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Italian Meat Sauce

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Incredible Italian meat sauce for pasta with ground meat and tomatoes. Rosa’s classic recipe for one of the most popular Italian recipes ever!

Italian meat sauce for pasta

This is a repost from March 2018. A post dedicated to Rosa, who used to write the blog For the Love of Italian Cooking, who passed away in 2018, leaving three small children behind and a lot of people who will miss her dearly.

Rosa’s Ultimate Homemade Meat Sauce for Pasta

This recipe was posted by Rosa in September 2016 under the name of Ultimate Southern-Style Italian Meat Sauce. I followed the recipe for her calabrese sauce to the letter, I did not change a single thing, I wanted it to taste exactly as if Rosa has cooked it for us. And it was perfect, by far the best meat pasta sauce recipe I have ever made.

And if you’d like to taste some more of Rosa’s recipes, try these Macerated Strawberries or the Gnuddi or Ricotta Dumplings.

Rosa had the recipe from her nonna Rosa, who lived in Calabria, Italy. This is what Rosa said about this sauce: “What makes this sauce Southern style is that in Calabria, meat is always simmered in an abundance of pureed tomato. This is how I remember my mom and nonna Rosa preparing their sauces. A typical Northern sauce starts with a soffrito (a mixture of finely chopped/grated onion, carrot, and celery), but in this recipe, finely diced onion is gently sauteed in olive oil. In my parents’ village, it was custom not to mix onions and garlic together in a tomato sauce (for some unknown reason), but I broke that tradition by adding both in mine.”



  • A mixture of ground beef and ground pork.
  • If desired, use only ground beef.


  • Passata di Pomodoro, which is Italian rustic strained tomato sauce. (Amazon affiliate link).
  • Rosa recommends Cirio, but I have great experience with other brands as well.
  • The linked product is supposed to show you what exactly I mean with passata, I really can’t believe the listed priced, I am sure you will find much better deals in a regular supermarket.
  • A bottle of passata only costs 1-2 Euro in Germany.


  • This is the secret ingredient.
  • According to Rosa, milk helps break down and tenderizes the meat as it cooks.
  • And the most important thing for me it helps neutralise the acidity of the tomato sauce.
calabrian ground meat sauce for pasta


  • Don’t leave out the milk, it really makes a difference, I love the fact that the sauce is not that acidic anymore and I don’t need the pinch of sugar I often add to tomato sauces.
  • Don’t waste any of the good tomato sauce that will still cling to the bottle once you
    ‘ve emptied it. Add a small splash of water, shake the bottle well and pour the rests into the sauce.
  • Flavoring the sauce at the end with fresh basil leaves, freshly grated garlic, and a little olive oil is a genius idea! It really adds lots of extra flavor! As Rosa says: “They will take your sauce from good to ultimate“.
  • The Italian meat sauce needs about 30 minutes of cooking time, however, you can cook it a bit longer, especially if you want to have a thicker sauce.

Make in advance

  • This is a great recipe to make in advance or to make in larger batches.
  • I often cook this to serve to parties with lots of guests. I make the sauce the day before and only have to reheat it and cook spaghetti before dinner. Everybody just loves it, I can’t even remember how often I had to scribble down the recipe.
  • It is actually even better if you cook it one day in advance and reheat it before serving. This way the flavors will have time to mingle.
pasta sauce with ground beef and pork ready to be served

About Rosa

As mentioned above, Rosa passed away in 2018. She was killed in an act of domestic violence by her own husband.

I did not know her long, but I knew so much about her family, about her work, about the troubles in her life, about the difficulties she had with her husband. We talked about it and I did my best to support her with words, but I have never realized that things were quite as bad.

I suppose one never does until it is too late. I am left with the feeling that maybe I could have done something more to help, even if I have no idea what I could have done, we were both in Germany, but so far away that an actual meeting had to be carefully planned.

Domestic violence, which occurs mostly as violence against women or children is still an issue even in the 21st century, even in countries like Germany, the UK, or the USA, countries which put a lot of emphasis on gender equality, on human rights, children and women rights.

According to the World Health Organization, “almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime”. And “globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner”.

Terrible facts and the most terrible thing is that although things are happening, things are not happening fast enough, each day there are more women, girls, boys suffering in an abusive family environment, everywhere in this world.

