Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce

Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

Most of you might still be in a summer state of mind (or maybe denial). I realize a hearty, slow simmered, Italian meat sauce is likely the last thing on your mind as you cling to the last days of summer. Me? I’m so ready for Fall. It’s my favorite season—not too hot, not too cold, just right. As I sit here, writing in my back porch, wearing an old sweatshirt of Michael’s because it’s that chilly here right now—it was 45ºF when I woke up, I feel a little peace wash over me as I think about the change in seasons.

This feeling ricochets a lot lately. I love watching nature pack away her summer clothing, knowing soon her trees will be tinged with flecks of red, yellow, and gold. What makes me feel misty-eyed in saying goodbye to Summer is not the warm weather, or leisurely schedules. I’m actually looking forward to being back on some level of predictability during the weekdays.

Once the girls begin school next week, it’s officially the end of our year of living life on our own terms. That was my goal when I made the decision to homeschool last Spring. I wanted to push society’s calendar to side, and live according to how we felt, and what we needed—truly be in the moment.

I know we can still do this to some extent, and I hope they hold onto the confidence they gained, both personally and academically, during our year together. I’m a force to be reckoned with, and over the course of our year, we became a trinity of strong, fiercely opinionated women who constantly push back at the way the world tells us to live.

Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

Slow down—that is the message I want my girls to hold in their hearts as they move through their lives.

Finding that balance is difficult in a society that’s only focused on the race to the top. The world we live in today will constantly push you forward, often at a pace that doesn’t match what you’re feeling inside. Challenge those outside forces. Be more in the moment. Always push yourself to be the best person you can be, but not the best of all—that is an empty goal.

Be kind, be loving, be determined, and be true to yourself. Remember the reflection you see in the mirror every morning is the only approval you need. There’s a lot to be enjoyed on the journey along the way. Appreciate every moment, even the difficult ones—they will make you stronger, I promise, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time (secret: it seldom ever does).

Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

And so, this recipe for Sugo is perfect not just for Fall, but also a reminder that while instant gratification is great, there are things in life that can only be enjoyed when we slow down and give them time to unfurl their true potential.

Now, a word about this Sugo. I realize slowing down is not always possible. Some days we need to be on the go, and that’s okay so long as we’re mindful about carving out times to take it easy. That’s where making this Sugo comes in. You can cook this on the weekend, or whenever you have some time to get it going, as part of your meal planning strategy if you do such a thing. As with stews, Sugo is even more delightful a day or two after it’s been made.

Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

Some of you might be wondering if this can be made entirely in the slow cooker. Kind of. Unless your slow cooker has a browning function, you’ll need to start it off in a skillet on the stove top, then transfer the meat sauce to the slow cooker. At that point you can let it go all day on the low setting, or cook 3 to 4 hours on the high setting.

InstantPot and pressure cooker users, I know you want to ask me if this can be made in there, too, to speed up the cooking time. Technically, the answer is yes. I’ve done it in a pinch, and it does the job of getting dinner on the table faster. I promise you, though, it will not taste nearly as amazing as a Sugo that has been slowly simmered into submission, the meat so tender it melts the moment it hits your tongue.

Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

Eight Years Ago Fried Green Tomatoes, Peach Raspberry Tart, and Trutas.
Seven Years Ago Freezer Preserved Tomatoes, Cantaloupe Cooler, Peach Blueberry Cobbler Cake, Pickled Jalapeno Watermelon Rind, and Ginger Soy Marinated Flank Steak.
Six Years Ago 60-minute Chicken Stock, Cherry Slushies, and Perfect Pancakes.
Five Years Ago Crispy Baked Eggplant, Homemade Corn Broth, and Smoky Watermelon Gazpacho.
Four Years Ago Easy Peach Jam, Peach Allspice Muffins, Lemon Blueberry Scones, and Day 742.
Three Years Ago Minty S’mores Milkshakes, Cantaloupe Sorbet, Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and A Clean Slate.
Two Years Ago Roasted Beet Greens, Seriously Delicious Ribs, and Homemade Vegan Ricotta.
One Year Ago No Cook Tomato Basil Sauce, Crispy Baked Kale Chips, Zucchini Oatcakes, Sweet Butter Pastry Crust, Peach Blueberry Tart, Quick Pickles, and Pork Fried Rice Salad.

