My Really Simple Italian Meat Sauce

On a rainy summer day or a cold winter afternoon I sometimes get the urge to make my marinara sauce. It’s best made with fresh tomatoes and needs to simmer slowly for a couple of hours to let the flavors develop. I usually make a pretty big batch and we freeze it in pint and quart containers that we can use as needed. But no matter how much I make, it seems that we run out before tomatoes are in season, or I just don’t want to spend lots of time in the kitchen.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” says the old proverb, but so is laziness. Here is a meat sauce with lots of flavor that you can serve a half hour after you open the first can. Start the pasta water when the meat starts to brown, and everything will be ready before the family starts whining for supper.

It is easier to open a jar of commercial sauce, but if you follow this recipe, you’ll be serving a sauce that tastes better with less starch, sugar and salt than commercial products. If you appreciate good food, are concerned about your health, have diabetes or other health issues, this sauce is for you.

This recipe makes six generous servings.


1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. hot or sweet Italian sausage
3 T chopped onion
3 T green bell pepper
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/4 tsp. fennel
1/8 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/16 tsp. cayenne
1/16 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tsp. olive oil


Brown the meat in a three quart saucepan, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. Drain any excess fat. Chop the onion and pepper to a quarter inch dice and add it to the meat. Cook for two or three minutes to soften the onion.

While the meat and vegetables are cooking, measure the spices into a mortar or coffee cup and grind them together a little with a pestle or spoon. Stir them into the meat mixture and sauté them a minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste along with the wine and olive oil.

Mix everything together, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce while the pasta finishes cooking. When the pasta is nearly ready, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.

Serve over pasta of your choice with a green salad and bread. Offer Parmesan cheese.

NOTES: Jerri says, “There’s a lot of meat in this sauce.” I say, “It’s meat in a sauce, not sauce with some meat in it.”

If you are concerned about the alcohol in the wine, simmer the sauce five minutes longer to make sure that you have driven off the “Devil’s brew.” You just want the flavor.

This sauce freezes well.

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