Skip to main content

A Robust Italian Meat Sauce

Today's recipe is my Italian Meat Sauce recipe.

Do you say sauce or gravy?  Depending on where you are from, you may have a strong preference for calling the tomato-based concoction served over spaghetti either sauce or gravy.  Some say when meat is cooked with the sauce it is called "gravy" and when there is no meat, it is called "sauce".  

If that is true, then today's recipe is really "gravy", but in my neck of the woods, we refer to all tomato-based sauces as "sauce".

How to Make a Flavorful Italian Meat Sauce

(This post includes affiliate links.  Purchases made using these links help support the costs of operating this blog.)
Italian Meat Sauce
A Yummy Pot of Italian Meat Sauce

I make tomato pasta sauce all the time.  Sometimes the sauce is quick and easy, and other times the sauce cooks for several hours to develop depth of flavor.  When you want a robustly flavored sauce you generally must let it simmer for a bit to get the richness and depth of flavors you desire.  That is the case with today's recipe.
The first layer of flavor in this sauce comes from the combination of sweet Italian sausage and ground beef, cooked together until very well browned.  You do not want to hurry the browning of the meat.  Browned meat means delicious flavor.
A Delicious Italian meat sauce

The next layer of flavor comes from the addition of simple seasonings and some secret ingredients.  My sons used to ask me what made my sauce taste so yummy and I would tell them it was "the love" that only their momma could add.  Well, that is true when Momma adds a little bit of this and a little bit of that to get the flavors just right.  

In this dish "the love" comes from a little bit of red wine, a tablespoon of sugar, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan cheese simmered with the sauce.

Wine, Cheese, and Seasonings
The "Love"

Finally, the flavor is taken over the top with a couple of hours of gentle simmering on the stovetop.  You can actually see the flavor cooking into your sauce as the color changes to a deep, rich red.  It will call out to you to break off a chunk of crusty bread and dip it into the sauce after simmering there on your stove.  I like to bake up a tasty focaccia bread while the sauce is cooking for just this purpose.

Lasagna made with a robust tomato sauce.
Make a Lasagna with Your Robust Tomato Sauce

This is a perfect sauce to make on the weekend.  You can serve it on top of your favorite pasta, like I am doing today, use it to make a delicious lasagna for later in the week or freeze it in meal-sized portions for meals later in the month.

How to Make Robust Italian Meat Sauce

Printer Friendly Recipe


Italian Meat Sauce Ingredients
The Sauce Ingredients
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2-28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried basil
  • 1/2 cup red wine, your favorite
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.  I don't add any oil to the pan because the sausage and ground beef will render enough.  Add the sausage and ground beef to the pan, breaking up any chunks of the ground beef.  Season well with salt and pepper, starting with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook until the sausage and beef are well-browned and there are lots of browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the red wine, stirring to release the browned bits from the pan.  You may need to add a little water as well if there are still lots of bits on the pan.  Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the meat with the tomato paste.  

Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and basil, crushing the basil between the palms of your hands before adding.

Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer on the stovetop for two hours; stirring occasionally to be sure the sauce at the bottom of the pan doesn't burn.  

After two hours, taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. This is where you make the flavors in this sauce your own.  Add what you like. Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving.

Cool completely before refrigerating (using an ice bath) or freezing.  Serve with your favorite pasta.

Essential Kitchen Tools

6 Quart Dutch Oven
Quart Containers for Freezing

Check out my recipe for Classic Italian Lasagna.
Don't miss this Vegetable Lasagna recipe.

Before you go...Never miss a Just One Donna post by signing up to receive posts in your email or your favorite RSS feed.  Links are in the sidebar.



  1. I love making homemade pasta sauces. I wish my husband liked red sauces - they're my favorite. I'm pinning this and making it for when the family is all around. HAHA I can do an alfredo for him on the side.

  2. I made this "gravy" yesterday, it was delicious for dinner last night. I used half hot and half mild Italian Sausage and I used ground Bison instead of Beef. Those two changes added even more savory spice and taste to the recipe. Great recipe. Donna. Thank you!!!

    1. I’m happy you liked it. Quite often I will add pork and lamb, cut the sausage into chunks, and add meatballs instead of ground beef to the tomato sauce base. There’s no end to the yumminess!


Post a Comment

Talk to me. I welcome your comments. (These comments are strictly moderated. Spammers take note.)

More Popular Posts

How to Make a Perfect Bacon and Eggs Breakfast

In my opinion, the best breakfast consists of two perfectly fried eggs, crispy bacon, and toast made with hearty bread. This bacon and eggs recipe delivers. Bacon and eggs or eggs and bacon? No matter, it is definitely the breakfast you want on those lazy mornings when you have time to relax around the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee or two. The Best Bacon and Eggs Breakfast (This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  When you make a purchase using these links you help support this blog.) How to Cook Bacon and Eggs My technique was learned from my mom, by watching her make our family's breakfast over and over again, year after year.  This is a basted egg recipe which means the eggs are cooked in bacon grease. Cooking eggs in bacon fat is easy and takes just a little practice to perfect. All you really need for a great bacon and eggs breakfast is a good nonstick skillet and a good toaster . If you want to make your own bread fo

How to Trap and Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Fruit flies can be a huge annoyance at certain times of the year. What can you do to kill fruit flies? We've all been there wondering how to get rid of fruit flies.  Fruit flies in the kitchen.  Fruit flies in the bathroom.  Fruit flies buzzing around everywhere in your home.   It's a frustrating problem that happens to everyone at one time or another.  If you are a fresh fruit and produce lover you certainly know what I mean. How to Kill Fruit Flies with Two Ingredients Those pesky little buggers can often be brought into your home on the vegetables and fruit you buy. You don't have to tolerate the annoyance.  This homemade fruit fly trap is one I have been using for many years and it works every time. 

