Ground Beef Ragu

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Growing up, my mom made spaghetti with meat sauce at least once per week.  The sauce came from a jar and the ground beef from the local grocery store.  It was a quick meal to make on busy weeknights filled with softball practice, homework, and chores.

Fast-forward to today and you will catch me making the same meal.  Admittedly, my version is less frequent than once per week and definitely more flavorful.  I skip the jar of sauce for a simpler and less sugar-laden sauce of canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, and wine.  My ground beef is not only leaner than the one mom used but also from pasture-raised cows.  I like this healthier version for many reasons and believe you can certainly taste the difference.


1 lb. Firsthand Foods ground beef
4 lbs. Roma tomatoes – peeled, seeds removed or 3 cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 medium onion – chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled, sliced
½ cup Marsala Wine
1 – 2 cups of water
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper
1 lb. cooked pasta – penne, rigatoni, or bow ties


  1. Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until completely browned and crumbly.  Drain, discard grease and set aside.
  2. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil to the same stockpot and heat over medium heat. Add onion, ½ tsp. salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.  Add garlic and continue sautéing for 1 minute.
  3. Add ground beef and stir to combine. Then add Marsala wine and allow mixture to reduce for about 1 minute.
  4. Break up the tomatoes with your hands or kitchen scissors and add them to the stockpot. Add the tomato paste, marjoram, basil, and bay leaf.
  5. Add 1-2 cups of water. Mixture should be thin enough to reduce by half while cooking.  Add ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper.
  6. Cover and simmer on low for about 1½ hours stirring occasionally. Remove and discard bay leaf.
  7. Serve over cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan cheese.