This Easy Meat Sauce is made of ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. It’s so easy to make and the result is thick, hearty, rich, and insanely flavorful bolognese. Serve it over cooked pasta, gnocchi, or spaghetti squash!

an above shot of two dishes with pasta and sacuce on top sprinkled with parm and greens on the side.

This Easy Meat Sauce is one of my favorite little black book recipes. Because everyone should know how to make a traditional meat sauce. It’s the kind of recipe that everyone should have on lock whenever they need to 1) impress a date, 2) eat on a dime, or 3) serve a crowd. 

This version is similar to the traditional spaghetti sauce I grew up with when we didn’t have thick Italian sausages for Sunday gravy. It’s an easy ground beef recipe that makes a ton, it’s perfect for a variety of diets and it freezes well. And, depending on what you need to use up in the freezer, it’s incredibly affordable.

Basic inexpensive sauce ingredients arranged

Ingredients Needed:

  • Ground Beef – or ground pork if that’s what you prefer. Feeling feisty, add some ground pork meatballs to this sauce too!
  • Oil – I use olive oil to sauté the aromatics before adding the ingredients for the sauce.
  • Aromatics – we’re using chopped onion and fresh garlic to create a flavor base.
  • Tomato Paste – gives the sauce flavor depth and richness and helps create a thicker texture.
  • Jarred Tomatoes – you will need one jar of petite diced tomatoes and one jar of crushed tomatoes.
  • Tomato Sauce – just use your favorite! 
  • Fresh Tomatoes – I prefer Roma tomatoes, but use any you have on hand.
  • Bay Leaves – you’ll remove these before you serve the meat sauce, but they add another layer of flavor and richness as the sauce simmers.
  • Seasonings – we’re using a blend of salt, Girl Carnivore AP Chicken Blend, and chili flakes.
  • Frozen Chopped Spinach – frozen spinach is the perfect way to round out the sauce with a little pop of color.

How to Make Meat Sauce

First, cook the beef in a large Dutch oven until browned. Once cooked, remove the beef from the pan, drain the grease, and add the onion. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic. 

Next, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings. Stir to combine, then add the spinach. Add the beef back into the sauce and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes to thicken. 

Is Bolognese the Same as Meat Sauce?

Yep! Bolognese is just the Italian word for red sauce with meat. 

It’s a thick and hearty tomato sauce that’s simmered with ground beef or pork and sometimes made creamy with the addition of milk or cream. 

Easy sauce with tons of beef over pasta and fresh salad greens. Garnished with blistered cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese

How to Thicken Meat Sauce

If your meat sauce is too thin for your liking, simply simmer it longer with the lid off to allow excess moisture to evaporate! 

Tips, Tricks, and FAQs for this Meat Sauce Recipe

Control the sodium

  • Buy and use reduced-salt canned goods. Or no salt, if possible. It’s better to have a little more say in the saltiness of your sauce.
  • Don’t drain the canned tomatoes

  • Don’t drain out the liquid in the canned tomatoes. It incorporates right into the sauce.
  • Prep ahead for the best flavor!

  • Meat sauce just gets better as it sits because the flavors have time to mingle. Plan ahead and make it 24 hours in advance for the best flavor! The longer this sauce simmers and then rests, the better the flavor.
  • Can this be made in the slow cooker?

  • Absolutely! Want to really let this simmer without worry? Make the whole recipe in your slow cooker and let it simmer over low for 5 to 7 hours.
  • Meat Sauce Variations for better taste!

    • Use another meat. Swap the ground beef out for Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground pork, or even veal. Mix whatever you have in the freezer needing to be used up, just make sure it’s not too fatty a blend or to drain or skim the fat as needed.
    • Add veggies. You can sauté any veggies you like with the onion. Try diced peppers, celery, carrots, mushrooms, you name it.
    • Make it creamy. Add a splash of heavy cream or half-and-half to make a creamy bolognese. Yep, trust me on this one.
    • Spice it up. More crushed red pepper flakes, please!
    • Give it a flavor twist. Add a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar for some extra warmth and depth.
    • Beef up this version by adding chopped fresh mushrooms in addition to ground beef. Minced mushrooms have all the umami that beef does and are a great way to get more for your money when working with ground beef. When finely minced, most skeptics won’t even notice them mixed into this pasta sauce. (What’s umami? That 5th taste that makes meaty things taste great!)
    • Add anchovies. Okay, don’t sneer at the idea until you try it. You might not like anchovies on your pizza, but you won’t even notice them in your sauce. It just makes all of the flavors pop. No fishiness it all. Anchovies just add more umami flavor.

