Pasta with Meat Sauce

One of my favorite foods ever is meat sauce. When I was little I used to ask my mom to make it on my birthday or really any other time that she would agree. She recently taught me the basics and this is my version. It’s a surprisingly easy dish to make and always a crowd pleaser:


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion (red, white or yellow), diced
  • olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 can of tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1 can of Muir Glen crushed tomatoes (28 oz, large can)
  • 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tbsp sugar,1/2 tsp  red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • fresh or dried basil (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 pound pasta
  • parmesan cheese


  • You may substitute lean beef for a fattier beef. Usually I buy the 97% lean because it’s healthier and I don’t want to have to remove the fat. Fattier beefs will be tastier though so it’s a trade off, I’ll let you decide
  • If you don’t have an onion substitute for 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, diced
  • If you can’t find Muir Glen you can use another brand. I recently used Hunts crushed tomatoes to make a sauce and it came fine, but I still believe Muir Glen to be superior. My second choice would be Contadina brand (fine to use for paste)
  • If you don’t have fresh basil use dried. I bought a basil plant for $3.99 and it has been living and growing for over a month and providing me with fresh basil
  • Shredded mozzarella is a fine substitute for parmesan

In your large pot put the 2 tbs olive oil (or enough oil to coat bottom of pan). Bring to medium heat and add diced onion. Let the onions cook slowly for about 10-15 minutes or until just starting to brown. Stir often so that they do not burn. Once just turning a slight brown color, add the meat. Let it cook for a few minutes, then start to break it up and turn it. Mix occasionally so that it is all brown (pink should be gone). You’ll notice that the meat lets out a lot of juice. Mix often enough that the meat does not stick to the bottom of pan and burn. Allow to cook until all the juice is reabsorbed by the meat (about 15-20 minutes). I am never patient enough during this step but you should try to be, I promise that all the juices will go back in.

Once meat is cooked add one can tomato paste (do not throw away the can!). Mix in well and let cook for about 2 minutes. Then fill can with water and add to sauce. Bring to a simmer. Once you start to see bubbles add the can of crushed tomatoes. Let cook for 10 minutes and taste. If acidic, add a pinch of sugar. Also add  about 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes,  1 tbsp dried basil (if using fresh add just before serving) and just a pinch of cinnamon to taste. Let cook for another 15-20 minutes. Taste again and season as needed.

Meanwhile, boil water in your medium pot, add a pinch of salt. Cook pasta according to “al dente” instructions on the box. Meatsauce is traditionally eaten with rigatoni (large fat hollow noodles) but I also enjoy it with rotini, spaghetti and penne. Eat it with whatever you’re in the mood for/what’s in your pantry. Drain the pasta, put back in pot and add enough of the sauce to coat the noodles and get them to stop cooking (you can also use plain olive oil here instead). Serve with a generous amount of sauce and parmesan for everyone to add. Serves you & some friends with leftovers.

P.S. I had enough sauce to freeze some and I’ve been enjoying it on nights that I dont want to cook. Last night I had it with spaghetti, also extremely delicious!

spaghetti with meat sauce!

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