Sugo, an Italian Meat Sauce

4.5 from 2 reviews
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 to 6
If you'd like to keep this dairy-free, simply omit the butter. Sugo is addictive when dipping in pieces of bread, but for a rounded out meal, I serve this with hot pasta.

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 24 ounce jar crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

Instructions

  1. Swirl a bit of oil into a deep skillet—just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high flame until shimmering. Add the beef, breaking it up into small bits with your fingertips. Season the meat with salt and pepper. You might need to do this in batches as to not overcrowd the pan (remember to re-season each new batch of meat). Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until browned all over. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl.
  2. Lower the flame to medium-low. Add the onion to the pan. Sauté until slightly softened and golden.
  3. Pour in the wine, and use a spoon to scrape up any browned bit from the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the wine reduces by half.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, and butter. Add the beef back to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat to the lowest setting possible. Let the sauce simmer for 3 to 4 hours, until meltingly tender. If not ready to serve when done, you can transfer the sauce to a slow cooker, and keep it on the warm setting until ready to serve.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

17 Comments

  • Cathy Dolata Diaz

    My mom made Sugo and we always looked forward to it. I never heard anyone use this phrase outside our Sicilian-American family. Her recipe included meatballs, braciole and pork ribs. And lots of red wine. She used onion but kept it whole because she knew we liked the flavor but not the texture. Like your recipe, she did not use garlic – that was reserved for ‘salsa’ which we pronounced ‘saisa’. I used to walk by the simmering pot and dip in a piece of dried bread to ‘taste’ the Sugo. I try to keep up the family tradition and come THIS close.

    The last time my mom made it, she produced one of her best sauces ever and my husband asked for her secret. Her mind was already going and she couldn’t answer him. But I think she made it by instinct — and love.

  • Jennie

    Cathy, I love that you shared this with me. What your mom made, my family and many others I know, called Gravy. So different from what people think of as gravy! Many hugs to you. xo-Jennie

  • Kathy H.

    Hi Jennie,
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I plan on making it next week. I’m assuming the browned ground beef gets added back in the pot with the tomatoes, sugar and butter? Thanks!

  • Sally

    I’ve been craving something like this lately. I was going to make Bolognese sauce, but this looks so simple! I’ll be trying it next week.

  • Saundra Sillaway

    such beautiful pictures , fat pasta ; an idea you might try.. Put a whole onion in with the tomatoes and pull it when you serve. No messy onion bits in the sugo just the good onion flavor. Works for soup too.

  • Diane

    Wonderful recipe which I have used for years passed down through our Sicilian American family. My Nana also would throw in pork ribs if she had on hand. My daughter eats the Sugo like soup with a nice hunk of French bread. This is a simple and delicious recipe.
    Thank you Jennie for always warming my heart with your soulful messages and wonderful recipes.
    I just made your peach jam recipe again that I found last year . I Googled peach jam and that is how I found your blog last year!! I felt like I won the lotto!! So grateful!
    Thank you ..diane

  • Jennie

    I do that with my Marcella sauce, but for Sugo I prefer those tiny bits of onion—don’t find them messy at all. -Jennie

  • mallory @forkvsspoon

    Jennie – tomorrow I am making stuffed shells for a church function and as I was getting ready to make my normal tried and true sauce when I read your post and thought…why not switch it up a bit. I think I may have a contender for my ‘tried and true’. The texture is velvety and the flavor is deep, sweet, and rich. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is damn good and thanks for sharing!

  • Lola

    This looks very interesting. I’ve never used that amount of wine. Does it have a strong wine taste? Thanks.

  • Sally

    This is delicious! It was a little thicker than I wanted, so I added some pasta cooking water. This will be in regular rotation.

Leave a Comment

Rate this recipe: