6 Ways to Elevate Your Meat Sauces

Whether it be an Italian Ragu, Mexican Chile con Carne, Greek Moussaka, or Indian Masala, check these points below to make sure your meat sauces are as rich and flavoursome as possible.

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Chili Con Carne (Image Source: Becky G), crowdink.com, crowdink.com.au, crowd ink, crowdink
Chili Con Carne (Image Source: Becky Gilhespie)

Not sure why your Bolognese is bland and watery?  Whether it be an Italian Ragu, Mexican Chile con Carne, Greek Moussaka, or Indian Masala, check these points below to make sure your meat sauces are as rich and flavoursome as possible.

  • Not using more than one kind of meat.

The best meat sauces have added depth of flavor and texture from multiple meats.  You could quite simply add some bacon in with your beef mince and that will elevate it to new heights!  Other combinations could be beef/veal and pork, beef and chorizo sausage, ground chicken and pork, or venison and bacon.

  • Not caramelizing the meat.

No one seriously avoids this step anymore, right?  Quite simply, colour = flavour.  At the very start of the recipe, seal the meat over medium-high heat until a nice deep brown. I like to add a touch of sugar or molasses to help this process even further.

  • Not starting with a soffrito (usually consists of chopped carrot, onion and celery).

This vegetable base is called the ‘holy trinity’ and has virtually existed since documented cooking began. It adds a lovely sweetness to your sauce.

  • Not cooking the soffrito long enough.

Slowly sauté the chopped vegetables in oil until the onions are translucent.  If you’ve ever tasted a beautiful caramelized onion sauce you will see why slowly cooking them is such an important step. The harshness of the onion completely goes away and an intoxicating sweet flavour is left behind. It should take at least 15 minutes on a low heat.  Be patient and don’t be tempted to turn up the heat or they will burn easily, leaving behind a bitter taste!

  • Not seasoning at each step.

One major difference I notice between home cooks and professional chefs is the use of seasoning.  A little salt and pepper when you seal the meat, when sautéing the vegetables and to taste at the end makes sure you are getting maximum flavour built into your dish.

  • Not cooking the sauce long enough.

A good meat sauce should be simmered for at least an hour.  The liquid needs to evaporate by about half, concentrating the flavor and thickening the sauce. If the sauce isn’t thickening, turn the heat up slightly and leave the lid off and check how it is reducing every 5-10 minutes.

Get the recipe: Proper Texas Chili