If you’re looking for a flavor-packed homemade Sunday sauce without spending hours waiting for it to cook, this recipe is for you. It’s just the recipe for when you want something more special than store-bought pasta sauce without the hassle of making an elaborate ragu. Just a few basic ingredients simmer together for about 15 minutes, then the sauce is ready to use however you see fit — we like to toss it with al dente pasta (rigatoni is our shape of choice, but use your favorite noodle) and sprinkle each bowl with a generous helping of grated cheese. You could use the sauce for chicken Parmesan or spaghetti and meatballs as well.
This sauce is made with juicy cherry tomatoes. The bite-sized beauties are particularly nice for this recipe because you can easily find flavorful ones year-round. That means you can make a pot of this sauce even when tomatoes aren’t in season. Once you cook down the meaty ground beef, the tomatoes simmer and meld with all of the other aromatics — shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes. White wine and balsamic vinegar add a bit of brightness and acidity to the sauce, balancing out the fattiness of the beef. We like to finish the sauce with a little something fresh — parsley and basil are herbs that you will usually find in tomato and meat-based sauces, and they really brighten up each bowl of pasta. Don’t skimp on the cheese — grate some Parmesan to order so everyone can “say when.”
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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt.2.
Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, breaking up into pieces until lightly caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with a heavy pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the garlic, shallot and crushed red pepper until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pot, then stir in the cherry tomatoes and balsamic. Cook, covered, until the tomatoes burst, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir to break up the tomatoes and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.3.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain and add pasta to the sauce with the parsley and basil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, then toss to combine.4.
To serve, spoon pasta into bowls, topping with additional Parmesan as desired.