Homemade Meat Sauce

Why not use this homemade meat sauce in some tasty Penne Pasta with Sauce, and season it with homemade Italian Seasoning?  

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Nothing goes better with some pasta than a rich, hearty meat sauce. However, the ones that come from cans are never any good. So, why not make your own homemade meat sauce instead?

Why not use this homemade meat sauce in some tasty Penne Pasta , and season it with homemade Italian Seasoning?

A full bowl of meat sauce in a white bowl.

Homemade Meat Sauce

Homemade meat sauce is one of life’s great pleasures; rich, savory goodness drenched in a heavily seasoned tomato sauce that turns any dinner into a feast.

The trouble with making some of the more classic meat sauce recipes like my bolognese sauce is the sheer amount of time that they take. This recipe uses a few convenient shortcuts and workarounds to provide all of the rich, savory flavors of a homemade meat sauce in half the time.

Homemade Meat Sauce Ingredients

Make sure to look at the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients.

  • Lean ground beef
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomato paste (or ketchup)
  • Can of diced tomatoes
  • Cans of tomato sauce
  • Can of mushroom pieces (don’t drain the liquid!)
  • Italian seasoning
  • Beef bouillon cube
  • Salt & pepper
  • Bay leaves
  • Fresh parsley

Meat sauce in a white bowl, covered with Parsley

How to Make Homemade Meat Sauce

  • Cook, the beef and onions in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until the beef, is browned and the onions are soft
  • Drain the grease (if desired) and add the garlic, sautéing until fragrant
  • Stir in the ketchup (or tomato paste), diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms, and their can liquid, along with all the seasoning and bay leaves
  • Cover with a lid and simmer over medium-low heat for 2 hours, stirring frequently
  • Season to taste – you can add sugar here to help cut through the acidity
  • Remove the bay leaves and serve over pasta, garnishing with the fresh parsley

Slow Cooker Method

  • Cook the ground beef and onions in a large saucepan over medium heat until the beef is nicely browned and the onions are soft
  • Put the beef and onion mixture into the bottom of a slow cooker
  • Stir in all of the ingredients, cover, and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low
  • Season to taste, adding sugar to cut the acidity if necessary
  • Remove the bay leaves and serve over pastaAll the ingredients of a meat sauce in separate bowls.

Do You Have to Drain the Fat?

It is an eternal debate when it comes to cooking beef; should you drain the fat from the browning beef or not?

Proponents of healthy living will tell you that you absolutely, 100% have to drain the fat from your beef, as you otherwise will end up with way too much fat at the end, and it will pool all over your plate.

However, others argue that you should never, ever drain fat, as fat is where all the flavor is.

The choice is ultimately up to you, but just make sure that you don’t drain it all away. Depending on where you got your beef, you could end up with a lot of fat in the sauce if you aren’t careful, and if it doesn’t emulsify into the sauce, it will sort of float there on top of your sauce like an oil spill.

If you are using especially lean beef, though, you might want to just the fat there, as it will help brown the garlic and give a lot of really intense flavors at the end.

Close up of meat sauce in white bowl, covered with fleks of parsley.

How to Season This to Your Liking

The best part of a homemade meat sauce, or any recipe really, is in spicing and seasoning it to your exact tastes.

While this recipe uses some regular Italian seasoning and a bouillon cube, you could certainly get even more intricate and involved in the seasoning process by mixing your own.

Italian seasoning is basically a mix of dried oregano, parsley, and thyme, so the first thing you could do is play around with the levels of those spices. You could also add some spice in the form of some Italian chilies, or just some red pepper flakes.

The key thing to keep in mind is the balance of acidity and sweetness. Tomatoes are naturally quite acidic, especially the ones you tend to get in cans, so you will probably need to balance this out with some sugar. Start with about a teaspoon at the beginning, and then taste and adjust to your liking.

Remember, this is your dinner – season it how you like, and don’t stop until it tastes great!

How to Freeze Meat Sauce

This is a great recipe to double or triple in a large pot and freeze for later!

  1. Prepare the meat sauce according to the recipe.
  2. Let the sauce cool completely.
  3. Measure out desired amounts into freezer bags.
  4. Squeeze out any excess air, seal and label with date and what it is.
  5. Freeze laying the bags flat to save space, for up to 3 months.
  6. To use, defrost the meat sauce in the refrigerator overnight and use in your recipe.

 

Looking for more tasty Pasta recipes? Try these out:

 

Enjoy!

Love,

Karlynn

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This flavorful homemade meat sauce is perfect for over spaghetti, other pasta or as a filling for your homemade lasagna as well! This yields 8 cups of meat sauce.

