Norma’s Meat Sauce for Spaghetti

This makes a huge pot of meat sauce. I always make this much sauce as it goes fast (trust me) and also freezes well. But you can easily cut the recipe in half.


6 oz bacon (or pancetta) chopped

2 large onions, diced

8 cloves garlic, minced or sliced thinly

2 lbs ground chuck (this is not a recipe for a lean ground meat)

1 bottle red wine

2 cans crushed red tomatoes (San Marzano preferably)


tomato paste


Worcestershire Sauce (known in my house as ‘Wooster’)



In a large dutch oven or pot, cook bacon over medium heat. You don’t want to get it crispy. Just let it cook down 5 or so minutes, get some fat from the bacon.

Add the diced onion. With heat on medium low, let onions and bacon cook down until onions are soft (this can take a while, 15 or so minutes), then add garlic and cook for a minute or two. If you need more fat, add a little olive oil.

Add the beef. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the meat is cooked, no pink. But don’t kill it.

Drain most or all of the fat from the pot. Put pot back on the stove at medium high and add the bottle of red wine.  Let the wine simmer down. You don’t want to burn it all off, maybe about half. Ignore the shocking purple color at this point.

Add the canned tomatoes, a lot of salt and pepper, a few T of dried oregano, 2 T tomato paste, a few pinches of sugar and a couple of shakes of Wooster. Let simmer on medium low to low for a few hours. Just keep stirring and tasting. You may need more seasoning. You may want to add some tomato paste for thickening. (But wait a while, this is a pretty thick sauce to begin with.) If you can’t be in the kitchen, stick the pot in the oven on 325 for a few hours. Keep uncovered either way so the sauce will thicken.

When finished, add a cup of parmesan cheese and stir. This also will thicken it and give it an even greater flavor.

Toss with freshly cooked spaghetti and enjoy.


My mom died suddenly, young, in her early 60’s… long story, she was in amazing health, it was unexpected. The point is that many of her recipes were not written down and so were lost. I’d planned to get her to write the ones I did not have down, but hadn’t yet bothered as we all knew we had plenty of time. Frankly, I thought she would outlive me. (There is a funny story about her AMAZING brisket recipe and her death I will relate at some point – we are not very respectful of death in our family. It happens.) I recreated this from memory and after making it again last week, think I nailed it pretty well. That makes it even more free form.. so have fun when you make it. If you follow this exactly you will get a great meat sauce but no need to be particular here.  She’d love that.

5 thoughts on “Norma’s Meat Sauce for Spaghetti

  1. Tom, I had to smile when I read your ingredient list. The duplication has to be yours. Norma wouldn’t have wanted everyone drunk.

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