Weeknight Pasta Bowl

A good Bolognese sauce (ragù Bolognese or simply ragù), takes time to make so that the flavours can develop and meld. We’re talking hours. However, we can make a similar sauce with less time in a pressure cooker. It may not have in pancetta, and two different types of ground meat (or it can); the bottom line is that you can have a large pot of meat sauce done in 30 minutes or less, and the best part is that you can portion the sauce into bags and freeze so that on any night of the week, you can create a quick, tasty dish of pasta with meat sauce.

I used ground beef for this meat sauce but you can use a combination of beef and pork or all pork, even ground chicken or ground turkey. I used my homemade chunky tomato sauce to make this meat sauce but you can use canned tomatoes. However, you may need to add a bit of sugar to balance the acidity of the canned tomatoes.

This is a very basic sauce and uses a few ingredients but if you have the time, feel free to add the ingredients suggested in the notes below.



Pressure Cooker



  • Quick Meal – Pasta with Meat Sauce Photo by Cynthia Nelson

    3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used Canola)

  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 heaped tablespoon finely minced fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound ground beef (grade A or B)
  • 2 cups beef or vegetable stock (or water)
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes (stewed or whole, if whole, chop finely) along with their juice



  1. Add oil to pressure cooker and place over medium heat until hot.
  2. Tip in the onions, garlic and thyme with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, stir to mix, reduce heat to low and cook until the pot is fragrant and the onions, softened.
  3. Raise heat to high and add minced meat breaking it up. Mix with the aromatics and cook until the meat is no longer pink; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour in stock and add tomatoes and juice, stir to mix well and bring pot to a boil. Cover and bring to a pressure. At the end of the first whistle (or when the pot comes up to pressure with constant hissing for 2 minutes, depending on your cooker), reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from the heat and release pressure, transfer the pot back to the stove and turn heat to high, cook until the sauce has thickened to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. For real Bolognese sauce, the fat should separate from the sauce.
  6. To add to pasta, cook pasta according to package instructions and toss with meat sauce for a quick meal. Use 1 ½ cups of meat sauce for 1 pound of cooked pasta.



  • Chopped carrots and celery can be added to the veggie base of the sauce. Give the sauce a kick by adding minced hot pepper, to taste.
  • Replace 1 cup of stock with whole milk for richness.
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg adds good flavour to the sauce.
  • To freeze the sauce, cool completely and portion into 1 ½ cups, add to zip bag, label and freeze. When ready to use, remove from freezer and bring up to room temperature. You can plan ahead and removing from freezer before heading off to work by putting it in a covered container; if you’ll be back in the evening, let defrost at the bottom of the refrigerator.
  • To cook – add defrosted meat sauce to a pan over low heat to heat through before adding pasta to pan. Cook for 2 minutes together, tossing a few times. Serve hot. Use pasta water to lighten the sauce if it is too thick.

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