There are few dishes as comforting and versatile as a classic meat sauce. Whether served over pasta, layered in lasagna, or used as a topping for baked potatoes, this rich and hearty sauce is a staple in many households. Today, we'll walk you through a foolproof meat sauce recipe that will become a go-to in your culinary repertoire.

Meat Sauce Recipe


Before we dive into the cooking process, let's gather all the ingredients you'll need:

Meat and Aromatics

  • 1 lb ground beef (or a mix of beef and pork for extra flavor)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely grated (optional but adds sweetness)

Liquids and Seasonings

  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth (or water)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional but adds depth)
  • 1 tsp sugar (to balance acidity)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Optional Enhancements

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil or parsley for garnish

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

1. Prepare Your Ingredients

Before you start cooking, make sure all your ingredients are prepped and ready. Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and grate the carrot if you're using it.

2. Brown the Meat

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, add the ground beef. Cook until browned, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.

3. Sauté the Aromatics

In the same pot, add another tablespoon of olive oil if needed. Add the chopped onion and grated carrot, sautéing until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.

4. Combine and Simmer

Return the browned meat to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes to caramelize. Add the crushed tomatoes, beef broth, and wine (if using). Stir in the sugar, bay leaf, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer.

5. Simmer for Depth of Flavor

Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you have time, simmer for up to 2 hours to deepen the flavors further. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can add a bit more broth or water.

Tips for Adjusting Consistency and Flavor

  • Thicker Sauce: Simmer longer or add more tomato paste.
  • Thinner Sauce: Add more broth or a splash of water.
  • Richer Sauce: Increase the amount of wine and cook it down before adding other liquids.
  • Sweeter Sauce: Add more grated carrot or a pinch of more sugar.

Serving Suggestions and Leftover Ideas

This meat sauce is incredibly versatile. Here are some serving ideas:

  • Over Pasta: Spoon generous amounts over your favorite pasta.
  • Lasagna: Use as a filling between layers of pasta, ricotta, and mozzarella.
  • On Potatoes: Pour over baked potatoes for a hearty meal.
  • As a Pizza Topping: Spread on pizza dough before adding cheese and other toppings.

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.


Classic meat sauce is a cornerstone recipe for any home cook, perfect for a range of dishes. Enjoy experimenting with this base recipe and add your personal touch to create a sauce that's uniquely yours. Happy cooking!

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