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Close-up of homemade meat sauce in pot with spoon, ready for serving.

Homemade Meat Sauce

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: María
  • Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x


Mmmmm… gravy. 


Units Scale
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (15 oz) cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 1 C water from a rinsed-out tomato sauce can
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3 tsp Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp herbs de Provence


  1. Place your dutch oven over medium heat and allow it to preheat for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes add your ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon into small pieces. Season it with a teaspoon or so of Kosher salt and cook until no pink remains, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Once the meat is entirely browned, pour it through a strainer to drain the fat off completely. Set the cooked ground beef aside and add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. 
  3. Once the oil is shimmering, add your onions and bell pepper. Cook until they begin to soften, then push them aside. Add more oil to the pot and toss in the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir the ground beef back in. Next, add the tomato paste. Stir the tomato paste around, allowing it to coat the garlic. It should start to deepen in color and become very fragrant. Move the paste and garlic over a bit and add the fennel seeds. Allow them to toast, stirring the entire time, for just a minute or two.
  4. Add the peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and vinegar. Stir it all together, then stir in all of the dry seasonings. Taste it. Depending on your preference and on the tomatoes used, it might taste unbalanced: bitter, or acidic. If so, add 1 tbsp of brown sugar. You can add more or less: the amount I add varies with almost every batch I make. Add a little more salt if you think it needs it, throw in the parmesan rind, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  5. After an hour give it a stir and taste it again. Add more sugar and salt if you see fit, then cover and continue cooking for 2 more hours, until the sauce has reduced and thickened to your preferred consistency. Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, remove the parmesan rind and stir in the basil. Simmer for 15 more minutes.
  6. Optional: Simmer more. I have cooked this Homemade Meat Sauce on medium-low for 2-4 hours, on low for 6-18 hours, and in a 250°F oven for 8 hours. It is very flexible in that way.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
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