This meat sauce packs so much flavor nobody will ever believe how easy it is to make!

A simple combination of ground beef and tomatoes are seasoned and simmered until rich and thick! Serve over pasta, use in lasagna or even spoon it over your favorite pizza crust.

Meat sauce being served

A Hearty All-Purpose Sauce

This recipe is a one-pot wonder that packs a big punch of flavor!

This sauce is budget-friendly and a great way to stretch a pound of ground beef to feed a crowd. Add extra veggies or tomatoes to make it go even further!

Simply brown the beef and let it simmer until thick and rich, this recipe is pretty much effortless yet tastes like you’ve been cooking all day long.

Double the recipe if you can, this sauce is one of those recipes that tastes even better the next day and it freezes well.

Meat sauce ingredients

Ingredients & Variations

This sauce is not only rich and savory, but this versatile sauce can be tweaked using whatever veggies are in the fridge or pantry!

  • Any canned tomatoes work well in this recipe but since it’s the base of the sauce, I do like to splurge and use good quality canned tomatoes. San Marzanos have a bright, bold flavor and while they may cost an extra dollar or two, it’s worth the splurge to me!
  • Don’t be afraid to switch up the recipe and use ground turkey or even Italian sausage in place of the beef!
  • No bell peppers? Use sliced or shredded mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, or spinach!
  • Fresh herbs are a great addition if you have some on hand. To preserve the flavor of fresh herbs, add them once the sauce is cooked, just before serving, or toss in a cube of pesto.

Meat sauce can also be used to layer into lasagna, eggplant parmesan, or even sloppy joes or over pappardelle pasta!

Overview of meat sauce ingredients in a saucepan

How to Make Meat Sauce

Making meat sauce always follows a few basic steps.

  1. Brown the beef, onions, and garlic.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer an hour with the lid on.
  3. Remove the lid and cook another 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Remember to discard the bay leaves before serving! If you have fresh herbs like basil and parsley, stir some extra in right before serving.

Easy Meat Sauce in a sauce pan

How to Store Meat Sauce

Homemade meat sauce will keep about a week in the refrigerator if it is covered. Just reheat on the stove and add a little extra garlic to refresh the flavors!

To freeze meat sauce, ladle it into zippered bags and lay them flat. Once frozen, stack them upright to save space in the freezer! The homemade sauce should last about 3 months in the freezer!

Easy Pasta Sauce Recipes

Did you love this easy Meat Sauce? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

Meat sauce being served
5 from 66 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Easy Meat Sauce

This is an easy and versatile recipe that tastes great on pasta or used to prepare lasagna!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 4 servings
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  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup dry red wine or beef broth
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves


  • In a large pot, brown ground beef, onions, and garlic. Drain any fat.
  • Add in all remaining ingredients. Simmer covered on low for 1-hour stirring occasionally. Remove lid and simmer an additional 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
  • Remove bay leaves before serving.


Make a large batch and freeze leftovers for a quick and easy weeknight meal!
5 from 66 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 534 | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 1267mg | Potassium: 1257mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 840IU | Vitamin C: 39.1mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Dinner, Pasta, Sauce
Cuisine American
Meat sauce in a sauce pan with writing
Meat sauce being served with text.
Meat sauce being served with writing
Top image - meat sauce being served. Bottom image - meat sauce ingredients with writing


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Holly Nilsson is the creator of Spend With Pennies, where she creates easy, comforting recipes made for real life. With a passion for nostalgic flavors and simplified techniques, Holly helps busy home cooks create delicious meals that always work. She is also the author of “Everyday Comfort,” which promises to inspire even more hearty, home-cooked meals.
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5 from 66 votes (57 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. This recipe was so quick and easy and delicious!! I added some Italian sausage along with the ground beef. I am looking forward to making this for dinner again!!5 stars

    1. Thanks for letting us know Cass, I’m not sure why the top was showing 30 minutes but I have updated it now. Enjoy the recipe!

  2. Such a simple and lovely sauce! I served it with cheese tortellini and it was delicious. Definitely going into my recipe box so I can make it again!5 stars

  3. This is so good, I use 1 lb of ground beef and 1/2 lb It sausage. I also add in a grated carrot helps reduce any acid.
    Sometimes I add fresh mushrooms, When the grand kids come over, who don’t like to see “extras” in their sauce, I will put the onions and the peppers, carrot in the food processor, What they don’t see they don’t know. Great sauce.5 stars

  4. Very good! Makes a nice batch of sauce. I use ground sausage and ground Turkey or beef, depending on my mood and what I’ve separated into bags for this. Use the bell pepper; it makes a nice flavor. I use red or yellow as I don’t like green.5 stars

  5. No, no, no. I just cannot say no enough! Please, please, please, do not EVER use “Cooking Wine “. It is flavorless and contains mostly salt. I cannot stress enough to please invest in a decent bottle of table wine if you do not partake in the enjoyment of wine drinking. Any “Jug” wine does not cost very much and will keep in a cool dark place for a very long time. If you cannot drink it then, please, please, do not cook with it! Enjoy delicious food!!!

    1. Agreed, Maria! “Cooking” wine shouldn’t even be a thing. Reds or whites. To cook, I always have one of each, cheap wines on hand in the pantry. They’re the best for de-glazing delicious flavor & crispies off pan bottoms. (We love our cast iron, and I have my Grandmother’s heavy, cast aluminum, dutch oven. Stove top, oven, or open, indirect fire. Space savers as we live full time on the road) The alcohol burns off but you have the acids to balance flavors, and adds a layer of goodness. (So get a bottle of something tasty, for the Chef, if you like!)

    2. You can buy tiny, single serve wine in a little 4 pack. I think each bottle holds about 4 ounces. Great for recipes.

      I hope this is helpful :-))

  6. This recipe is delicious. I used this on my second attempt of making homemade raviolis & sauce. The first attempt went horribly wrong from the dough to the sauce. This is now my go to sauce. It was an absolute winner at dinner. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.5 stars

    1. Hi Barbara, This can depend on the recipe. I most often use a wine I would drink or have on hand. For this recipe, I usually use a cabernet sauvignon or merlot.

      You can also you can usually find ‘cooking wine’ in the grocery store near the vinegars and salad dressings if you don’t have wine on hand.

    1. We love the flavor the dry red wine gives this sauce but a red cooking wine should work as well Seeney.

  7. I like to run my cooked meat through the food processor to get rid of the big lumps. This is a good recipe. I also like to add grated carrots for their sweetness and flavor like the author suggested..

  8. Try adding a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar. It makes it taste like your sauce has simmered for hours rather than minutes.