    Serving Suggestions

    If you’re not standing at the stove shoveling this homemade meat sauce into your mouth with a spoon, it’s incredible served over spaghetti noodles, gnocchi, zoodles, or spaghetti squash if you’re Whole30. I personally enjoy it over peppery arugula.

    Make it into a bigger meal with a chunk of crusty bread, a simple green salad, or a pile of smoked brussels sprouts.

    Meat sauce over pasta with a light salad in Crow Canyon serving dishes

    How to Store

    Leftover meat sauce will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It will also keep in the freezer for up to 1 month. Make sure to store it in batches for easy reheating.

    When you’re ready to serve, thaw overnight in the fridge if frozen, then simmer on the stove over medium-low heat until heated through. You can microwave it too, but be sure to stir the spaghetti sauce after every minute so it heats evenly.


    If you’ve tried my Cheap Meat Sauce or any other recipe on please don’t forget to rate the recipe with some stars below (like 5 if you’re feeling it) and let me know where you found it in the comments below.
    I get inspired by your feedback and comments! You can also join in on the adventures on Instagram @girlcarnivoreTwitter Facebook.

    Easy Meat Sauce

    5 from 2 votes
    Prep: 30 minutes
    Cook: 30 minutes
    Total: 1 hour
    Servings: 10
    This is one of those recipes that is so easy to make and made with things usually tucked away in the pantry. Bonus, I think this meat sauce is a must for anyone's little black book recipe collection and goes perfectly with pasta or even a roasted spaghetti squash if you're doing Whole30.

    Recommended Equipment

    • dutch oven


    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 onion minced
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 6 oz jar tomato paste
    • 28 oz jar petite diced tomatoes
    • 28 oz jar crushed tomatoes
    • 8 oz jar tomato sauce
    • 1/2 cup tomatoes diced
    • 1 tspn salt
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 tbsp Girl Carnivore AP Chicken Blend
    • 1/2 tspn red pepper flakes
    • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach thawed


    • In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the ground beef; 7 to 10 minutes
    • Remove the beef from the pan and reserve. Drain the fat.
    • Add the onion to the sautee, 5 to 7 minutes.
    • Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds longer.
    • Next, add in the tomato paste, stirring to coat and cook 1 minute.
    • Add the petite diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced fresh tomatoes, salt, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes.
    • Stir to combine.
    • Add the spinach to the tomatoes and break up with a spoon.
    • Finally, add the beef back in and allow the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
    • When ready to serve, make sure the sauce is piping hot. Garnish with minced parsley and fresh parmesan cheese, if desired.


    If at all possible, get reduced or no salt added versions of any canned goods. 
    I prefer roma tomatoes for the diced tomatoes, but will use any I have on hand to add just a few fresh tomatoes to the sauce. 
    This sauce can also be frozen for a month if you make a big batch and need to store some for a future dinner. Or it keeps in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 
    Reheat in a pan over medium low heat. 


    Serving: 1g | Calories: 213kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 555mg | Potassium: 967mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 4100IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 4mg
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Italian
    Author: Kita Roberts

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    Well, Hey, Y’all.

    Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat. Kita’s impressive expertise has been honed through extensive education with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Certified Angus Beef, as well as through attending butchery demos and visiting ranchers and farmers from coast to coast, allowing her to better learn and understand American foodways.


    1. 5 stars
      Pasta with meat source is a favorite at our house, and Iove your addition of spinach to this recipe. Great idea to add a little balsamic vinegar too. So delicious!

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