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Pasta with Meat Sauce

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Just about everyone loves a good pasta dinner. Especially pasta with a hearty meat sauce. The tomato-based meat sauce is rich and tangy, and the ground beef gives it depth. Spaghetti like this was one of the first dinners I learned to make.

As a high schooler, it was up to me most weeknights to make dinner for my sister and me. Early on, I learned how easy it was to boil some spaghetti noodles and toss them in marinara pasta sauce.

A funny story related to that is that most of the time growing up, we didn’t add meat to our spaghetti sauce. As a newlywed, I made the same dinner for my husband and he was appalled! I don’t think he had ever had spaghetti sauce without the meat.

A few years ago, I read that pasta made in Italy was less likely to cause digestive issues. While I have no idea if that is true or not, the argument they made sounded reasonable. So, I began buying pasta made in Italy (or with Italian flour).

Then, I learned about glyphosate (an active ingredient in Roundup) and wheat-based products. So, I began buying organic pasta several months ago. It’s not always readily available, but ALDI and Wal-Mart have some affordable organic pasta options.

Recipe Inspiration

During my stop at The Market, a local grocery store, earlier this week I did a little meal planning on the fly. I picked up some pasta because had ground beef in the freezer and canned tomatoes in the pantry to make a meat sauce.

The night before making this pasta dinner, I looked through my cookbook collection and found Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Pasta Recipes. Their Simple Italian-Style Meat Sauce recipe was the inspiration for my Pasta with Meat Sauce recipe.

Since I had a lot of fresh tomatoes on hand, I swapped out canned tomatoes in favor of my fresh tomatoes.

You might notice in my photos below that the sauce isn’t quite as red as it would have been if I used canned tomatoes for this pasta dinner.

Pasta with Meat Sauce Ingredients

  • White mushrooms
  • Sandwich bread
  • Whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Ground beef, 85% lean
  • olive oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic cloves
  • Tomato paste
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Dried oregano
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta
pasta with meat sauce ingredients, tomatoes, garlic, ground beef, onions, bread, and oil

How to Make Meat Sauce

I started early on the tomato portion of the recipe to let the fresh tomatoes cook down. Then, I quartered the tomatoes and set them on medium heat for about an hour.

While they were cooking down, I chopped the onions.

chopped onions on a cutting board

Once the tomatoes softened, I used an immersion blender to break them down. Then put them back on the stove to thicken them up

Saute the onions in a skillet until they are softened and golden

sautéing onions

Mix the panade (a paste of milk and bread) and ground beef for the meat sauce in the food processor

mixing the meat sauce ingredients in a food processor

until it is well mixed like this:

mixing the meat sauce ingredients in a food processor

Then, add the ground beef mixture to the onion mixture.

cooking the Meat Sauce

Below is what it looked like after I added the homemade tomato sauce.

cooking the meat sauce

As you can see, it needs to thicken up some. I set the burner between low and simmer. While it was cooking, I put the water on to boil for the pasta.

Let the sauce cook down for 30 minutes. I added the parmesan cheese and reserved oregano.

the thickened meat sauce

Pasta Selection

For a rich sauce like this, I like using bigger pasta than traditional spaghetti.

I recommend rigatoni or pappardelle for this pasta dinner. Usually, I make this pasta with meat sauce dinner with whichever noodles I have on hand – rigatoni or pappardelle.

Always go with your personal preference!

COOKING TIP: When cooking pasta, always reserve about 1 cup of pasta water before draining. If you choose to mix the pasta and meat sauce together before serving, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water with 1-2 cups of sauce. This helps the sauce bind with the pasta.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the best pasta to use with meat sauce?

As a general rule, pair the heartier sauces with the wider noodles: Wide ribbons like pappardelle pair well with rich, meaty sauces while the thinner flat noodles, like fettuccine or linguine, are best paired with simple cream sauces like Alfredo or delicate proteins like seafood.

What is meat sauce made of?

The sauce starts out with a mixture of ground beef which is sometimes browned along with onions and garlic, and basil is thrown in for flavor.

The Pasta With Meat Sauce Recipe

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5 from 1 vote

Pasta with Meat Sauce

Perfect for dinner any night, this pasta with meat sauce is robust and full of flavor. It will be your new favorite pasta dinner.
Course Main Course, Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Pasta, Main Course, Dinner, Weeknight Dinner, Easy Dinner, gluten-free, 30 minute meals
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 447kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces white mushrooms, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 slice sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef, 85% lean
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup juice reserved
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 12 ounces pasta

Instructions

  • Add bread, milk, salt, and pepper to a large bowl and stir until thickened OR use a food processor, pulsing several times to combine. Add beef and gently fold until well combined (by hand) or pulse until mixed.
  • If you are using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, follow the instructions at the end of this recipe.
  • Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Add onion and mushrooms, stirring frequently, until vegetables browned and dark bits form on pan bottom (about 6 to 12 minutes). Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant and tomato paste starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add reserved tomato juice and oregano), scraping up any browned bits. Add meat mixture and cook, breaking meat into small pieces with spoon, until beef loses its raw color, 2 to 4 minutes, making sure that meat does not brown.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until sauce has thickened and flavors have blended, about 20minutes. Stir in Parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Prepare pasta according to directions on box. Mix with sauce and serve.

Notes

To use fresh tomatoes: quarter the tomatoes, place in a large sauce pan and cook on low-medium heat for about an hour. Use an immersion blender (in the sauce pan) to break them down or allow to cool and use a blender. 
Add to 1 pound of pasta. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water before draining. If you choose to mix the pasta and meat sauce together before serving, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water with 1-2 cups of sauce. This helps the sauce bind with the pasta. 
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 447kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 646mg | Potassium: 819mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 336IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 4mg

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these easy Easy breads would pair perfectly


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