How to Make Authentic Italian Meat Sauce

Authentic Rustica: Italian Meat Sauce,” known in Italy as ragù, is a robust and hearty sauce that forms the backbone of many classic Italian dishes. This traditional sauce combines ground meats simmered low and slow with tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, resulting in deep, rich flavors that enhance any pasta dish. Perfect for a Sunday family dinner or when you crave the comforting tastes of Italian cuisine, this meat sauce is both versatile and delicious, sure to become a staple in your culinary repertoire.

Why You’ll Love Italian Meat Sauce:

  • Rich and Flavorful: Layers of flavor from herbs, meats, and tomatoes meld together for a truly authentic taste.
  • Versatile: Perfect as a topping for pasta, a filler for lasagna, or a base for other Italian dishes.
  • Make-Ahead Convenience: Tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to develop.
  • Family Favorite: A hit with all ages, making it ideal for family meals and gatherings.

Ingredients Notes For Italian Meat Sauce:

  • Meat: Typically made with a mix of ground beef and pork for the best flavor and texture. Some versions also include pancetta or veal.
  • Tomatoes: A combination of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste forms a rich, thick base.
  • Onions and Garlic: Essential for building the foundational flavors.
  • Herbs: Fresh basil, oregano, and bay leaves are traditional. Rosemary and thyme can also be added for more complexity.
  • Wine: Red wine adds depth and enriches the sauce’s flavor.
  • Olive Oil: For sautéing and enriching the sauce.
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Recipe Steps:

  1. Brown the Meat: In a large pot, heat olive oil and add the meats, cooking until browned. Remove excess fat.
  2. Sauté Vegetables: Add chopped onions and minced garlic to the pot, cooking until translucent.
  3. Deglaze with Wine: Pour in red wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add Tomatoes and Herbs: Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, and other herbs. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Slow Cook: Reduce heat and let the sauce simmer gently for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor.
  6. Season: Salt and pepper to taste, and adjust herbs if needed.
  7. Serve: Remove bay leaves and serve over cooked pasta, garnish with grated Parmesan and fresh basil.

Storage Options:

  • Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • Freeze: This sauce freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stove.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 carrot finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk finely diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork optional; you can use all beef if preferred
  • 1 cup red wine optional; adds depth of flavor
  • 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil or parsley chopped for garnish


Sauté Vegetables:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.

Brown the Meat:

  • Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef and pork to the pot. Cook until the meat is browned, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.

Deglaze with Wine:

  • Pour in the red wine (if using) and let it simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Add Tomatoes and Seasonings:

  • Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and broth. Add the oregano and basil. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.


  • Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, partially covered, for at least 1-2 hours. The longer the sauce simmers, the better the flavors will develop. Stir occasionally, adding more broth if the sauce becomes too thick.

Final Seasoning:

  • Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, or herbs if needed.


  • Serve the meat sauce hot over cooked pasta, garnished with chopped fresh basil or parsley. You can also use this sauce in layered pasta dishes like lasagna or as a sauce for meatball subs.

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