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The Best Meat Sauce

  • Author: María
  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x


I really, really love this stuff.


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


  1. Place a 5 qt. dutch oven over medium heat and drizzle in one teaspoon of olive oil. Let the oil heat until it’s shimmering, then add the diced onion. Add a pinch of salt to encourage the onions to sweat and stir them around, cooking until they soften and become translucent – about 5-7 minutes or so. 
  2. Push the onions to the side and add the ground beef. Use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of salt and a few turns of black pepper over everything and stir the meat and onions together. Continue cooking until no pink remains.
  3. Once the meat is browned pour everything through a strainer or colander to drain the fat. Let the meat and onions rest in the strainer for a bit and return your attention to the pot on the stove. 
  4. Add the remaining olive oil to the pot, then the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes or so, then 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.
  5. 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, then add the ground beef mixture back to the pot. Stir to combine everything together. 
  6. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, Worcestershire, and balsamic red wine vinegar. Stir it all together, then stir in all of the dry seasonings, basil, and parmesan rind. Once everything is well combined, taste it. Add 1 tbsp of the light brown sugar if it’s bitter or acidic. Add a little more salt if you think it needs it, then cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. 
  7. Cook for one hour, then uncover, stir, and taste. Add the remaining sugar if needed, and adjust for salt or any other seasonings. Cover and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about a third, usually around 2 more hours or so. 
  8. Once the sauce has reduced remove the parmesan rind. Stir, taste and adjust, then serve or store. Dassit. 
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
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