The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce

I’ve made a lot of variations of pasta sauce over my nine years of blogging, but I think this latest version wins the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce. Why? Because it’s incredibly easy and uses only a few ingredients, yet has a wonderfully rich and hearty flavor. I first posted this sauce in my Roasted Eggplant with Meat Sauce recipe, but the sauce itself was definitely the star of the show and deserves a post of its own. In fact, I loved this sauce so much that the last time I made it I found myself digging into the leftovers with a spoon, like it was some sort of chili. I skipped the pasta and just went straight for the good stuff. 🤷‍♀️

That being said, it is, of course, awesome with pasta! Or over roasted vegetables! You don’t have to do a whole eggplant like I did in the past, I would love this sauce ladled over a pile of cubed roasted vegetables for a delightful low-carb meal.

What makes this sauce so good when it’s so simple? Two things: butter and a minimum 30 minute simmer. The 30 minute simmer is the key to dulling down the overly bright acidic flavors of the crushed tomatoes and helps caramelize the natural sugars into a deep, subtle sweetness. The butter adds body and a slight creaminess, which again, helps balance the natural acids in the tomatoes. You need both elements to make this sauce. Without one or the other you’ll just have a run of the mill red sauce and, well, that’s just nothing to write home (or blog) about.

Looking for a vegetarian version? Check out this Pasta with 5-Ingredient Butter Tomato Sauce.

The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house! BudgetBytes.com

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house! BudgetBytes.com
4.75 from 8 votes
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The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house!

Keyword Dinner, easy
Total Cost $4.35 recipe / $1.09 serving
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 (about 1.25 cups each)

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Add the ground beef and olive oil to a pot and sauté over medium until the beef is cooked through (about 5 minutes). If you're using a higher fat content beef (10% or higher), you may want to drain the excess fat once the beef has browned.

  2. While the beef is cooking, finely dice the onion. Add the diced onion and butter to the cooked beef. Continue to sauté until the onion is soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).

  3. Next, add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning blend, and some freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a pepper mill). Stir everything to combine.

  4. Place a lid on the pot and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.

  5. After a minimum of 30 minutes simmering, add about 1/2 tsp salt, stir to combine, then taste and add more if needed. The flavor of the sauce will deepen and the complexities will pop once the salt is added. Serve over pasta or your favorite roasted vegetables.

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house! BudgetBytes.com

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house! BudgetBytes.com

Step by Step Photos:

Beef Onions and Butter

Start by adding 1/2 lb. ground beef and 1 Tbsp olive oil to a pot. Sauté the beef over medium until it’s cooked through (about 5 minutes). If you’re using a higher fat content beef, you may want to drain the excess fat once it’s cooked through. While the beef is cooking, finely dice one small onion. Add the onion and 2 Tbsp butter to the cooked beef, and continue to sauté until the onions are soft and translucent (another 5 minutes or so).

Crushed Tomatoes and Herbs

Next, add a 28oz. can crushed tomatoes, 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend, and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir until everything is combined, place a lid on top, and let it come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Simmered Meat Sauce

After simmering for 30 minutes the sauce will be much less acidic and slightly more sweet, but to make the flavor really pop, you need to add salt. I would start with 1/2 tsp, give it a taste, then add more to your liking.

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house! BudgetBytes.com

And that’s all! Seriously, SO easy. And while the sauce is simmering away for its 30 minutes, you can prepare your pasta or whatever else you plan on eating with your sauce that night. ;)

This rich and subtle pasta sauce is incredibly easy, which has earned it the title of The Best Weeknight Pasta Sauce in my house! BudgetBytes.com

It’s the only sauce I need and really, I only need the sauce. Pasta optional. 😂