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Meat Sauce

This Meat Sauce Recipe makes pasta delicious and hearty! This meat sauce is rich and comforting made with lean ground beef, vegetables, fresh herbs, and spices. A family favourite Italian Dinner Recipe.

Meat Sauce in a black pot with fresh basil on top.


Ahhh pasta! I don’t think I have eaten a dish  I didn’t like! This Meat Sauce recipe is one of my favourites to pair with pasta and one that probably brings back the most memories.

This pasta dish was something my mother-in-law made for special occasions and sometimes if we were lucky she even made her own fettuccine.

My own mother made her own delicious meat sauce and Meatballs almost every Sunday. My father was not much of a pasta guy, but my mother,  me and my sisters sure were.

So my whole life, both in Canada where I grew up, and in Italy, pasta has always been a favorite meal. And what better way to serve it than with a delicious, hearty Italian sauce.

Maybe you’re wondering, what is the difference between meat sauce and bolognese? They are both meat sauces, but bolognese is a specific kind of sauce from Bologna.

The main difference is that it’s made with milk that is added after the sauce has simmered for several hours. It gives the sauce a rich creaminess. This easy meat sauce recipe I’m sharing today doesn’t need to cook as long and it has a little more tomato puree, too. No milk in this meat sauce – we save that for Authentic Bolognese!

Why I Love This Recipe

This is the perfect Sunday dinner recipe or company-coming-for-dinner-what-should-I-make-dish. When the sauce is simmering on the stove it  fills the house with so much aroma you really don’t think you can wait for dinner. But the wait will certainly be worth it.

I love this kind of homemade sauce too because you can let it thicken to what ever consistency you desire. I prefer it on the thicker side but some people, my husband for example prefers it a little bit thinner. Sometimes he wins sometimes I do!

Pasta with sauce in a silver ceramic bowl.


  • Olive oil
  • Chopped garlic, carrots, onions, and celery
  • Lean ground beef or a mixture of ground beef and pork
  • Tomato puree (passata)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Dried oregano and basil
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • Cooked pasta like spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, penne, etc

Recipe Steps

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot, then add the garlic, chopped carrot, onion and celery. Cook them on medium heat for approximately two to three minutes or until the onion is softened and translucent.

Chopped onions, celery & carrots, in a silver pan before cooking.

Add the ground beef and brown it with the vegetables. Add the tomato puree, water, and all of the spices and herbs. Stir well to combine and bring the sauce to a boil.

Cooked onions until transparent & ground beef added and browned.

Lower heat and simmer it half-covered for 35 to 40 minutes or until it’s thickened to your liking.

Sauce in pan before cooking and thickened.

Serve with your favourite pasta and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.


Can you freeze this sauce?

Yes, let it cool and store it in a freezer container.

How long does meat sauce keep?

It will keep well in the refrigerator for several days. It tastes even better a day after it’s been made when the flavors mix and meld together. Warm it on the stove and then toss it with your pasta.

Can you use another kind of meat?

Yes, ground pork or try Italian sausage. Or do a mix of meat like beef and pork. You can also use ground turkey.

Sauce in a ladle over the pot of sauce.

What to Serve with Meat Sauce and Pasta

Here in Italy pasta is usually served at noon and  pasta is called ” primo piatto” (the first dish) and then it would be  followed up with a “secondo piatto” and a “contorno” (a meat dish and a vegetable).

But if you made this fettuccine and meat sauce for dinner you could serve it with a nice salad tossed with olive oil and a little wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and of course don’t forget the Italian bread, with this dish you will certainly want to scoop up every drop of that delicious meaty sauce.

Of course don’t forget a nice glass of white wine if you wish.

Making your own delicious meat sauce from scratch is a dinner your family is going to love. Buon appetito!

More Sauces to Try

Pasta with sauce in a silver bowl with grated parmesan cheese on top.
Sauce in a ladle over the pot of sauce.

Meat Sauce Recipe

Rosemary Molloy
The best Meat Sauce recipe to make a delicious and hearty pasta dish. This meat sauce is rich and comforting made with lean ground beef, vegetables, fresh herbs, and spices.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings
Calories 741 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 tablespoons carrots chopped
  • 2 tablespoons onion chopped
  • 2 tablespoons celery chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef* (454 grams)
  • 3 cups tomato puree (passata) (680 grams)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ½-¾ teaspoon oregano
  • ½-¾ teaspoon basil
  • 3-4 leaves fresh basil leaves chopped
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 pinches hot pepper flakes or black pepper (if desired)
  • 4 cups cooked pasta (fettuccine, penne etc)

*You can use ½ ground beef and ½ ground pork if desired.


    • In a medium- sized pot add the olive oil, garlic, chopped carrot, onion and celery, cook on medium heat for approximately 2-3 minutes or until the onion is transparent.
    • Add the ground beef and brown, then add the puree, water, salt, oregano, basil, fresh basil leaves, bay leaf and hot pepper flakes (or black pepper) if desired, stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer half covered for approximately 35-40 minutes or until desired thickness, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf.
    • Serve over cooked fettuccine or pasta of choice, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired before serving. Enjoy!


    Calories: 741kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 2762mg | Potassium: 889mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 2458IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 96mg | Iron: 7mg
    Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!


    1. 5 stars
      I have always made a meat sauce similar the this all of my adult life. My mother did the same sauce also. I make large batches of this sauce and freeze it. It is so hearty and comforting and helps make life so easy when you have a homemade sauce that can be used in so many different ways. I don’t have carrots every time so I add a little sugar. Every home cook needs this sauce in their kitchen rotation. It’s good on pasta and pizza and even cabbage for those that are watching the carbs. By the way, I’m not even Italian. Yum!

      1. Hi Lasha I usually do 500 grams of fresh egg pasta or of dry, it seems 16 ounces will serve 8, so I would go for about 10-12 ounces, I think it is always better to have too much than not enough, and you can always re heat pasta the next day! Hope that helps. Enjoy.

    2. This is one seriously gorgeous pasta dish. I love pasta. We eat it way too much, but I can’t help myself. I adore it.

    3. This is SO gorgeous!! Looks like perfect comfort food. And that fork is beautiful!

    4. This looks right up my street! Love any Italian-style pasta dish, always so comforting and delicious. Thanks for sharing!

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