Tomato-Meat Sauce

Last week I shared a recipe for a basic everyday tomato sauce. This is another simple variation of that sauce, that adds ground meat to the mix. “Does this variation need its own recipe?” you may be asking, and the short answer is no, it absolutely does not. Just add ground beef to the last recipe et voila. There is however a very important lesson on the browning of ground beef. A very crucial step that is often rushed through and not truly taken advantage of. Doing it right takes a little time, but it is well worth it. You will be adding so much more flavor to whatever dish you are making, without adding any additional ingredients. Just a little bit of patience is all you need.

This meat version of the everyday tomato sauce is great in a lasagna but might be best suited for a simple pasta dish, topped with a grated hard cheese that must cost $30/lb minimum! Or may I suggest a few shakes from the omnipresent green plastic shaker I’m sure you have in your fridge.

Starting with a little fat in your pot/pan over medium heat, start breaking up raw beef/pork/lamb.

After a few minutes of stirring and breaking up large chunks, your meat will be cooked, and some might say “brown”. NO! This is the gray stage. Add some salt and taste a piece here for reference and keep going!

A few minutes later and we’re starting to get somewhere. You should be able to see that some pieces are noticeably darker than others, but we’re not done yet.

Ok, several minutes later and you have arrived! Most of the meat should now actually be brown, and most of the moisture should have cooked out. You’ll notice that the sizzling sound will have changed, the aroma will be much more appealing and little bits of meat will be sticking to your pot. Taste again and notice the difference, then transfer to a bowl.


Brown bits stuck to the pot that we will now finesse into our sauce.

Your onions and garlic will release moisture as you saute, essentially deglazing your pot and releasing all of those bits of flavor that were stuck to the bottom.

Now at this point, we are back to our regularly scheduled tomato sauce recipe. Onions and garlic are cooked until very, very soft, and all of those little brown bits are now mingling nicely.

Browned beef returns to the party.

Tomatoes join in, and that, as they say, is that.

*The recipe below calls for 1lb of ground beef and that will yield a fairly meaty sauce. The recipe will work just as well with 3/4lb, 1/2lb, 1/4lb of meat, or use more if thats what your into.

*This sauce will also freeze very well, so you can always have some on hand when you’re short on time or motivation.

Tomato Sauce with Meat

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print


  • 1t – High Heat Oil, veg/canola/olive/safflower/grapeseed
  • 454g / 1# – Ground Beef
  • 23g / 5ea – Garlic Cloves, sliced thin
  • 185g / 1sm – Onion, small dice
  • 1t – Chili Flake (optional)
  • 28oz (1can) – Canned Tomato, blended if tomatoes are whole or diced
  • 1t – Kosher Salt (+ more to taste)
  • 1/2t – Black Pepper (+ more to taste)


  1. Heat oil over medium heat in an appropriately sized, heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Add ground beef and half of the salt and brown very well (please see step by step photos above). This will take a little time, 15-20min. Once you have achieved a nicely browned meat, remove to a bowl/plate.
  3. Add onions and garlic to the same pot and continue to cook until everything is very soft and you have released any brown bits that were stuck to the bottom.
  4. Add pepper, chili flake, and the other half of the salt and mix well.
  5. Return browned beef along with tomato to the pot and simmer gently, uncovered for 30-45min (the actual time will depend on the water content of the tomatoes you are using).
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning.

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