There is something that is both comforting and filling about a good Italian meat sauce. This recipe is a one-pot dish that is both versatile and simple and great for any family dinner idea. I’ve used it as the sauce for a variety of pastas such as spaghetti, rotini and even macaroni.
An Italian meat sauce is called Bolognese sauce. It usually has a mix of ground beef and ground pork in a tomato based sauce. With all the savory yumminess of these flavors cooked together you can quickly cook up the meat and add the tomato sauce with a few herbs to have dinner ready quickly. In fact, you can get dinner on the table in about 45 minutes if you cook your pasta while the sauce is cooking.
Pasta is one of my husband’s favorite meals. He doesn’t have a preference for the kind of pasta. He enjoys biting into that al dente texture and when I make this Italian meat sauce from scratch he always goes back for seconds. My teen son also loves this sauce and I rarely have any leftovers.
I sometimes will double the recipe so I can have a second batch that I stick in the freezer for another use at a later time.
Ways to Use this Italian Meat Sauce
Obviously you can use this sauce for any pasta. We love it on our spaghetti, or with rotini, ziti or rigatoni. We also enjoy it atop linguini or fettuccini.
And, I also use this recipe as the meat sauce in my favorite lasagna dish. You can also use it to stuff cannelloni or shells. I like to stuff shells with ricotta and put the meat sauce over the top then bake it.
A great option is to put your pasta into an oiled baking dish and then top with shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese. Then bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Another great way to use this meat sauce is to use it as sloppy joes. You can simply toast up some buns, or slices of French bread, and spoon leftover meat sauce on top. My husband and son like to add a slice of cheese to their sloppy joes.
If your family members don’t like mushrooms you can totally leave them out. Or, you can grind them in a food processor, and cook them with the meat. You can do the same with zucchini or yellow squash to add to the meat sauce as well to add additional healthy goodness to your dish.
Ingredients for this Italian Meat Sauce Recipe
- extra virgin olive oil
- a sweet onion
- Portobello mushrooms
- ground beef
- sweet Italian pork sausage
- tomato paste, I prefer Hunt’s natural
- crushed tomatoes
- dried basil
- salt and black pepper
- fresh basil leaves, optional
- parmigiana Reggiano, optional
Tools You’ll need for Italian Meat Sauce Recipe
The tools you need for making this sauce. I prefer using a large cast iron skillet pan. And, I use a wooden spatula because it’s great for non-scratch stirring and can scrape along the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking but also the edge is perfect for crumbling the meat.
And, that’s it… you don’t need a lot of special tools to make this dinner. If you prefer to cook your meat sauce in a pot instead of a pan, I recommend a Dutch oven, because you want a heavy bottomed pot to cook on low while retaining the heat. This is especially important if you plan to do a slow, long cook to develop fantastic flavors.
How to Cook Italian Meat Sauce
This recipe is so simple! Start by heating olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms and cook to soften the onions and the mushrooms start to release liquids, about 4-5 minutes. Add meat and cook until no longer pink crumbling while it cooks.
Now, add the tomatoes and herbs, salt and pepper. Turn heat to low-medium cover with a lid, but vent to allow steam to escape.
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Let simmer for about 45 minutes on low. If you want a quick dinner set your pot of water to boil pasta at about 30 minutes into the simmering process. This way your pasta and sauce should be done about the same time.
Pour the sauce over the pasta in a nice serving dish and serve. I’ve shared some side dish options below the recipe below.
If however you want to fully develop good flavors. Let simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. If sauce is gets too thick, add a little water to achieve the desired consistency. If it is too thin, continue to simmer until it reaches the thickness you prefer.
If you don’t want to babysit your sauce, once you reach the first 45 minutes you can transfer to a crockpot to simmer for the remaining time on low heat.
Italian Meat Sauce Recipe
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
- 2 c. Portobello mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 1 lb. ground beef, 85% lean
- 1 lb. bulk sweet Italian pork sausage
- 1 - 12-oz. can tomato paste
- 1 - 28-oz.can crushed tomatoes, undrained
- 1 T. dried oregano
- 2 t. dried basil
- salt and black pepper, to taste (I prefer pink Himalayan salt)
- 1 T. fresh basil or parsley, or garnish
- Parmigiano Reggiano (or parmesan cheese)
- In a large cast iron pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms and cook until the onion softens and the mushrooms start to release liquids, approximately 4-5 minutes.
- Add meat and crumble as it cooks. Cook until no longer pink, then add the tomatoes and herbs, salt and pepper.
- Turn heat to low-medium cover with a lid, but vent to allow steam to escape. Simmer on low for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can serve the sauce after an hour, if you wish. However, or 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. For a sauce that’s full of flavor.
- If sauce is too thick, add a little water to achieve the desired consistency. If it is too thin, continue cooking until it reaches the thickness you prefer.
- Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings, I like to add a little more basil after it’s cooked to brighten the flavor. You can also add a tablespoon or two of fresh parsley, as desired.
- Sprinkle top with fresh grated parmigiana Reggiano.
- Serve immediately with your favorite cooked pasta and some garlic bread, Or, use as the base of a lasagna. You can Refrigerate or freeze unused portion for later use.
Side Dishes to Serve with Italian Meat Sauce & Pasta
You know a big favorite is going to be garlic bread. Yum! And, a simple side salad is perfect to go along with a pasta and meat sauce meal.
Or bake your own delicious homemade bread using my Simple Bread Recipe the Whole Family will Devour!
But, I’ve also served a side of green beans or steamed broccoli for some healthy green goodness.
Another good option, especially if you have little kids at home is to serve with a side of chilled grapes. They are a yummy, fresh an sweet side that everyone will love.
More Family Dinner Ideas
- Easy Asparagus Recipes for Family Dinners
- Pepperoni Rolls Family Dinner Idea
- Easy Ground Turkey Family Dinner Ideas