sometimes bolognese even includes pork.
Really any kind works well. I personally like to use spaghetti or fettuccine. Rigatoni, penne, or bucatini are also especially good choices though since they are hollow and the sauce can really soak into the pasta.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup (140 g) finely chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 lb (453 g) ground beef 85 or 90% (may substitute bulk Italian sausage, sweet or spicy)
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (78 ml) dry red wine (or substitute chicken, beef, or vegetable broth or stock)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) water
- 28 oz (794 g) canned whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons dried basil or 10 torn basil leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 8-12 oz (226-340 g) pasta for serving – I like spaghetti
- Heat oil in a large pan once simmering.2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Add onion and cook until softened (about 3 minutes).1 cup (140 g) finely chopped yellow onion
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- Add ground beef and sprinkle the salt, black pepper, and crushed pepper overtop. Cook, crumbling, until meat is browned. Drain excess grease if/as needed.1 lb (453 g) ground beef, ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper, ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Add tomato paste and sugar to the pan and cook, stirring near-constantly until tomato paste is browned/caramelized (about 1-2 minutes).2 Tablespoons tomato paste, 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- Drizzle red wine into the pan, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Cook until the wine is reduced by about half and you can no longer smell the alcohol so strongly (about 3-5 minutes).⅓ cup (78 ml) dry red wine
- Add water and tomatoes, breaking/crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or metal spatula as you cook.¼ cup (60 ml) water, 28 oz (794 g) canned whole peeled tomatoes
- Add basil, parsley, and oregano and bay leaf and stir until combined and bay leaf is submerged. Simmer at least 30 minutes with an offset lid, stirring occasionally.2 teaspoons dried basil or 10 torn basil leaves, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 dried bay leaf
- If serving with pasta, begin cooking pasta according to package instructions while the sauce is simmering. You can serve the meat sauce over the portioned pasta or combine the two together before serving. If mixing together, reserve ¼ cup pasta water then drain remaining water from the pasta. Add pasta to meat sauce along with a splash of pasta reserved pasta water, stir well, and simmer until sauce clings to noodles (just several minutes).8-12 oz (226-340 g) pasta
- Serve, topped with parmesan cheese if desired.
StoringStore in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This dish also freezes well for several months (best to freeze without pasta).
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.