Nothing Fancy, Just a Damn Good Meat Sauce

The beets were in season at Blue Hill last weekend. Plain as day. First, beet sliders the size of quarters. Next, beet bolognese over polenta. Last, beet tartare. All of it perfect, all of it memorable. The wordplay? Adorable. Returned to Brooklyn only wanting the real thing. Yes, very cute those beets, but now I’d like some beef.

After five months of living with my parents, we’re finally living in our new place. And by new place I mean in our friend Nick’s apartment. Not with Nick, of course, but amongst Nick’s things, such as the triceratops piñata that sits atop a television speaker in the living room. I’m enjoying all the things that come with settling into new settings, such as new windows I can spy through on my walks to and from the train and acclimating to a different shade of morning light when waking up in a new direction. Above all, though, and what I’ve truly missed, is settling into a kitchen – a kitchen I can have all to myself. And with a Whole Foods I can see just past the canal.

The weather is still cold. Soon, the weather won’t be cold though and it won’t be one-pot meals I think about at the tail end of my workday. It’ll be peaches and margaritas, mint and lime. But until then, how does one warm up a space that’s not her own? And with a triceratops piñata giving me the evil eye? Homemade meat sauce. 



(Serves 2 with leftovers)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 packages baby portobellos
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp. basil
  • 1/2 tbsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tbsp. rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • dark brown sugar, small handful
  • 1/2 lb. your favorite pasta. (I used cavatappi.)
  • olive oil, couple glugs
  • butter, couple cuts


In a skillet over medium heat, cook the mushrooms in a combination of butter and olive oil. Don't move them much; cook them slowly until they release their moisture. After about ten minutes, add the sliced onion. Stir together, then just let them be. You want them soft and brown.

Chop up the meat and throw it into a heavy pot with some olive oil. Add the garlic. Cook together for a few minutes over medium heat. Add the crushed tomatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook, stir, and taste for the next hour or so. 

Spoon it over your favorite pasta and enjoy.