The Best Asian Dipping Sauce You'll Ever Taste

If you're looking for a versatile, easy-to-make Asian dipping sauce perfect for sushi and dumplings, then you've come to the right place. This recipe for the best Asian dipping sauce is perfect for any time you want a  kick of delicious Asian flavor. An Asian Dipping Sauce for Sushi and Dumplings Try this if you are looking for a dipping sauce that is a little more flavorful than you typically get with your takeout order. You'll love it with dumplings, too!

How to Doctor Up Store-Bought Potato Salad

Here's a potato salad time-saver for you just in time for summer cookouts. You'll love how you can transform grocery store potato salad so easily no matter whether you are hosting a BBQ or bringing a side dish for a summer barbecue. There's no judgment here. We don't always have the time to make a potato salad from scratch. Sometimes it is just easier to stop by your local grocery store to pick up a container of store-made potato salad. It's good. It's predictable.  It will do.  All it needs is a little doctoring. How to Make Store-Bought Potato Salad Better When you need a quick potato salad, and have no time to make one from scratch, that ordinary store-bought potato salad you have in your refrigerator can go from blah to amazing in just a few minutes with just a few ingredients. Yes, you can improve store-bought potato salad. How to Doctor Up Potato Salad to have a little more flavor? You're going to a potluck picnic or you are having

Grandma's Soft and Chewy Date-Filled Cookies

One of the things I can count on as the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons arrive each year is a feeling of nostalgia. The traditional foods we serve at our family's holiday tables can sure bring out all the feels. Now that it is officially cookie season, we should kick it off with an old-fashioned homemade date-filled cookie recipe. This is a soft, tender cookie with dates that is a special, nostalgic, family recipe.   An Old-Fashioned Date Cookies Recipe This old-fashioned, date-filled cookie was my dad's favorite cookie from his childhood. My dad was born in 1932 so this recipe has been around for quite a while. 

Traditional New England Whoopie Pies

Are you looking for the best whoopie pie recipe?  Whoopie pies are a quintessential New England dessert and a memorable treat from my childhood.   My mom would make them for us every once in a while.  Oh, what a treat to come home from school to a platter of chocolate whoopie pies!  Yum! Today I'm sharing my recipe for the best-ever whoopie pies. The Best Whoopie Pies Recipe without Marshmallow Fluff Whoopie Pies Whoopie pies are soft round cookie-like cakes with a smooth cream filling sandwiched in the center. Debate rages about the whoopie pie's origin.  Some say these goodies originated in New England, others say they originated with the Amish.   There is also debate about what ingredients should be in the filling.  Many recipes include fillings made with Marshmallow Fluff or buttercream but neither is  traditional, in my opinion.  The whoopie pie of my childhood is a traditional Maine whoopie pie recipe, made with a cooked flour and milk mixture added to suga

Spicy Italian Sausage Soup

Is soup your jam in winter? Through the fall and winter months, I like to make a big pot of soup at least once a week.  We'll have it for dinner and then for lunches until it is gone.  Today's recipe for Spicy Italian Sausage Soup is one of those hearty soups that will be perfect with a piece of crusty bread for dipping. Italian Sausage Soup to Spice Up Your Life This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.   Serve Up Spicy Italian Sausage Soup This soup is a flavorful and hearty Italian-inspired dish that combines the rich flavors of sweet and hot Italian sausages with fresh vegetables like red pepper, celery, onion, potatoes, and kale. It's simmered in a savory chicken stock and seasoned with Italian herbs for a deliciously satisfying meal.

Easy Chicken Parmesan-A Make Ahead Freezer Dinner

Chicken Parmesan is a favorite dinner in the Just One Donna house because it is a delicious dish that can satisfy your cravings for Italian food. It's also easy to make at home with simple ingredients you probably have in your pantry.  But what if you don't have time to cook on a busy weeknight? Don't worry, you can make Chicken Parmesan ahead of time and freeze it for later. I like to prepare Chicken Parmesan to have on hand in my freezer for those busy weeknights when we might be tempted to head to a restaurant instead of eating at home.  How to Make Freezer Chicken Parmesan for Busy Nights This post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small compensation when you shop using these links Easy Freezer Chicken Parmesan for Dinner Chicken Parmesan, also known as Chicken Parmigiana, is a beloved Italian-American dish that features breaded and fried chicken cutlets smothered in marinara sauce, melted cheese, and served over pasta. It's a comforting and hearty m

DIY Cheap and Effective Rug Cleaning

Using area rugs throughout your house help to make your home feel warm and inviting.  Area rugs help absorb noise and add pops of color to complement your decor.  How do you keep rugs clean and smelling fresh? It can be a challenge. While regular vacuuming is important, you'll want to deep clean your rugs periodically, especially if you own pets. Here's a cheap and effective rug-cleaning method I use. How to Clean Your Area Rugs (This post contains affiliate links for your convenience ) Cheap and Effective Rug Cleaning This cleaning method works well for me with both wool rugs and polypropylene rugs. I've cleaned polypropylene rugs like I have in my front entry hall and large, 8 x 10-foot wool rugs like I have throughout the rooms in my house.

Old-Fashioned Apple Muffins Recipe

Fall is in the air, and what better way to celebrate the season than with a delightful batch of homemade apple muffins? These moist and flavorful treats are a cherished family recipe, that was passed down from my mom. These old-fashioned apple muffins are quick and easy to make for cozy fall mornings and will be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving breakfast or brunch spread. So, get ready to embrace the flavors of autumn as we dive into my mom's apple muffin recipe. Apple Muffins Recipe for Fall Are you apple-picking this season? Using fresh, locally sourced apples in your muffins can be a great way to celebrate the season and support local growers.