My favorite slow cooked Sunday sauce recipe! This is a version of Sam the Cooking Guy's Bolognese recipe featuring tons of veggies, beef, and a few special ingredients. The recipe is super simple and simmers for a long time to develop a perfect Sunday gravy flavor and OMG the house smell. Best ever.
Hello and hi, let's finish this year with an uber bang. I've been talking with a lot of people recently about things that I make that never change, staples that I think are so handy for everyone to be able to make all the time. A good salad dressing, one kind of bread, that sort of thing.
This easy Bolognese sauce is a new-to-me recipe that I've been working on for a few months. I watched Sam the Cooking Guy make this Bolognese on YouTube, and I loved the method, ingredients, all of it. The key to the flavor in this Bolognese is that we use stock, wine, and milk to flavor and enrich the sauce so that it's super hearty without being creamy by the end.
The recipe itself is really simple but with a few tricks that make the resulting Sunday sauce so, so worth it. I actually usually make this on Sundays to allow time for the sauce to really simmer. This isn't a quick and easy meat sauce for pasta; this is a let-it-simmer, do-some-laundry, read-your-book, stir-every-once-in-awhile labor of love that is definitely easy even though it takes some time make.
Best Spaghetti Meat Sauce Recipe
To start! Let's grab ingredients. The veggies here get grated instead of chopped which results in a smoother spaghetti sauce at the end with tons of veggie flavor and some nutrition. I use a box grater to grate onion, garlic, and celery but you could also use a food processor if you'd like.
Then we have ground beef, white wine (milder flavor than red, which I love here), beef broth, canned tomatoes (forgot them, ignore me, sorry), tomato paste, garlic, tomato paste, and milk. Whole milk FOR SURE or even half and half gives the richest flavor to this slow-cooked Bolognese.
We start with the veggies. The key for this entire meat sauce recipe is that we cook a few ingredients at a time then add more. That way each ingredient develops lots of flavor and everything is nice and saucy and married together at the end.
Cook the veggies in a drizzle of oil for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat with a sprinkle of salt, stirring as you go. The veggies should soften and release some liquid but not brown very much at all - adjust the heat as needed based on your stove.
When the veggies are soft, add the ground beef with another sprinkle of salt and cook until nicely browned and crispy in some places, breaking up the beef with a spoon as you go.
When the beef is cooked through, add minced garlic and tomato paste to the pan. Again, stir to coat everything with the tomato paste and let it sizzle just a bit - 2 minutes or so for the garlic to become fragrant but not brown.
Once the meat and veggies are in the skillet, we add liquids to the Bolognese, also in stages. First, the wine goes in. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any bits, and let the wine cook and reduce until it is nearly all gone. Then, add the canned tomatoes, beef broth, and Balsamic glaze to the skillet with another big sprinkle of salt.
At this point we have our first big simmer time - one hour or up to two hours depending on how long you want to stretch this part. The idea is to have the mixture barely bubbling but not boiling. Stir every 20 minutes or so to be sure the meat sauce doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
When almost all of the beef stock and tomato juice has cooked down, we add the milk and simmer one more time. Each time you add more liquid (after the wine, after the stock/tomatoes), the sauce should look pretty dry, and then we add more liquid to wake it back up.
Milk goes in, and this is our final simmer. The sauce will look creamy at first, but after 30-45 minutes the milk will cook into the sauce and thicken and the whole thing is just so unctuous, it's just ridiculous.
During the milk simmering period, taste the sauce when you stir it (again, every 20 minutes or so) and add pinches of salt to your preference. We started this sauce with lots of meat and veggies, so I'd guess you'll need 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt at least for this recipe, and likely a few more pinches right at the end.
Now, when the sauce has cooked down with the milk it can be turned off to cool for meal prep spaghetti sauce, or you can use the milk simmering period to cook some pasta. Whenever you cook pasta, save a cup or so of the salted cooking water right before you drain the pasta to loosen the sauce up, especially if you make the sauce in advance.
The starchy pasta water and even a few more splashes of milk bring the sauce back to life.
Homemade Meat Sauce
I mean, seriously.
The keys here are this: The white wine adds tang and flavor without being a Red Wine Sauce, if you know what I mean. If you don't cook with wine skip this step and add ½ cup more beef stock or more cooking water at the end, no worries.
The Balsamic glaze (or 1 tablespoon balsamic vin 2 teaspoons sugar) adds a barely-there flavor and sweetness to contrast the tangy tomatoes. The beef and milk make everything so flavorful without any weird ingredients.
I love this with any kind of noodles, but penne Bolognese is a particular favorite of ours for a cozy dinner on the couch. When I serve, I toss enough of the sauce with cooked pasta to just barely coat it, then add more sauce and Parmesan cheese on top.
Is this your New Year's Eve in Quarantine Dinner Plan? It definitely, definitely could be.
Enjoy this so much! It's so enjoyable to make and such a treat.
Best Spaghetti Meat Sauce Recipe
- ½ large onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef any kind you like
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine pinot grigio or similar
- 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
- 1 cup whole milk
- kosher salt
- cooked pasta and parmesan cheese for serving
- Using a box grater, grate the onion, carrot, and celery. Preheat a large pot or pan to medium-low heat with a drizzle of oil.
- Add the veggies to the pan and sauté for 5-10 minutes with a sprinkle of salt until very soft and slightly dark at the edges.
- Add the beef with another sprinkle of salt and cook until browned and slightly crispy, breaking up with a spoon as you go.
- Add the tomato paste and garlic and stir to combine for 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and stir to remove any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine reduce all the way, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, beef stock, and balsamic glaze. Stir to combine and add a few more pinches of salt. Adjust the heat as needed so the mixture is simmering but not boiling. Let the sauce simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes (stir all the way to the bottom of the pan so the sauce doesn't stick).
- When the beef stock and tomato juices are mostly reduced (go with the sauce rather than the clock), add the milk and continue to stir for 30-45 minutes more, stirring every once in awhile. During this time, taste and add more salt to your preference, probably about 2 teaspoons kosher salt from start to finish. This amount will depend on your ingredients, but the sauce should be very flavorful at the end.
- To serve right away, cook pasta during the milk simmering period. I toss a bit of pasta cooking water with the sauce. To serve, I toss the pasta with about ⅓ of the sauce then top with extra sauce and Parmesan cheese.
- To save for later, let the homemade Bolognese cool to room temperature, then freeze or keep in the fridge until ready to serve.