If there is one single meal that defines our family, it's Spaghetti & Meat Sauce! If we needed a quick dinner after baseball on a weeknight, this was simmering in the slow cooker. To feed a big crowd of people, this was easily scaled to accommodate. When my kids went off to college, they knew how to make Mama C's Spaghetti & Meat Sauce. And I considered my job done! 🙂Jump to Recipe
I've never written down a recipe for Meat Sauce because I just make it the way I make it. However, I've been asked so many times that I decided to dig deep and figure out more exact quantities for those that want them. And this is what I'm giving you today. You can change it up if you want ... my son does! But just know that if you make changes, you aren't making Mama C's Spaghetti & Meat Sauce!! And I'm totally fine with that ... you should make your own sauce and own it!
What kind of meat do you put in your meat sauce?
Meat Sauce really benefits from more than one type of meat. Ground beef is fine, but you up the ante just a bit when you add hot Italian sausage. You can add mild if you are insistent, but it's just not the same. And the sauce is not spicy just because you use hot sausage! It's the blend and quantity of the two that makes the best flavor. For that reason, I use a 2:1 ratio of beef to sausage.
I always start Mama C's Spaghetti & Meat Sauce by browning the meats first. The reason is so that the fats can then cook the onions and garlic without adding any other fat. It keeps the flavor more pure.
When browning, be sure to stir often and break up the meats evenly so that you don't have huge chunks of beef OR sausage. Remember, it's the blend of the two that we're after.
Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, or passata?
Always passata! Canned tomatoes and tomato puree are too watery or too overcooked. This could be a whole post on its own!
What is passata, you ask? It is a fresh tomato sauce from Italy made from a blend of raw tomatoes that have been PASSED (hence the name) through a sieve removing the seeds and skins. Unlike our American tomato sauce, it is canned raw and processed minimally resulting in a wonderfully fresh tasting tomato sauce. It is usually sold in glass bottles so there's no "canned taste" messing up your sauce either. The brands I have found here in the US are Mutti and BioNaturae.
How do you season Mama C's Spaghetti & Meat Sauce?
Simple ... plenty of salt, then only oregano and basil. I also put in a bay leaf and if I have one hanging out in the freezer (I usually do!), I put in a rind of Parmiggiano-Reggiano.
Is long simmering required?
Not at all. Thirty minutes to an hour, uncovered, is a good amount. You want all of the flavors to marry well and the onions to be cooked through. If you simmer longer, cover it so that it doesn't evaporate too much, then about 30 minutes before serving, remove the lid and make sure the texture isn't watery.
Serve it up with plenty of good spaghetti (we usually make gluten-free pasta because we have some sensitivities in our family) and lots of freshly grated Parmiggiano-reggiano cheese! And there ya have it ... Mama C's Spaghetti & Meat Sauce. Pull up a chair and tuck in a napkin because you're gonna enjoy this!
Other recipes you might like:
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ pound hot Italian sausage
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic (or 10!) chopped small
- 1 bottle Italian passata about 3 cups
- 2 teaspoons basil
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Parmiggiano-reggiano rind optional
- 1 pound spaghetti
- fresh Parmiggiano-reggiano to grate
- In a large Dutch oven, brown the ground beef and hot Italian sausage.
- Add the chopped onions and garlic, and cook till the onion is translucent.
- Pour in the passata and stir to combine. Add the basil and oregano. Stir to combine.
- Tuck the bay leaf and Parmiggiano-reggiano rind into the sauce. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer 30 minutes to an hour, uncovered. If simmering longer, cover to cook, then take the lid off about 30 minutes before serving so that the water can evaporate.
- Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
- Serve with plenty of freshly grated cheese.