I’ve made many versions of pasta sauce over the past nine years of blogging, but this latest version wins the title of the best weeknight pasta sauce.
Why? This recipe is incredibly simple to prepare and uses only a few ingredients, yet it has a wonderfully rich and hearty flavor.
Originally, I featured this sauce with my Roasted Eggplant with Meat Sauce recipe, but it definitely deserves its own post.
During my last make of this sauce, I found myself eating the leftovers with a spoon instead of pasta, like it was some kind of chili, skipping the pasta altogether.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian version, try this Pasta with 5-Ingredient Butter Tomato Sauce.
What Are the Ingredients in Weeknight Pasta Sauce?
This pasta sauce consists of: ground beef, olive oil, onions, butter, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning blend, salt and pepper. That’s all.
It tastes incredible, and is totally accessible for busy weeknights.
What You Can Do with This Sauce
Obviously, this sauce goes well with pasta of any shape. It’s also great over roasted vegetables! You don’t have to do an eggplant like I did in the past.
You can add a medley of summer vegetables and make our Summer Vegetables in Red Sauce with this sauce and cubed roasted vegetables for a delicious low-carb meal (check out my Roasted Eggplant with Meat Sauce).
What Makes It a Good Weeknight Dinner?
The sauce is incredibly simple, and it doesn’t require much attention as it cooks. So why is it so good when it’s so simple?
The key to dulling down the overly bright acidic flavors of crushed tomatoes is a minimum 30-minute simmer. This allows the natural sugars to caramelize into a deep, subtle sweetness.
The butter adds body and a slight creaminess, which again, helps balance the natural acids in the tomatoes. This sauce requires both ingredients.
If either one isn’t included, you’ll get nothing more than a run of the mill red sauce, which is just nothing special (or exciting).
The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipe
There’s nothing easier than making this rich and subtle pasta sauce, which is why it’s my favorite weeknight sauce!
Cook Time: 40 mins/ Total Time: 40 mins
Servings: 6 (about ¾ cups each)
- 1/2 lb. ground beef ($2.65)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.13)
- 1 small onion ($0.32)
- 2 Tbsp butter ($0.13)
- 28 oz. crushed tomatoes ($0.89)
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.05)
- Freshly cracked pepper ($0.03)
- Salt, to taste ($0.02)
- Add the ground beef and olive oil to a pot and sauté on medium for about five minutes, draining the excess fat if you are using high fat ground beef (10%+).
- While the beef is cooking, finely dice the onion and add it to the beef. Continue to sauté the onions until they are translucent and soft (about five minutes).
- In the next step, add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning blend, and some freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a pepper mill). Stir everything together before serving.
- After the sauce is simmering, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes with a lid on.
- Adding 1/2 tsp salt after 30 minutes of simmering will activate the complexities of the sauce and deepen the flavor. Serve the sauce over pasta or roasted vegetables for extra flavor.
Serving: 0.75 Cups ・ Calories: 198 kcal ・ Carbohydrates: 11 g ・ Protein: 9 g ・ Fat: 14 g ・ Sodium: 234 mg ・ Fiber: 3 g
The nutritional values shown here are only estimates. Please see our nutrition disclaimer.
Check out the step-by-step photos below!
Step-by-step Photos of How to Make Weeknight Pasta Sauce
To get started, add 1/2 lb. ground beef and 1 Tbsp olive oil to a pot. Sauté the beef over medium heat until it’s cooked through (about 5 minutes).
While the beef is cooking, finely dice a small onion. If your beef has a high fat content, you might want to drain the excess fat once it’s done.
Continue to sauté the beef with the onion and 2 Tbsp butter until the onions are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes or so)
After that, add a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend, and freshly cracked pepper.
Put a lid on top and let it simmer until everything is combined.
Once simmering, lower the heat to low and let it simmer for at least 30 mins.
Once simmered for 30 minutes, the sauce will be less acidic and slightly sweet, but salt will really enhance the flavor.
You can start with 1/2 tsp, taste it, then add more to your taste.
You’re done! Look at how simple that is! While the sauce simmers for 30 minutes, you can prepare the pasta or whatever else you plan to have with the sauce
Basically, it’s the only sauce I need. Pasta is optional.