Penne Pasta with Homemade Meat Sauce

5 from 12 votes
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Sometimes we all need something a bit comforting, something to warm us up on a cold winter night and make us feel better. This recipe for penne pasta with a homemade meat sauce will do precisely that; it’s rich, filling, and somehow nostalgia-inducing, leaving you feeling like you are eating your Grandmother’s cooking.

For more classic pasta recipes, why not try this Classic Spaghetti Pie, or some Creamy Garlic Alfredo Sauce Fettuccine?

A cupful of penne pasta and meat sauce on a white backdrop.

Penne Pasta with Homemade Meat Sauce

This post goes along with my homemade meat sauce; let’s talk about how to cook penne pasta. If you are looking for only the meat sauce and are going to use it on different pasta. then make the meat sauce ahead of time and prep a double batch! See the meat sauce recipe for cooking and freezing instructions if you only want the meat sauce. 

While it is totally fine to get your pasta from a box, a homemade meat sauce elevates your dish way more than you might think!

Penne Pasta with Homemade Meat Sauce Ingredients

Be sure to investigate the complete recipe card at the bottom for the full list of ingredients.

  • Penne pasta
  • 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
A cup full of dried penne pasta on a wooden table.

How to Make Penne Pasta with Homemade Meat Sauce

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

How to Cook Penne Pasta

  • Boil a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat
  • Cook the penne in the water until the pasta is completely cooked through but still a bit firm – cooked to al dente.
  • Drain well and serve topped with the meat sauce
  • Sprinkle parmesan cheese all over the top and enjoy
A saucepan full of meat sauce, topped with torn parsley.

How to Cook Penne Pasta

The key to making this penne pasta and meat sauce dish perfect is in cooking your pasta just right.

The best thing to do is to follow the box instructions on your specific brand of boxed pasta.

However, make sure that you do one slight thing differently – take the pasta out of the pot just a little bit before the cooking time is up. This will leave your pasta slightly undercooked, giving it just a little bit of bite.

This is known as cooking your pasta al dente and makes it taste way better. Plus, your pasta will continue to cook a little bit when you add your sauce so that it will end up with a perfect texture.

Two cupfuls of penne pasta and homemade meat sauce on a white backdrop.

Why Use Penne Pasta?

This recipe uses penne, perhaps the most classic Italian pasta type there is. However, the choice of penne isn’t just random or because it looks the best in a photo – it is also the best type of pasta for serving with a meat sauce.

The hollow chamber in the middle of each piece of pasta lets it sort of cling onto the sauce, stuffing itself as it is mixed in. With penne, every bite of pasta has a little bit of meat sauce stuck inside it, which is a totally different experience than with something like spaghetti.

You could even use the conch-shaped Conchiglie if you wanted an even greater ratio of sauce to pasta in every bite, for me, penne works perfectly here.

Looking for more tasty Pasta recipes? Try these out:




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Penne Pasta with Meat Sauce

Perfectly cooked penne pasta loaded up with a decadent meat sauce makes for the perfect dinner that the whole family will love.
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
2 hours 20 minutes
Main Course
Karlynn Johnston


  • one 454 gram box penne pasta

Homemade Meat Sauce

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


Meat Sauce

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley.

Penne Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook the penne in the boiling water until the pasta is cooked completely but still is firm when you bite it (Cook it to al dente.) This takes around 10-11 minutes depending on the brand of pasta used.
  • Drain and serve topped with the meat sauce. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Recipe Notes

  • Make the meat sauce ahead of time and prep a double batch! See the meat sauce recipe for freezing instructions.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 358kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 50g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 141mg, Sodium: 529mg, Potassium: 944mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 104IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 61mg, Iron: 6mg

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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Perfectly cooked penne pasta loaded up with a decadent meat sauce makes for the perfect dinner that the whole family will love.

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. Betty J says

    Wow! This was delicious. Cooked according to recipe. Came out perfect. Lots of flavor. Definitely a keeper. Thanks for sharing.5 stars

  2. Greg Gibson says

    Made this today, most excellent! Paired with homemade ceaser salad dressing, garlic parmesan butter and olive oil toasted french bread and when we have room cake with homemade frosting.5 stars

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