Once you realize how easy homemade spaghetti meat sauce is to make, you’ll never want to go back to the storebought stuff! You can make this easy meat sauce recipe in 30 minutes and it’s so fresh-tasting and delicious! The addition of butter and red wine give this tomato meat sauce a rich and complex flavor.
I have a confession to make.
Until very recently, I always bought jarred spaghetti sauce. It was a quick and easy dinner with some frozen meatballs and penne pasta.
At some point my sister Jessica mentioned she had made the best ever spaghetti sauce using something like a can of crushed tomatoes, an onion, and what seemed like an ungodly amount of butter. Looking through the internet, it has to have been Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato sauce recipe.
Anyway, it started some gears turning in my head that I could actually make an easy homemade spaghetti sauce without having to let it simmer for hours like the traditional “Sunday gravy”, or having to start with fresh Roma tomatoes and go through all the rigamarole of blanching and peeling them and getting the seeds out and all that jazz.
There was a perfectly legitimate option in between a completely from-scratch all-day event and a jar dumped in a pot.
So I started playing with making a homemade spaghetti sauce myself. Canned tomatoes are some of my favorite easy ingredients to use in the kitchen, and the butter sure seemed like a good idea to me, so I started from there. My husband and I usually like a nice hearty pasta dinner, so this quickly became an experiment in making an easy meat sauce recipe, filled with ground beef.
How I make this easy meat sauce recipe
Since this recipe is VERY loosely inspired by hearsay from my sister about Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato sauce recipe, I start with some onion, a little olive oil, and lots of butter in a Dutch oven. A whole diced onion, cooked in 4 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil.
Then I add in some ground beef and brown it.
Here’s another thing I learned recently, which should not have been news to me. If you want really nice browned ground beef, and not just grayish ground beef that happens to be cooked through, let it sit there for a couple minutes after you dump it in your Dutch oven.
Meat doesn’t brown if it’s constantly moving. Put it all in there like one giant hamburger, smash it down to get the most surface area contact, and then after a couple minutes flip the whole thing over to brown the other side. THEN you can break it up into little pieces and stir it constantly, if that’s your instinct.
Ok, so now you have some nice buttery translucent onions and actually-browned ground beef. Maybe, because you let the meat brown, there might be some bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Never fear — a little splash of red wine will deglaze it and add in a nice flavor! You can use water instead if you’d like, but I do like the depth of flavor added by the wine. Throw in some garlic and cook it until it’s fragrant.
This is when it gets fun and you get to add in all the tomatoes.
I love tomatoes. So there are a lot of them in this tomato meat sauce recipe. That’s why, even though I was going to call this a bolognese sauce, I can’t in good faith do that. A traditional bolognese sauce is mostly meat with a little tomato (almost like the consistency of taco meat) whereas this sauce is mostly tomato with a decent amount of meat.
First, I use a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes. You might think to use pureed tomatoes or a can of tomato sauce (not jarred spaghetti sauce, just the plain “tomato sauce” in a can) but I find the crushed tomatoes to have a much nicer texture and a fresher flavor. They definitely feel more “real” than a pureed sauce.
Then — because did I mention I love tomatoes? — I add in another 28-oz can of drained petite diced tomatoes. It adds a little texture to the sauce without feeling like there are big ‘ol chunks of tomato in there. And a boatload (about 1 tbsp) of dried oregano, and some kosher salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
After that, all you have to do is let it simmer for 15 minutes or longer. Fifteen minutes is fine (I know you’re hungry!) but longer is even better so the flavors can meld together.
Using and storing your homemade spaghetti meat sauce
I like to mix some of the sauce in with my spaghetti noodles and then add an extra dollop of sauce on top. And I like to dip my garlic bread in it too. I mean, it is SO GOOD. Even with all that, I usually end up with some extra. In total, this easy meat sauce recipe makes enough for 12 oz. to a pound of pasta.
You can top it with some fresh basil or parsley and some freshly grated parmesan cheese if you’d like too!
If you have any leftovers from this homemade spaghetti meat sauce, you can store it in a Ziplock baggie in the freezer. Seal it up so there’s no excess air in it and then flatten it out into a nice smooth rectangle. This helps it thaw more quickly the next time you want to use it!
And even though the recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make to begin with, having some leftover tomato meat sauce ready to go in the freezer is just as easy as it would be to open a jar and dump it in a pot. But this way is so much more delicious. You can even double the recipe if you’d like just to make sure you have plenty of leftovers to freeze!
More recipes using canned tomatoes
If you, too, love using canned tomatoes in your recipes, check out some of these other delicious dishes you can make!
- Italian Sausage Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
- 20-Minute Tilapia with Tomatoes and Capers
- Easy Turkey Chili
- Three Meat and Okra Gumbo
- Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Soup
Did you make this recipe?
Tag me in a photo on Instagram @pinchmeimeating and I may feature you in my IG stories! I’d love to see how yours came out!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 lb ground beef – 93% lean
- 1/4 cup red wine water may be substituted
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 28-oz can petite diced tomatoes drained
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- red pepper flakes optional, to taste
- Heat oil and butter over medium high heat in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Add onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until translucent and have a bit of golden color.
- Push onions to the side and add ground beef. Let it sear for a couple minutes, flip, and sear the other side before breaking it apart so it gets nice and brown.
- Deglaze with red wine or water and let the liquid cook off. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
- Add petite diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes, if desired. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Serve over top of spaghetti or your other favorite pasta. I like to mix mine into the pasta so the noodles have a chance to soak up some of the sauce.