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Your family will crave this easy meat sauce for spaghetti! It’s a warm, comforting, and flavorful recipe that’s freezer friendly for a quick dinner anytime.
Why you’ll love it
I was inspired to make this one while browsing the Olive Garden menu, and I saw their spaghetti with meat sauce. It’s perfectly basic and delicious with ground beef and Italian sausage in a tomato sauce, so I wanted to make my own version! And our homemade sauce is even better than theirs, if I do say so myself.
This is one of those fantastic inexpensive freezer meals that actually tastes restaurant quality with minimal effort. It’s so satisfying to make a big batch, portion it out, and look forward to an easy pasta night in the future. It also happens to be way easier to make than Bolognese, so it’s a win for busy parents or anybody short on time.
Ingredients for it
- Olive oil – for sautéing
- Onion – any variety will do, but we like sweet (Vidalia) best
- Ground beef – I like 90% lean
- Sausage – we used mild Italian sausages. You can either buy ground sausage meat or take it out of the casings.
- Garlic – always use freshly minced garlic cloves and even more than suggested if you’re a garlic lover
- Tomatoes – a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of tomato paste gives the perfect texture and flavor to the sauce
- Beef broth – for deeper, richer depth of flavor
- Italian seasoning – it’s a dried herb blend that includes herbs like rosemary and thyme in a single jar
- Dried oregano – adding this enhances the fragrant herb flavor even more
- Sugar – it’s an old trick to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Restaurants do this!
- Red pepper flakes – optional, but they add a gentle (not spicy) warmth
How to make spaghetti meat sauce
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
In a pot, Dutch oven, or braiser sauté the onion in the olive oil. Add in the ground beef and sausage, and cooked until browned. Leave in a little bit of the excess fat for flavor. Stir in the garlic.
Add in the tomatoes, broth, and the rest of the seasonings. Let it bubble, and then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season generously with salt & pepper and serve over spaghetti.
- This sauce can be made fairly quickly, but the longer you let it simmer over a low heat, the more flavorful it will become. If you have some extra time, definitely take advantage of it!
Substitutions and variations
- This will work with all ground beef or a 50/50 ground beef and ground pork mix. You could swap for ground turkey, but keep in mind that it’s a leaner meat and the sauce also won’t be quite as flavorful.
- Try adding in a splash of heavy cream just prior to serving or in individual portions of the sauce when reheating for a comforting touch.
- You can add in different dried herbs and/or fresh herbs if you have some from the garden to use up. Basil would be great.
- Serve this with any kind of pasta, not just spaghetti! That’s just our pick for a family-friendly meal since kids generally really enjoy it.
Tools for this recipe
- A garlic press is a fuss-free way to mince garlic for a variety of recipes, including this one. You don’t even need to peel the cloves first, and there’s no wasted time spent chopping garlic.
- This Staub braiser is great for browning meat and making hearty sauces on the stove.
- If you’re garnishing it with parmesan, as always we recommend grating a block with this Microplane zester since it tastes so much better fresh.
What to serve with it
- This meat sauce for pasta is perfect with a big slice of this Extra Cheesy Garlic Bread for a comfort food meal.
- Pair it with a salad. I’m a big fan of taking mixed greens and whatever veggies need using up and jazzing them up with this Olive Garden Salad Dressing!
- Try topping it with a mountain of freshly grated parmesan cheese. It’s totally not necessary but takes it to the next level.
Leftovers and storage
- This meat sauce will last in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
- Reheat in a covered saucepan on the stove over a low heat or in the microwave.
- Freeze in individual portions (or however many you plan on serving for one meal) in Tupperware for up to 6 months.
Let me know in the comments below if you tried this tasty recipe or have any questions! I’d love to hear from you. You can also tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage see note
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon white sugar see note
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Add the oil and onion to a pot, Dutch oven, or braiser and sauté over medium-high heat for 4 minutes.
- Add in the ground beef and sausage meat and cook it, breaking it up with your spoon as you go along, until browned (about 8-10 minutes). Spoon out some of the excess fat (I leave a few tablespoons in for flavor).
- Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, Italian seasoning, oregano, sugar, and crushed red pepper flakes. When it starts to bubble, reduce the heat, cover the pot with the lid slightly open, and simmer for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour or even more if desired – the longer you cook it, the more flavorful it'll become). Stir it occasionally during this time, and adjust the heat as needed to maintain a simmer (between low and medium-low on my stove). Thin with extra beef broth if needed.
- Season with salt & pepper as needed (I am generous with both), and serve over pasta.
- Use ground sausage meat or take the sausages out of their casings.
- Sugar is added to take the acidic edge off canned tomatoes, and it makes them taste sweeter and give it more of a restaurant quality taste. You can omit the sugar, but I don’t recommend it. Add more if needed.
- Portions really depend on how hungry people are and what else is served with this sauce.
- This sauce freezes well.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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