Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Weeknight Meaty Marinara - a quick, healthy, and hearty meat sauce. (Paleo and Whole 30 compliant)

No! Don’t do it.

Don’t call it Bolognese.

We can’t, you see, because of these six things:

  • No wine
  • No dairy.
  • No itsy bitsy chopped up celery or carrots.
  • Too much tomato sauce.
  • Only one meat variety.
  • And we’re cooking it comparatively faster.

So there are plenty of reasons why we are forbidden from labeling this hearty meat sauce, “Bolognese”.

Also? I’m aware that finally in northern climates the temperatures are starting to break the 50 degree mark.

Most of you in that sort of spring would probably rather be shaving asparagus, or baking lemon meringue pie, or dusting off your outdoor grill.

I get it, but hang with me here for a minute – we can still break out the margaritas and Jimmy Buffett album this weekend.

Here I am, practically in the tropics, and I’m tossing things like meaty marinara at you.

It doesn’t make any sort of seasonal cooking sense except for this one little bit: school is still in session, and what we have here is a giant batch of hearty, filling sauce, which means dinner tonight → leftovers a few days later (Think hoagie rolls, piles of meat sauce, and lots of melty mozzarella cheese, hmmmm?).

Leftovers = one night of freebie weeknight sanity.

Meaty marinara might be a staple in houses everywhere (is it?), but the tweaks that make this one different?

No wine, no diary (forget that mountain of Parmesan on top), no sugar, and we’re building it from scratch instead of a jar in the grocery isle.

And for this reason – this is a very clean sauce. Even a paleo sauce. Or a Whole30 sauce. And it tastes just as homey and satisfying as a thick, simmery Bolognese – even though it’s not.

In fact, it originated around the time of our life altering 30 days of major diet overhaul, (and we’d eat it with slices of roasted eggplant, or cubes of sautéed zucchini and onion) and I’ve gone back to it over and over again since then, even though we’re not torturing ourselves anymore.

There are ways to make this into an all-day sauce. An annoyingly intricate sauce. A sauce that requires three meats, more diced veggies, and minced, fresh herbs. I have an inkling you and I both might be pretty good at overcomplicating things that are just fine the way they already are.

But this is how we do it when we need dinner now. When we don’t have time to puree veggies (to smooth things out for picky palates). When I don’t want to have to clean the blender AND the sauce pot. When I want to buy the cute little squares of organic Weeknight Meaty Marinara - a hearty and flavorful meat sauce with the satisfaction of Bolognese. Just simpler and faster. Paleo and Whole30 friendly.ground beef from Costco and not fret over whether or not I have some sort of pork to add as well. We could use fresh herbs, but not tonight. Tonight we need to brown some meat, open a carton of pure tomatoes, saute some onions and dump in some dry spices that are always around to help us when we need them. Tonight is not about being complicated.

Tonight is about resting in something that’s good and easy and makes our house smell like home, and we’ll be happy about that – the good and easy weeknight meal that wraps us up in the cozy blanket of home.

Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: about 10 servings, (give or take)

This is a hearty, flavorful sauce perfect for a weeknight meal. Depending on the size of crew you are feeding, you'll most likely end up with enough left over for another meal. It freezes well too, so you can save some for later in the month!


  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2.5-3 lbs ground beef
  • 2 (26.46 oz.) cartons Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons marjoram (basil works here too!)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese (optional) for topping
  • Fresh chopped Basil (for garnish)


Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add in onion and saute until almost translucent (3-5 minutes). Add in garlic and cook till fragrant, but not browned (only about a minute). Remove onions and garlic from pan to another dish, and set aside. Add ground beef to dutch oven or pan, and cook till almost browned ( a little bit of pink left is ok). Drain fat off the meat. Add chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic, dry spices, and vinegar to the meat. Stir to mix well. Bring sauce to a simmer and then turn down low enough to maintain a low, gentle simmer. Cover partially and allow to cook for twenty minutes or so. (You can let it simmer longer if you like - I do, if I have time). Serve over pasta or try it over cooked diced veggies or spaghetti squash. If desired and tolerated, sprinkle with generous amounts of shredded Parmesan cheese and some chopped fresh basil.


Sara| Home is Where The Cookies Are


5 thoughts on “Weeknight Meaty Marinara

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *