This penne with meat sauce recipe tastes deliciously rich with a savory tomato sauce that’s touched with smoked bacon and spiked with wine. It’s an easy family favorite that you can make for dinner, and then toss half in the freezer for later. Aromatic vegetables cooked in olive oil and plenty of oregano and garlic give the sauce an unforgettable flavor that keeps you coming back for more.
Tips for Penne with Meat Sauce
While making this penne with meat sauce recipe is fairly straightforward, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind so that your sauce comes out beautifully every time you make it.
- Cook each component separately. While it’s a little more cumbersome than tossing everything into the pan at once, cooking each component of this dish separately allows them to develop their full flavor.
- Chop your vegetables very finely so that they soften easily and melt into the sauce.
- You may need to stir the vegetables while they sweat in the pan, if you’re not careful the aromatic vegetables may cook too quickly. So lift the lid of the dish and give them a stir to monitor timing.
- Use bison. While bison is a little more expensive than ground beef, it offers a richer nutritional profile and deeper and more complex flavor.
- Use a ladleful of pasta water to thin the sauce if it’s too thick.
- To freeze the sauce, let it cool to room temperature and then ladle it into stackable glass dishes like these. Place the lid on tightly, label the container, and tuck it in the freezer up to 6 months.
Penne with Meat Sauce Recipe
For the Meat Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ounces bacon (chopped fine)
- 1 pound ground bison
- 6 shallots (diced)
- 4 carrots (diced)
- 6 celery ribs (diced)
- 6 garlic cloves (minced)
- 12 ounces mushrooms (sliced)
- 3 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 4 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
For the Penne
- 16 ounces penne
- 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, etc.)
- Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- Stock Pot
- Braising Dish
Make the meat sauce.
- Warm the olive oil in a braising dish set over medium heat, and then toss in the chopped bacon. Fry it in the hot oil until it crisps and renders its fat, and then transfer it to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
- Add the bison to the pan, and let it cook in the rendered bacon fat until well-browned. Transfer it to the bowl with the bacon.
- Add more oil to the pan, if necessary, and then toss in the shallots, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sprinkle them with sea salt, and then cover the pan. Allow the vegetables to sweat in the hot fat until tender – about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon, and then transfer them to a bowl on the countertop.
- Spoon the mushrooms into the pan, and then sauté them until they soften and begin to brown – about 4 minutes.
- Return the vegetable and meats to the pan, stirring them together so that the ingredients are well-incorporated with one another. Next, stir in the oregano and crushed red pepper. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Stir them together, and then let the sauce simmer, covered, over low heat about 30 minutes.
Cook the penne.
- Bring a stockpot full of water to a boil over high heat, and then season it with sea salt as it suits you.
- Pour in the penne, turn the heat down to medium-high, and then cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's directions.
- When the pasta is ready, reserve a ladleful of the pasta water and then drain the penne in a colander.
Finishing the penne with meat sauce.
- Uncover the meat sauce, and then stir in the pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
- Spoon the penne into dishes, top with sauce and then sprinkle with fresh herbs and finely grated parmesan cheese.
- Switch your meat. While we favor ground bison in this recipe, you can also substitute ground beef, ground pork, Italian sausage, or a combination.
- Try sous vide garlic instead of fresh garlic in this recipe. It has a mellow sweetness and melts into the sauce.
- If you don’t use alcohol when you cook, try substituting an equivalent amount of bone broth and add a spoonful of balsamic or red wine vinegar.
- If you don’t have bacon, try substituting an additional 3 tablespoons of olive oil, plus chopped fresh rosemary and smoked sea salt.
- If the sauce is too acidic for your liking, you can temper that acidity by stirring in a few tablespoons of whole milk or cream.