The Best Meat Sauce
This Meat Sauce recipe will satisfy all of your homey, cozy, I-need-a-hug-in-a-bowl-of-pasta feelings. It’s deeply flavourful and richly tomatoey. The recipe is simple. Nothing fancy. Just regular old ground beef like your mom made, no wine, no veal or pork or sausage. Just exactly the comfort food you want.
I cringe whenever a blogger uses “the best” to describe anything. Then from time to time, I do it myself, too. (I accept that you all are cringing.) Make the meat sauce anyway, and then you’ll understand.
The secrets are all in the techniques.
Start with a generous glug of olive oil. Fat carries flavour, friends, don’t be shy. Add the onions, add some salt, and cook lovingly until completely soft. No rush. Garlic goes in for a minute. Then the beef. More salt. (Seasoning at every step a key.)
Now with the meat, the goal is not just “cooked”. We are not stopping when it’s no longer pink. We aim to coax as much delicious, caramelized flavour from that mince as possible. You cook it until it (1) is cooked through, (2) renders its fat and then (3) browns beautifully.
Then you add tomato paste. And guess what? You need to brown that, too. Raw tomato paste has a tinny, acidic taste. But give it a few minutes on high heat to darken and caramelize the beautiful tomato sugars and magic happens. I never skip cooking out my tomato paste in any application, and it makes a huge difference.
Next, you add tomato puree. (I whiz a can of diced tomatoes in my blender, but you could just buy the puree.) Another pinch of salt.
And FINALLY, you simmer. Covered. There’s not much liquid, so you don’t want to lose any by leaving the lid off. Turn the heat down low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes at least, or for a few hours, if you’ve got all day. The result will be the best unfancy meat sauce you’ve ever made.
Feel free to stir in some fresh basil at the end if you like, but not necessary.
I felt like I majorly owed you a savoury recipe. I’ve been baking my tail off lately!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion minced
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 3/4 lbs ground beef
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1 6- oz 156 mL can tomato paste
- 1 28- oz 796 mL can unsalted tomatoes (pureed)
- About 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 tsp salt and cook until very soft, about 12 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add beef and increase heat to high. Season with another 1/2 tsp salt and cook until well browned (it'll take a while).
- Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it darkens a shade and smells toasty, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in pureed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Taste and add remaining salt to taste. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or up to a few hours, stirring every now and then and keeping it at a bare simmer.