Nothing brings my family more joy than to learn we are having spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner. It is comfort food to the extreme: warm, filling, and each bite tastier than the last. But this is no gratuitous plate of comfort food. This is a recipe made with complex flavors that will please children and adults alike and remind you just how good good food can be.
I first got the inspiration to craft a meat sauce in the middle of winter when I was craving something hearty and warm. And while it generally makes sense during the colder months, I have since made this dish in the middle of summer and enjoyed it just as much. I have also crafted a vegan version with white beans that is equally hearty and comforting, albeit slightly lighter.
I like to use the best quality ground beef I can find since I don’t eat it very often. In my spirit of moderation, red meat gets the fewest allotments, so I like to make it count. For me that means purchasing grass-fed beef from a local rancher at my farmers market, but there continue to be increasing options to find high-quality meat in more parts of the country and world. But, this is a no judgment blog so as long as you are happy with your ingredients, that’s all that matters.
Ingredients, serves 4-6
For the meat sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons butter, oil, or coconut oil
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped (or some combination of shallot and onion that produces 1 1/2 cups of onion)
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (if serving to children you can omit or be very sparing depending heat preference)
- 3/4 cups red wine, split (I use Bogle Petit Syrah)
- 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- salt to taste
For the pasta
- 1-2 lbs pasta depending on audience. Pasta shape is all about your preference. My family likes spaghetti, but linguine, shells, or any other shape works too. The meat sauce will go a long way and could be spread out over more pasta to serve more people. Cook the amount of pasta that is right for the number of people. If you are serving more than eight people, I suggest doubling the meat sauce
- Grated parmesan, reggiano, or pecorino to sprinkle generously on top
- Heat the oil / butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 – 7 minutes. I like to add a little of my salt to the onions.
- When the onions are soft, add the garlic. But have the ground beef ready as you’ll only simmer the garlic for 1 minute
- Add the ground beef and salt generously with kosher salt. Sear a little on each side, then break up with your spoon or spatula. Cook the ground beef for 5-7 minutes, stirring and turning the meat so most of it has started to brown and there are minimal spots of pink meat.
- Once the meat has mostly started to brown, sprinkle in the oregano and red pepper flakes, if using.
- Add 1/2 cup of the red wine and stir gently. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, again stirring gently to combine. Bring everything to a boil then reduce the heat slightly and let simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- After 15 or so minutes, add the remaining 1/4 cup of red wine and the nutmeg. Taste and add salt as needed. Let it simmer again while you prepare the pasta.
- Cook and drain the pasta, returning it to the pot you cooked it in or another large pot.
- At this point, the sauce should have thickened and be ready to serve. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to spread the sauce around. Transfer to a serving bow or serve directly from the pot.
- Sprinkle each bowl of spaghetti with the grated cheese, and enjoy!