First-Night Meat Sauce Pasta From Sam Sifton

July 10, 2021
6 Ratings
Photo by David Malosh
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 8
Author Notes

"This is the meal my crowd eats on our first night of arrival in a new place with old friends, extended family, anywhere a lot of people have gathered to be together for holidays, graduations, weddings, adventure trips, weekend getaways, and funerals alike. As you'll see from the instruction below, it's not so much a recipe as an idea: browned Italian sausage and beef in a deep-red tomato sauce that you can make fiery with red pepper flakes or scent with cinnamon or both. Somethings I make it with sausage alone. Sometimes I add wine, if there's wine around. You can really do to it whatever you like. It's a welcoming dish. Serve mixed into pasta in a big, warm bowl, with garlic bread." —Sam Sifton

Reprinted from See You on Sunday. Copyright © 2019 by Sam Sifton. Photographs © 2019 by David Malosh. Published by Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, hot or mild or a mixture, cut into coins or crumbled
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 stick cinnamon, if you have one
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, if you have them
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, if you have them
  • 1 (28-ounce) can peeled whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 big glug of red wine, if there is some to hand
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried pasta of your choice
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn, if you have them
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Set a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and swirl into it the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant, 30 seconds or so, then add the sausage and beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat has browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off excess fat if you like, but I really never do.
  2. Use a spoon to clear a space in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste, stirring to break it up. Then add the cinnamon, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and dried basil, if you’re using any of those. Stir to combine, then add the tomatoes, along with the wine. Add a spray of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Lower the heat under the pan and allow the mixture to simmer quietly for 30 minutes or more, then cook the pasta and toss it with the sauce. Garnish with the fresh basil and serve alongside the Parmesan. We made it.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Greg Messer
    Greg Messer
  • Rhonda35
  • Smaug
  • denise&food

5 Reviews

denise&food July 10, 2021
This is a great pasta sauce and can be made ahead so perfect for a quick family dinner. Have made it many times and always a delicious dinner.
55 J. May 31, 2020
Have made this recipe three times, and it was an instant hit with my family. Easy. Quick. Flavorful. Perfect combination for pasta. Toasting the tomato paste at the center of the pot makes a big difference. Haven't made it with the cinnamon stick yet. This sauce also works wonderfully for French Bread pizza. Freezes like a dream.
Greg M. April 20, 2020
This recipe is kind of a mess. The first time I make something I usually follow a recipe as closely as possible, even if I question some of the methods or quantities. To begin with, you cannot brown meat in a dutch oven that is filled with softened onions. The meat cooks but it can't brown. The meat should be browned first and then the onions and garlic added afterwards. Also, 6oz of tomato paste is way too much. It left this recipe startlingly sweet, with a too concentrated tomato taste. As Sam says in the intro it is more of an idea than a recipe. I would take that to heart and tweak it as you see fit.
Smaug June 8, 2020
This does seem like the kind of thing someone (not me)might throw together depending on the contents of their pantry and the quality of their weed. I actually don't see much to be taken from it- 28 oz. tomatoes, 1 lb. pasta and 1 lb ground beef are pretty good proportions to start from, but that's hardly news.
Rhonda35 April 16, 2020
Look forward to trying this. Really enjoyed the video of Sam and Amanda cooking this pasta together.