Yesterday I was cooking for someone and was planning on making a bolognese sauce, but when it came to start cooking (ie. after doing my mise en place), she asked if I could leave the meat out of it, so instead I ended up with a meat-less tomato sauce with various veggies in it (onion, garlic, green pepper and carrot; I'm not sure if there's a "proper" name for this sort of sauce) -- essentially, my bolognese recipe minus the meat. I mixed my pasta into the sauce a couple minutes before serving.

Today I have plenty of leftovers (that have been sitting in the fridge for about 24 hours), and would like to add my meat (ground beef) into it. I realize that instead I could do something like make meatballs, but I'm not looking to do something like that.

Would just browning the meat now and mixing it in work well? Is there something I should add to my meat to better incorporate it into my sauce? Also, I'm not sure if putting the sauce back on heat will be the greatest idea because the pasta unfortunately got cooked more than I wanted (to the point where it's okay as-is, but further cooking will probably push it to overdone).

  • While it would probably work in terms of edible meat, it wouldn't have the same flavor, since the meat didn't get to simmer in your sauce for any length of time. And since you don't want to cook the pasta longer, I'm afraid that it's not going to be terribly effective. I'd just enjoy it as is, and use the meat for a future sauce.
    – Martha F.
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 3:49

3 Answers 3


As the others have mentioned, it won't quite be the same ... however, it can be done, it just won't quite have the same flavor as there isn't a chance for the meat juices to transfer into the sauce, and some issues regarding mixing it back in with the cold pasta.

If I were going to try it, I'd brown the meat, remove some of the fat if it's a really fatty grind, then add some extra sauce (or even other liquid ... maybe dairy, for a classic bolognese) to let it simmer for a bit ... then toss the pasta in with it to reheat.

The extra sauce is the key, otherwise, the meat isn't going to blend in with sauce on the pasta, If you reheat the pasta in the fresh sauce, it should hopefully mix together more completely.

... but if I were to do it, and wanted to add a meat to an already cooked pasta, I'd probably not choose ground beef as a first choice; I'd probably cook up some sausages, cut it down to an appropriate size for the pasta you're dealing with, and mix that in, possibly adding some extra liquid when reheating the pasta.

  • I made the sauce myself (as opposed to out of a jar), so I don't really have more to add into the meat as it's browning, per se. I have tomato paste, and I could open another can of tomatoes, but that's not really sauce for one thing and I don't want to end up with another whole batch of sauce at the moment... I guess I could get a store-bought jarred sauce but that seems wasteful. Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 17:12
  • @Daniel : I was afraid of that. If you were to add crushed tomatoes or even watered down tomato paste, you're going to have a raw tomato flavor, which wouldn't be ideal ... I might go for wine, broth, or a little milk to wet it down ... water if you really had to.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 18:23
  • I do have wine, I'll give that a try tonight. Thanks for the advice! :) Commented Feb 24, 2011 at 19:38

You can brown the meat, while you heat the sauce and pasta in a pot. Make sure it's not cooking. If the meat is brown, add it to the heated sauce. Normally, this should be fine.

Since you've lost a lot of water (sauce was heated two times), you can add a bit of water if necessary, but I don't think this will be the case.


Unfortunately you can't do much with it, since you already added pasta to the sauce.
Had you stored the sauce separately, you could have browned the ground beef in olive oil and some onions, added the sauce, covered everything with an inch or two of water and let it boil.
In your case, this would obviously overcook the pasta. So probably the best deal is to eat it as-is; adding meatballs now would just result in eating two dishes, pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs, at the same time.

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