Jar-free meat sauce, in almost as little time.

It will take you longer to read this blog than to put together this sauce!

Yes, I know we all looooove those jars of pasta sauce. So quick, so easy. Pour in a pot, heat, serve. Well, if you’re anything like me you dress up your jar of pasta sauce anyway with a little sauté of onions first and often add some of that venison that’s been sitting in your freezer. Also, if you’re anything like me you read labels and notice how much stupid crap is in all those jars of pasta sauce, like added sugars, sodium and preservatives. I say screw all that. You can make a meat sauce from scratch with no funky additives in almost as little time as it takes to reheat a jar of sauce.

No, this doesn’t involve roasting tomatoes. I did that once. The results were not worth all that effort in my opinion. But then again, those were also my college days, before the time of internet recipe blogs or even much experience in the kitchen on my part, but I digress. What I like to use is the giant can of peeled tomatoes. Tomatoes, unlike most things, take to canning really really well. They wait until they are nice and ripe, blanch that skin off and can them right away, sealing in a nice fresh flavor. Most other vegetables get all gross in cans. Tomatoes do not. It’s like magic.

ground venison recipes

This yields a very fresh tasting, pomodoro-like sauce that’s absolutely scrumptious, and the only extra time involved is what it takes to cook the onion and brown the meat (which frankly I do even if for whatever reason I’m using jar sauce).

The best thing about this recipe is you know exactly what’s going into it. No hidden sodium, no hidden sugars. You salt it how you like it, add a few carrots or a sprinkle of sugar if you want a little more sweetness, and there you go. This right here is dinner from scratch in 20 minutes flat.

Quick meat sauce from scratch


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1lb ground venison
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water or red wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (you can use pesto from your freezer or a jar if fresh basil isn't available)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1lb spaghetti or other pasta (cooked)
  • grated parmesan (for serving)


Step 1
Heat the oil in a pot or large skillet on medium. Add the onion with a little salt to make them sweat and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the meat, brown it, and cook it until most of the liquid cooks off that the meat releases. Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant, about two minutes.
Step 2
Pour in the canned tomatoes, and as they start to cook gently break them up with your spoon. You can do this in a bowl with your hands before you add them if you like. (That's a good step if you're cooking with kids - they like to get their hands gooey!) Add the water or wine, bring to a gentle boil and let simmer long enough for the alcohol in the wine to cook of and the flavors to marry, about 10 minutes, give or take. Take the sauce off the heat, add the chopped fresh basil and stir it around. Serve over your favorite pasta or even spaghetti squash and garnish with more fresh basil and grated parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
Non game substitution: Whatever ground meat you like! You can also do Italian sausage, that would be pretty good.
Vegetarian substitution: This would be really delicious if you leave out the meat and toss it with those little balls of fresh mozzarella. You can also add 1-2 cups of chopped vegetables and/or mushrooms if you want a vegetarian sauce with a little more teeth to it. Omit both the meat and the cheese and this is a vegan dish, and you can increase the protein by using whole grain pasta.

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