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Homemade Meat Sauce

This flavorful homemade meat sauce is perfect for over spaghetti, other pasta or as a filling for your homemade lasagna as well! This yields 8 cups of meat sauce.
5 from 3 votes
A full bowl of meat sauce in a white bowl.
Prep Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
2 hours
Courses
Main Course, Sauces
Cuisines
American, Italian
Servings
8 cups
Calories
177
Author
Karlynn Johnston

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 medium onions diced small
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or tomato paste *
  • one 28 ounces can diced tomatoes
  • two 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • one 10 ounce can mushroom pieces. NOT drained!
  • one tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • one beef bouillon cube
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions
 

  • In a large saucepan, cook the ground beef and onions on medium-high heat until the beef has browned and cooked through, and the onions are soft. Drain the grease if desired, and add in the garlic. Sauté until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Stir in the ketchup, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushroom pieces and the liquid from the can, Italian seasoning, bouillon cube, pepper, and bay leaves.
  • Cover with a lid and simmer on medium-low heat for 2 hours, stirring frequently to ensure it doesn't burn.
  • Taste and season to taste - add more sugar to cut the acidity, more Italian seasoning or salt/pepper if wanted.
  • Remove the bay leaves. Serve over pasta or even use in lasagna.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley.

Slow Cooker Method

  • In a large saucepan, cook the ground beef and onions on medium-high heat until the beef has browned and cooked through, and the onions are soft. Drain the grease and add in the garlic. Sauté until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Place the ground beef mixture into the bottom of your slow cooker. Stir in the ketchup, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushroom pieces and the liquid from the can, Italian seasoning, bouillon cube, pepper, and bay leaves.
  • Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on high, or 8-9 hours on low.
  • Taste and season to taste - add more sugar to cut the acidity, more Italian seasoning or salt/pepper if wanted.
  • Remove the bay leaves. Serve over pasta or even use in lasagna. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Recipe Notes

*If you use tomato sauce and not the ketchup, add 1 tsp of white sugar to the sauce.
  • Using the liquid from the mushroom can is a waste not, want not Grandma trick and really boosts the mushroom flavor.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 177kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 144mg, Potassium: 462mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 41IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 3mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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  1. Sue Devoe says

    Hey…re fry sauce — sweet pickle juice or dill pickle-type juice?? I like your chili etc recipes but I don’t like anything hot, at all, so I just don’t add those parts. Same thing re cumin (& coriander) — cumin more or less tastes like armpits smell, to me. NOT my thing for dinner!! Re I think your sweet chili sauce?? Or whichever one that was — I would switch out any hot sauce & add Heinz chili sauce, which is totally great, and probably even add a higher ratio of it. What else….Oh, re the meat sauce — very very close to my own recipe. I add in more veggies (I add more veggies to all recipes it seems!!), not just onions & garlic, but diced, or sometimes chunks, of green pepper & celery, & I usually add in a small green zucchini. I cut the zucc. by cutting long strips in wedge shapes, then cross cut the strips, in 3/4″ to 1″ chunks, so I have some nice green skin showing on each piece. (Gotta look pretty!!) I try to use smaller fresh sliced cremini mushrooms, over canned white button, when I can, & yes I always add the mush. can brine. When cooking this sauce, I do drain the fat from the hamburger (altho with lean hamb. there’s not much), as I do not like beef fat flavour. I add in the same amt. of ex. virgin olive oil then, instead. Now, next step, while browning garlic (I usually use powder tho), I add in my Italian seasoning, to “bloom” my spices — or I just add oregano, basil, & some thyme then, and, later on, when simmering, I add in 3-4 sm. bay leaves (removed before serving!!). I then add my tom. paste next, & almost brown it, moving it around with a mixing spoon — to make the flavour a whole lot more intense, & tastier. When simmering, I also try to keep scraping down the fond, to add even more flavour again. So, then, after “browning” the tom. paste, I then add the canned toms. & sauce or anything else. I always, yes, add sugar to taste, near the end of simmering. And I try to use seasoned salt in place of reg. salt, just add a bit less. One important thing — I also add in a splash of lemon juice — probably at least 1tbsp., or almost 2 if it’s a really large pot of sauce. You do not really taste the lemon as lemon tho. (And when making for instance a veg. soup & you don’t want to add more salt, but it needs it, add some lemon juice, a tbsp. or 2 — it then tastes “saltier,” but not lemony. Neat trick!!!) And here’s a nice Italian dinner: Pork schnitzel served with meat sauce over rigatoni noodles, & serve lemon wedges to drizzle over the schnitzel & pasta — totally amazing!! A spritz of lemon juice over a plain tom. sauce recipe is also great. Yes, chopped fresh parsley sprinkled over all!! Re. your, or my, tom. meat sauce recipe, I particularly like adding in any flavour of Catelli’s jarred tom. sauce — it’s very delicious as a base, and I won’t now use anything else!!

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