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Weeknight Bolognese Sauce pasta

Weeknight Bolognese Sauce (aka Spaghetti with Meat Sauce)

  • Author: Elizabeth Rider
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Italian American


Weeknight Bolognese Sauce is a family favorite and comes together in about half an hour. If using this with spaghetti squash noodles, think ahead a bit as the squash needs to roast for about 40 minutes. Start your squash or pasta water before you begin making the sauce if you plan to eat right away. If you love it, please leave a star rating in the comments below to help other readers in our community.


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small (or 1/2 large) onion, minced
  • 1 medium to large carrot, minced
  • 1 large stalk of celery, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef (preferably 90/10 and grass-fed)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, grated, or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (28-ounce) can or box of crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 small can of tomato sauce (5-ounce can, or use a 14-ounce can if desired)
  • Sea salt: about 1 tablespoon, divided, more or less to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, about 8 spins (1/4 teaspoon)
  • optional: 2 tablespoons high-quality red wine, if you have some open
  • optional: a few grates of fresh nutmeg, if you happen to have some

Optional Garnish: freshly grated (real) Parmigiano Reggiano and/or chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley


Note: The sauce takes about 30 minutes total. If using right away, boil a large pot of water when you start making the sauce for the pasta, or prepare your spaghetti squash noodles (or anything you plan to eat with this) in advance. Always salt the water with 2 tablespoons of salt before adding pasta to boiling water.


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced onion, celery, carrot, and a big pinch of salt and saute over medium heat until very soft but not brown, about 7-8 minutes. Push the veggies to the side of the pan and move that side of the pan off slightly off your burner (or remove to a plate if you think they’ll burn or if they start to brown too much).
  2. Turn the heat to high and wait a minute, then add the ground beef, not moving it for a few minutes so it starts to brown on the bottom. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon into very small pieces as it cooks, and cook until it’s no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium, stir the veggies into the meat, then add the garlic, Italian seasoning, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, and a few spins of freshly ground black pepper (and a bay leaf if you have one). Cook 3-4 minutes until the garlic is very fragrant.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and can of tomato sauce and continue to cook over medium-low heat for another 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. It should lightly simmer but not boil. If you have time, simmer up to 30 minutes. If using, add a few grates of nutmeg when you add the tomatoes. Serve over any pasta you love, or on top of spaghetti squash noodles. Add a few grates of real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and/or chopped basil, if desired.


Note: this sauce is awesome right out of the pan, and is one of those dishes that gets even better overnight in the fridge. To make ahead: use a 6-quart Dutch oven or pot, allow to come to room temperature, cover with a lid and set in the fridge. Heat the next day and serve. Keeps in an airtight glass container in the fridge 3-4 days. Freezes well up to 3 months.

Keywords: Bolognese Sauce, spaghetti with meat sauce, red meat sauce