Growing up, my mom made spaghetti with meat sauce every week. It was quick, it was easy, and it made my dad happy. My brother, Connor, and I had wildly different views on what was the best meat for the meat sauce. He loved ground beef and I preferred the chunk of sliced sausage. Every week my mom would decide which child to please and go with that for the week. Thankfully this version will make both the ground meat lovers and the sausage link lovers happy.
This week I wanted to use up some meat that I defrosted and meal prep for Adam. He works for that very large company that you all know is taking over Seattle and his hours are long. I don't see him as much as I did with his previous job and I was looking for a way to still show him affection while not being around as much. I believe that his love language is acts of service and I thought providing him with something that would make his life easier would make him feel loved. Plus, after hearing about a few lunches of cold pizza and a sugar-free energy drink I knew I had to set in just from a health perspective!
Each Monday I do a little grocery shopping for him and cook a meal that we both eat and then I pack up lunches for the rest of the week. It's great for me too because I feel like I'm helping, I get to eat, and I don't get stuck with a bunch of leftovers that I don't want. He's really only given me the restrictions of no soup and not too spicy. This week I wasn't feeling super well, so I did it last night instead since meat sauce is quick and easy. Perfect for a late week meal prep.
Tips to Make the Perfect Sauce
The key to a good sauce is to build layers of flavor. Sure, you could throw everything in a pot and let it simmer. It's all just going to have the same flavor because it all cooked together. If you cook things a bit at a time, they are able to impart their maximum flavor into the dish and gives you that depth I'm always going on about. I know it makes this process a bit longer, but I promise it's worth it.
Start off sauteing the onions in olive oil. Don't be afraid of using too much! I'm pretty sure they've decided olive oil is good for you. Simmer that for a few minutes and then add your spices. Letting them toast a bit lets out flavor before coating it in sauce.
Now you might have seen "smoked paprika" on the list and thought that I'm crazy, but trust me! That smoky flavor is perfect for spaghetti and elevates it beyond other sauces. Smoked is important here. Thankfully Costco has a nice big container that will bring you through many rounds of meat sauce!
If you like your meat sauce with vegetables, don't be afraid to add them in. I love mushrooms and zucchini in mine. Just add them in with the sliced sausage links. Speaking of which, I usually use Aidell's Italian Chicken Sausage! A little lighter and no weird ingredients.
Finally you add the tomato sauce. I recommend using a very basic tomato sauce instead of a jarred one that is already seasoned. I want you to take control of the Italian flavors that you like! Plus most of those have a ton of salt and sugar which is just unnecessary in tomato sauce. It's plenty sweet enough! Don't forget to put a splatter guard on the top. It's the key to preventing sauce from getting all over your kitchen as it bubbles away.
There are a million things you could do with the sauce once it's done. Zoodles, any type of noodles, make a shakshuka (coming soon) or put it on garlic bread toast. I personally try to stay away from gluten and get as much fiber and protein into my diet as possible. This is where Banza Noodles come in! With 25g of protein and 13g of fiber... this is everything I need in my life. They taste great and come in a variety of noodle shapes!
Of course, you must add some cheese. Growing up, Connor and I would pile on as much of that pre-ground Parmesan in the green tub as Mom would let us get away with. These days I use a micro-plane grater with a block of Parmesan cheese. It lasts forever in your fridge and makes you look fancy AF when you have guests.
That's it! You made it! I can't wait to see what you do to elevate this dish in your own way. Send me a photo or tag me on Instagram or Facebook! I'm That Zest Life everywhere! If you're looking for a way to use up the leftovers from this amazing sauce, check out Eggs in Purgatory! It's a super simple breakfast dish made even easier by using leftover sauce.
Meat Sauce with Italian Sausage
- 1 red onion, diced
- olive oil, as needed
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 1 pkg Italian sausage links, sliced
- 32 oz tomato sauce
- 12 oz tomato paste
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 pkgs noodles of choice
- In a large pot over medium high heat, saute diced red onion in 2 tbls of olive oil until translucent (about 3 minutes). Stir minimally.
- Add spices and stir to coat. Add olive oil as needed until a loose paste forms. Saute until fragrant.
- Add ground Italian sausage and mix into onion mixture and saute for 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Saute for 3 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with red wine (add the red wine to the pot and use the liquid to get up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan).
- Add in sliced Italian sausage, stir to combine, saute for 3 minutes.
- Add in tomato sauce and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium low, and cover. You want the sauce to be bubbling slightly.
- Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over favorite pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.
If you make this recipe, be sure to tag @thatzestlife in your photo! I would love to see what you made!
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