More Italian recipes:

Italian Lemon Chicken

Bolognese Pasta Bake

Beef Tagliata

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Insalata Tricolore

red meat sauce sprinkled with basil in a white cooking dish
Italian ground meat sauce with tomatoes, garlic and basil in a cast-iron dish

Italian Meat Sauce

Incredible Italian meat sauce for pasta with ground meat and tomatoes. Rosa's classic recipe for one of the most popular Italian recipes ever!
4.75 from 4 votes
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Course: Pasta and Rice
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Calories: 585kcal
Author: Adina


  • Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 500 g/ 1.1 lbs ground meat half beef, half pork
  • 125 ml/ 4.3 fl.oz/ ½ cup milk
  • 1 jar tomato puree pasatta di pomodoro 700-800 g/ 24 oz (Note)
  • 2 whole basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • fine sea salt and pepper
  • Flavoring:
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • pasta and Parmesan for serving


  • Heat the oil in a large skillet. Fry the finely chopped onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ground meat and break the lumps with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat high, add the milk and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the tomato puree. Pour about 125 ml/ ½ cup water into the bottle of passata, shake to clean the tomato sauce from the walls of the jar, and pour the water into the pot. Add the whole basil leaves, grated garlic, tomato paste, and some salt and pepper.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover with a lid leaving it a bit ajar and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and continue simmering for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
  • Add the remaining olive oil, minced garlic and torn basil leaves to the dish while the sauce is still hot and stir well. Cover and let stand for a few minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
  • If making the sauce in advance, only add the flavorings after reheating, just before serving.
  • Serve with pasta or gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmesan before serving.


It can be replaced with the same amount of tomatoes from a can (without any flavorings or additions) blended with an immersion blender or in a food processor.


Serving: 1/4 of the dish | Calories: 585kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 24g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 474mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @adinabeck or tag #WhereIsMySpoon!

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Recipe Rating

Zoë Gemelli

Friday 30th of March 2018

Oh Adina, what an incredibly moving post about my beautiful cousin Rosa. I also found out on Facebook, which was unbelievably difficult to comprehend. She was every bit as amazing as everyone has said or written. She was a genuine person. She loved. She loved life, her kids, food, her extended family. And she loved me like no one else in my entire world. I'm beyond heartbroken. It's unfathomable. We need to keep her food alive. Reminding us how precious life is. And of a beautiful person. Hugs from her cousin in Toronto. xx


Friday 30th of March 2018

Hi Zoe. I am so sorry for Rosa, I still can't believe what happened to her and to her children, of course, it breaks my heart to think about them... I am sorry for you as well, for all your suffering, Rosa also told me about you, that you studied journalism and that you can write beautifully. I have been reading some of Rosa's old emails lately and it hurts so much to read the words she wrote an year ago knowing what has just happened... it makes me wish I could turn back time and warn her. It's strange, I have made her tiramisu at least 6 or 7 times after she gave me the recipe and it was always perfect, just like in the pictures she posted. But as I have tried to make it again recently (I wanted to post it), it failed both times... the biscuits kept floating in the mascarpone mixture... no idea why and I keep thinking that I cannot ask her anymore. I will try again, it was still the best tiramisu I have ever eaten.


Saturday 24th of March 2018

I think this is the best tribute anyone could have made to Rosa. I can sense through the photographs you have cooked it with love... I've never visited her blog, but the story is extremely shocking. At least she had your support... I know the horrible statistics of women beaten and killed by men from their families, even in countries where in theory women have rights and places to go (such as Germany...). I know several women who are preparing for a divorce, going through it or already after it and I realise how awful the society (and families!) are to them instead of giving them support (particularly making them feel guilty about the children's future with a single parent is most destroying and vicious!). Now wonder many stay in unhappy couples. I always tell them: think about you, be happy and your children will be happy too, but it's easy to give advice of course... Thank you so much for sharing your own feelings and experience. It was really touching....

Denise Browning

Saturday 24th of March 2018

Nothing like pasta sauce from scratch. It makes any pasta dish shine.


Friday 23rd of March 2018

I am shocked and saddened to read this, Adina. And I'm so very sorry about your friend. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt post and for sharing your own experience. Domestic violence, gun violence, we can't seem to escape from it everywhere we turn. My family and I are attending a march tomorrow against gun violence in schools and to march for change in legislation. These are sad times in many ways and I cherish the special moments around the table with my family.

Dawn - Girl Heart Food

Friday 23rd of March 2018

So so sorry for your loss, Adina! That's incredibly sad. Such a sweet way to honour your friend and such a comforting recipe. Thoughts are with you. Hugs.