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My Favourite Meat Sauce For Pasta

If you’re a home cook you need a good meat sauce recipe up your sleeve. This is one of mine. Its secret is that I don’t brown the meat. That way it doesn’t toughen and need hours of braising to tenderize again. I also use a food processor to save a lot of knife work. Quick, easy and tasty!

Serving: 4-6 Servings


3 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, cut into large chunks
2 carrots, cut into large
3 cloves garlic
2 cups button mushrooms
3 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, or bacon, thinly sliced
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground veal
1 can tomato paste
2 cups red wine
2 bay leaves
1 large can stewed tomatoes
Salt and Pepper


Pulse onions, carrots, garlic cloves, mushrooms, celery and olive oil in a food processor until finely chopped.  This may need to be done in several batches.

Heat a large sauté pan with the olive oil and add pancetta.  Fry until golden, aromatizing the oil with the rich flavour of the Italian bacon. Add the vegetable mixture and sauté until it begins to caramelize.  Add ground meats and stir vigorously to break apart. Stir in the tomato paste, red wine, bay leaf and stewed tomatoes and continue to stir and break up any chunks of meat. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and all the flavours have blended.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.


  1. Kayla said: On Feb 27, 2014

    Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My blog looks weird when browsing from my apple iphone.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to correct this
    problem. If you have any suggestions, please share.

  2. Rosa said: On Jan 10, 2014

    Just asked for help as far as I can remember.
    Chef Michael offered you a way to a successful outcome in a pasta sauce .
    Cooking is an art, please use your creative side and share it .All you have to do is use the fresh produce.
    We in turn will be judging as you seamed fit to judge a professional.
    Happy cooking.

  3. Electa said: On Jan 9, 2014

    If Michael Smith used fresh tomatoes to make his tomato sauce unless he grew his own it would be an extremely expensive sauce. I make and can my own sauce and I use fresh tomatoes, but I grow my own and it takes an incredible amount of tomatoes to make even one batch of sauce. I usually grow around 50 tomato plants.

  4. Anita said: On Jan 9, 2014

    I am truly amazed by some people and their apparent right to fling insults. This meat sauce recipe looks amazing and I consider my spaghetti sauce to be pretty amazing already! I will definitely try this one! Thanks for sharing and I love your books…I have both and have given both as gifts as well. Catherine may not live in the real world of time restraints and budget restraints. I love recipes where the list of ingredients are what real people have in their pantry!

    Glad to see so much support for Michael’s recipes and shows, and so much condemnation for Catherine’s blatant rudeness!

  5. Debbie said: On Jan 9, 2014

    What size tomato paste?

  6. georgina said: On Sep 27, 2013

    Hello Catharine, You seem to be having a bad day!

    (quote of the Day–Can’t please everyone)

    Chef Michael is a wonderful genius down to earth chef, his meal planning and cooking is FANTASTIC,~

  7. Catharine said: On Aug 30, 2013

    Dear Michael Smith:

    I heard so much about you, especially when my brother Jim Wallace had met you out & about in London, Ontario, Canada.
    I happened to have received some freshly picked tomatoes from the garden of patient of mine & I thought I would make some tomato pasta sauce. Searching for a simple & basic recipe, I thought I would look you up on the internet to see what you may have for a recipe. I was appaulede & deeply disappointed with you while reading through your recipe of your favourite meat sauce for pasta. You stated “CANS” in your receipe! 1 CAN tomato paste, 1 large CAN stewed tomatoes. AND I THOUGHT YOU WERE A PROFESSIONAL CHEF !!! Most Professional Chefs and/or Cooks that I recall create & cook from “Scratch”. What happened to you? CANS? I take it that you are not so original. I dion’t mean to be insulting nor belittling, but let’s get with the profession!!

