For decades, this has been my go-to meat sauce for any kind of pasta, from lasagne to rigatoni and beyond. Simple and simply perfect.
Why we love this recipe
This recipe has been foundational in my kitchen since I've had a kitchen, and I hope it will become a staple in your life, too. It's:
- A true crowd-pleaser
- Bursting with savory, satisfying flavor
- Comforting, yet packed with nutrients
- Equally at home with any type of pasta
- A generous batch that keeps and freezes well
- Flexible — see below for suggestions
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Crushed tomatoes vary a bit by brand but tend to be a mixture of finely chopped tomatoes and some tomato puree. This texture works beautifully in sauce.
- Tomato puree is similar to unflavored tomato sauce but has a thicker consistency and more concentrated flavor. In combination with crushed tomatoes, it makes a rich, flavorful, smooth but not too-smooth meat sauce.
- I apply the same sourcing standards to meat for this sauce as I do to all meat. Start with great-tasting, good-quality ground beef. For me that means 100% grass-fed and grass-finished meat, typically 85% lean, 15% fat. I don't typically do this, but if you like, you can substitute ground pork or sweet Italian sausage meat for up to one pound of the beef.
- Yellow onion is traditional, and I'll use that if I have it on hand. Here I've pictured a few shallots because that's what was available, and they work beautifully, too.
- I really love garlic, so sometimes I'll add a lot more than the already generous amount called for in the recipe. You can feel free to adjust it to your personal preference.
- A little bit of red pepper flakes adds the gentlest heat to the recipe. It reads more like an extra dimension of flavor than as spiciness. If you really object to spice, you can definitely omit it.
Our favorite sources for meat
For years, I've been sourcing our meat from ButcherBox. We love this curated meat delivery service, which provides grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, organic chicken, and more from small farms direct to the customer. You can learn more in my extensive Butcher Box review and unboxing.
More recently, we've also become big fans of Cooks Venture for chicken.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a beautiful pot of meat sauce. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- First you'll sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil.
- Add the meat and cook, breaking up and stirring from time to time, until cooked through and lightly browned.
- Add the tomatoes and seasonings and bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
Stir half of this batch into a pound of any type of cooked pasta. It's especially at home with hearty shapes like rigatoni rigate and fettuccine. Or use the whole batch to make a big batch of lasagna or baked ziti for a party.
For sure. This recipe makes a nice big batch that keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year.
More favorite tomato sauce recipes
- 2 tablespoons (28 ml) olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced small
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 pounds (907 grams) 85% lean ground beef (see note 1 below)
- 1 28-ounce (794-gram) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 28-ounce (794-gram) can tomato puree
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
- In a 5-quart pot with a heavy bottom, heat the olive oil over medium-high.
- Add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes.
- Add the beef and the sausage, if using, and cook, stirring and breaking up from time to time, until cooked through and lightly browned in spots.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes and tomato puree, the pepper, and the chili flakes.
- Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. (Be careful for splatters.)
- Cover and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times throughout the process to ensure the bottom doesn't scorch.
- You can substitute sweet Italian sausage meat or ground pork for up to a pound of the beef. If you’re using sausage and there’s a lot of excess fat in the pot, remove it before adding the tomatoes.
- Stir half of this batch into a pound of any type of cooked pasta. It's especially at home with hearty shapes like rigatoni rigate and fettuccine. Or use the whole batch to make a big batch of lasagna or baked ziti for a party.
- Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to a year.
Serving Size:½ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 527mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 10gSugar: 25gProtein: 11g