Meat sauce for pasta

This is a big, brassy American pasta sauce that has nothing much to do with authentic, more subtle Neopolitan ragú sauces. It’s more of a tomato sauce stew of Italian ingredients that I like. I make more authentic sauces when I have the fresh ingredients (especially in tomato and basil season in August), but this family spaghetti dinner sauce tastes great, is easy to assemble, and freezes very well. I make a large batch and then freeze the leftovers in quart containers for quick weeknight meals.

Close-up of pasta sauce.
Makes: About 14 servings
Time: About 3 hours, largely unattended


  • 1 28 ounce can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes
  • 3 28 ounce can of Muir Glen whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 6 ounce cans of Muir Glen tomato paste
  • 12 lightly-grilled sweet or hot Italian sausages (I use hot)
  • 1 dozen white “stuffing” (large) mushrooms, whole
  • 2 sticks (10 ounces) Margherita pepperoni, thick-sliced diagonally
  • 2 cups rough-chopped fresh basil
  • 2 medium-sized green or red sweet peppers (I use green), chopped into pieces about 1 inch (2.4cm) square
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
  • 1 scant tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 14 ounce (400 g ) cans of Sclafani artichoke hearts, quartered


  1. Assemble all ingredients except the artichoke hearts into a large (2 gallon) cooking pot or a small stock pot.
  2. Use the red wine to wash out the tomato cans before pouring it into the pot.
  3. Simmer in the covered pot on very low heat for a minimum of 3 hours, and ideally for at least 3 hours.
  4. I start the sauce at medium heat, bring it almost to a boil, then turn the heat down until the sauce just bubbles a few times a minute, but does not actively boil.
  5. Stir at least once an hour to redistribute the ingredients, particularly those near the bottom.
  6. The whole tomatoes will break down quite a bit during cooking, but if you prefer a smoother texture you could use a hand potato masher to break them up a bit more, after at least an hour of simmering. I much prefer the chunks of tomato, which add character to the sauce and allow you to better appreciate the great flavor of well-cooked plum tomatoes.
  7. Add the artichoke hearts about 15 minutes before serving the sauce.
  8. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Plate of pasta and sauce.

Electric ranges are ideal for this kind of slow cooking. We have a gas range, and I use a metal protective plate under the pot to keep the inside bottom of the pot from scorching. A large slow cooker also works very well. You may have to scale down the ingredients to fit your slow cooker.

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