    Truly disappointed,

    Catharine from London, ON, Canada

    • colleen said: On Sep 4, 2013

      well you may not have meant to be insulting…..too late

    • Kristel said: On Sep 18, 2013

      If you weren’t so high on your horse and quick to judge someone who is graciously sharing his passion with people, you would realize that Michael Smith is a practical chef in using a canned product, which is often a fresher and more obvious choice in winter months when good, fresh produce is hard to come by! There is a lot more flavour and sealed in nutrition in those cans than some of the produce in the stores! Do you take the time to make your own tomato paste? If you knew much about recipes too, you would also know that you could easily substitute stewed tomatoes by using your ‘fresh’ ones.
      What do you gain by insulting and being a downer? Life is too short to worry about using ‘canned’ products! My goodness!

    • Laurie said: On Oct 6, 2013

      I have been to Italy many times, been married to two Italian-American men and know that canned tomatoes and tomato pastes are an essential and reliable part of preparation of many Italian dishes. They vary in quality (you can experiment with different brands to find ones you like), but are used when good quality fresh tomatoes are not available, too expensive, etc., as are sun-dried tomatoes. Also, the concentrated, deep, ‘umami’ flavors of tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes is sometimes what is desired for certain dishes.

    • Tracy said: On Oct 7, 2013

      Oh my word Catharine! I’m so surprised by your comment!! Chefs always rely on preserved tomatoes! Especially during the winter months when good,fresh, local tomatoes are impossible to come by; and this IS a winter recipe!

      I’ve never in all my life heard of someone complaining about using preserved tomatoes! LOL!! How absurd!

      Thanks for sharing this recipe Chef Michael! I’m trying this one tonight!

    • Leasa said: On Oct 25, 2013

      Whenever someone says they never meant to be insulting or belittling, it’s usually because they just were. You could have asked a simple question on why he (and many Chefs) use canned goods instead of all the insults. He has covered that many times in the past, and his reasons (like many Chefs) are valid. Where did you get the idea that Chefs are ‘scratch cookers)? I’m a scratch cooker, but far from being a Chef. Nuts to you Cathy.

    • Leasa said: On Oct 25, 2013

      Yes Johnsie! I spend many weeks doing my home ‘canning’. LOL

  8. Richard said: On Mar 22, 2013

    You are so much more than a Chef, you are a teacher. It took a few watches to realize you are more than just an ordinary Chef on an ordinary cooking show. I commend you for your desire to make the world a healthier and better place for us all. I wish all parents cared about what their children put in to their bodies as much as you do. Enjoy your summer, when it actually arrives. I’m off to fix me some fixin’s!

    • Catharine said: On Aug 30, 2013

      The man uses cans!! for his recipes,

      • Bill said: On Sep 18, 2013

        Catharine from London, ON, Canada

        Get a life!!!

      • Danil said: On Mar 7, 2014

        Catherine from London ON. Canada
        Every professional Chef in the world uses can tomatoes. You know nothing about professional Chefs. Sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut and be thought the fool than to open it and remove all doubt

  9. Judy said: On May 15, 2011

    Thx for recipe-it is a “must try”. On your show recently you made chili with cornbread and I missed the amount of cornmeal you added. It looked like a recipe I’d like to try but I have to cook following a recipe and wouldn’t attempt to guess an amount. Could you please let me know how much cornmeal I would add with the 1 cup of flour etc. I love your show.

  10. Great recipe. My family loves this sauce. You’ve taught me so much…love your tv show. Your son is adorable.

  11. margaret said: On Mar 7, 2011

    i’ll try this recipe cause it looks fantasy, and i think that its favourite will taste fantasy too..

  12. Joann said: On Jan 13, 2011

    Chef Michael, Hi – I have your cookbook and love its recipes, my husband loves the lasagna recipe. I copied this meat sauce recipe as we make a rink on the Ottawa river for CBC Hockey Day, Feb. 12th and then we’re having a spaghetti dinner fundraiser in the nearby village, Sheenboro, PQ, north of Ottawa. May I adapt your recipe for 100 servings? Will it work nicely for a large amount? There are recipes on the net for 100 servings but they don’t seem flavourful and use powdered garlic etc. Thanks , Jo

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I’m a FoodTV host, cookbook author and official food ambassador for Prince Edward Island, more importantly I’m a Dad and passionate home cook!