This meat sauce is incredibly flavorful but neutral enough to allow you change the flavor profile day-of to suit your needs. Want lasagne? Perfect. Want Spaghetti Bolognese? (Did you know the Brits call that Spag Bog? And now you will too.) no problemo. Want Lebanese-style stuffed peppers with a lovely cinnamon-y, spicy sauce? IT CAN DO THAT TOO.
So here’s how to make a huge batch and freeze it for whenever you feel like when that crazy craving hits.
Big Batch Bolognese Meat SauceCourse: MainCuisine: Italian, Middle Eastern, Greek, ANY!Difficulty: Medium
We’re estimating about a 1/4 cup per serving here. There are a LOT OF SERVINGS.
These measurements are all guidelines. Don’t stress out just because they’re in grams. That’s why I have ABOUT next to damn near everything. This sauce is an art, not science. Take it easy, dude.
About 440g Onion
About 60g Garlic
About 280g Celery
Around ¾ c Olive oil
Around 5 Dry bay leaves
Around 1 g Fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried
1133 g (2.5 lbs) 80% Lean Ground beef
1133 g (2.5 lbs) Ground pork shoulder (fat content will be high but is so variable don’t worry about it.)
85 g Tomato paste
237 ml (1 cup) Cabernet or other dry red wine
3,175 g Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes (4 28 oz cans. I use Cento Crushed Tomatoes)
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Making the Sauce
- Coarsely chop onion, garlic and celery, then pulse in a food processor till finely minced. Alternatively, mince the crap out of them with a sharp-ass knife. Should be fine, almost paste-like.
- In a stockpot, pour in the olive oil and add the minced veg. Set the heat to medium. This allows the vegetables to sweat out their flavors and juices as the oil comes up to temperature before browning them. Do not brown the veggies!
- After the veggies have become translucent and sweated out all their flavor sweat (ew, about 10 minutes,) add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate.
- In the biggest non-nonstick pan you own (you want some stick-age!) brown the meat in batches. Add a batch, brown it, then scoop it over into the stockpot with the simmering vegetables. Let the last batch of about half a cup of meat and all the juices etc to really darken.*
- Add the oregano and bay leaves and sauté for a minute or until fragrant. Obviously, don’t burn.
- Deglaze the pan with the cabernet. Reduce by half, making sure to scrape up all the browned bits (AKA the fond, AKA flavortown.) Pour the whole glorious sludge into the stock pot and stir to incorporate.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and about 6 cups of water, or as much water as you need to feel relatively sure that the sauce won’t stick to the bottom of your stock pot.
- Simmer uncovered over low, low heat for the next 3-4 hours. The sauce should barely be bubbling. Stir every half hour or so. Make sure to scrape the bottom to ensure no burning is happening.
- After the sauce has reduced to a consistency you approve of,** add salt and pepper to taste.
- The sauce should be flavorful and savory. The meat should be tender and not chewy. If you find yourself with annoyingly chewy meat morsels, don’t even worry about it, just keep simmering until it’s tender. Depending on the meat you get, it can take up to 4 hours to achieve maximum tenderness.
- How to Freeze and Store The Sauce
- The secret to freezing things without funk is how little air the thing is exposed to while freezing takes place. Liquid-y things like this sauce are easy to freeze. I usually freeze it in 1 quart containers (4 cups) because that’s how much I usually need for a recipe + a little left over for next day pasta lunch etc. You can also use freezer bags, just don’t overload them and lay them flat while freezing for ease of decanting.
Two suggestions freezing:
1. USE A PLASTIC CONTAINER. The container NEEDS to be able to flex and expand slightly during freezing so as not to shatter. If you use glass, the odds are it will shatter or crack, regardless of how much head room you leave. Trust me, I have done this more than once.
2. Cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap and smooth it down to reduce how much air the top of the sauce is exposed to before snapping on that lid. It’ll help it freeze totally funk-less.
3. Fridge before freezing if you can, to avoid defrosting shit in your freezer. I can never manage to do this because my fridge is constantly stuffed because I write a food blog.
I need a second fridge. Click on my affiliate links, and then buy the stuff y’all 😉
- *As you brown the meat, you’re deciding on the ultimate texture of the sauce. You can leave it in big chunks for a chunkier sauce, or like me, you can crush and smoosh and hack the shit out of it to achieve the smallest possible meat granules. I like this better because it diffuses the meat very equally throughout the sauce which makes portioning it out for freezing much easier. You can always add big chunks of ground meat to the sauce the day of if your recipe demands it.
- ** I like to make this sauce more looser than normal, because I know that i will further reduce it as I heat it up the day-of for whatever recipe I’m using it in. If the tomato coats the back of a wooden spoon, I’m good to go. It’s cool if the meat slides off. It’s not meant to be a ragu, it’s mean to be an actual sauce.
Versatile Meat Sauce Recipe Options
The other thing that is incredible about this sauce is its versatility, as I mentioned before. You’ll notice the bare amount of herbs in there. Bay and oregano show up in basically every Mediterranean and middle eastern cuisine.
To illustrate the diversity of the sauce, as well as how much time it saves you by making it ahead, we’ll be creating 4 different recipes that use it ranging from your typical-but-mouth-watering lasagne to a Lebanese-influenced stuffed pepper dish. So you have that to look forward to.
Stuff I Used to Make This Sauce
- I use All Clad for almost all my stainless steel cookery needs. Here are the links to both the stock pot and the ginormous frying pan I used to brown the meat in.
- Here are the quart-sized freezer containers I use. They are awesome and totally stackable. I use them to store my homemade bone broth as well. Our freezer is full of them.