Easy meat sauce recipe coming to us from Bosnia. Also known as mini ćevap (not to be confused with traditional ćevap sausages) this diced beef sauce is perfect for pasta, polenta and more. Major bonus? It’s quick!
What Is It
If you’re familiar with Bosnian cuisine you may have thought this would be a recipe for ćevapi, a well-known grilled minced meat dish. Well, you’re in for a surprise!
But first, let’s clear up the confusion!
Term ćevapi isn’t specific only to that one famous grilled delicacy! In fact, there are several different ćevapi dishes! BUT because it is the most popular, most people assume those are the only ćevapi that exist.
How do you know which one is which?
If the name of the dish is ćevap only, it’s the grilled sausages. But if it has an adjective in front of it, it’s another ćevap dish. In this case, it’s usually some type of beef sauce.
(Want another example? Jump over to the Boss sauce, aka ‘hajj ćevap.’)
Today’s mini ćevap (sitni ćevap) refers to the beef that’s diced small. It’s a tender beef sauce achieved by simmering beef with onion until they sweat out the goodness. Think of it as a versatile, goulash-type meal.
Unlike regular goulash, however, fluid content is halved. As a result, you get a sauce with meat that greatly depends on its own juices for flavor.
- Oil and butter: Oil serves to prevent butter from burning. You can use less.
- Garlic: If using granulated garlic use ¼ teaspoon as a substitute for one clove. For garlic powder the substitution is ⅛ for each clove.
- Onion: No subs here! I support using granulated or powdered onion for most homemade sauces. But this dish’s flavor depends greatly on meat and onion simmering together for a while. Original recipe calls for sliced onion, however I dice mine.
- Parsley and celery: Fresh is best. If using dried exchange each tablespoon of fresh herbs with one teaspoon of dried herbs.
- Pepper: Using peppercorn is recommended. Otherwise add ground black pepper to taste.
- Beef: If at all possible use fattier cuts such as T-bone or rib eye. In the absence use the chuck.
- Crushed Tomatoes: Substitute with tomato sauce, or 2 teaspoons of vinegar.
- Other Veggies: In some regions, carrots and peppers are added.
(Our lightning-fast instructions are here to give you an idea of how to make this dish. For more detailed information look at the recipe card below!)
- Simmer all ingredients (except paprika and tomato sauce) together (20 min).
2. Add tomato sauce, paprika to the sauce and simmer some more (20 min).
3. Add water (or broth), bring to a boil, simmer (5 min), and serve.
This is a red meat dish with a sauce similar to goulash, with one key difference.
Both dishes are forgiving of old cuts of meat. (No need to use veal, though I won’t stop you!) However, the best Bosnian meat sauce is made with fattier off-the-bone cuts like T-bone or rib eye.
I know what you’re thinking: “Aida, you crazy! I’m not wasting T-bone on a sauce!”
Yet it won’t be a waste! It’ll be the most delicious, finger-licking sauce with the meat you’ve had in your life.
If you are still hesitant, you can get away with stew chuck. The dish won’t be fantastic, but it will still be great.
Mini Ćevap Sides
In Bosnia mini ćevap is popular during Ramadan fast breaks. (Ramadan is the Muslim fasting month.) However, you can find it in most local food restaurants all year. It’s often served in traditional tin or copper dishes called ’sahan’ (see the first photo).
Back in the day, it was served as a stew with a side of bread. But I like it best with sides. Here are some side ideas:
Freeze it. Refrigerate it and use it in a sandwich or as a dipping sauce later. Alternatively, you can eat leftover meat the next day with a different side.
If using larger chunks, marinate meat for a couple of hours before preparing your sauce. You can also use different seasonings and wine to add flavor to a meat sauce. Finally, the longer you cook it, the more flavorful a meat sauce is.
More Delicious Meat Recipes
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Prijatno and bon appetit!
EASY Meat Sauce Recipe: Bosnian Mini Ćevap
- 1.5 ounces oil
- 3.5 ounces butter
- 1 yellow onion large, peeled, sliced
- 1-2 garlic cloves minced
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley minced, or 3-4 teaspoons dried
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh celery leaf minced, or 3-4 teaspoons dried
- Salt to taste
- A few peppercorns
- 1.5 pounds beef cubed, preferably T-bone or rib eye
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 4 ounces crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce or 2 teaspoons vinegar
- 1.5-2 cups water lukewarm, or beef broth
- In a deep pan combine oil, butter, onion, garlic, parsley, celery, salt, pepper, and meat. Stir well and simmer over medium for 20 minutes or until water expeled by the meat and veggies almost evaporates.
- Add tomato sauce, paprika and sugar. Stir and simmer another 20 minutes or until sauce juices thicken.
- Add water (or broth), bring everything to a boil and simmer another 3-5 minutes. Serve over a side of your choice.
I made this for my Bosnian husband and he said it was even better than the original! As a non-Bosnian, I have struggled to find Bosnian recipes that are actually written in a way that someone who has never seen or tasted the dish can make it, and can make it well. Your blog is my new favorite 🙂 Your recipes are clearly written, using ingredients that I can actually find in the US, and the pictures are so incredibly helpful. I have made several of your recipes and every single one has turned out perfect according to my husband. I can't wait to try them all. Thank you so much!!!
Hi & Welcome! Thank you and your husband for the compliments, although it's all your doing! 🙂 I'm glad you wrote as I was considering not including the preparation photos anymore. I wasn't sure if they were useful. Now that you say they helped out, I'll leave them in. If there are some recipes you would like to try drop me a line, and I'll see if I can help out. I have a few oldies but goodies coming your way in the next few weeks. After, I'm preparing a long series on pitas (burek, sirnica, itd) at the end of the summer. (I'll also include the ones you can make with phyllo dough, they take less time and are delish too.) Again, thank you for commenting, and happy cooking! <3
Suzanne Memic says
Hi Aida -
As always, you're my "go to" site when I need something authentic. Tried this (Sitni Civap) - followed exactly as written - Perfect!
That's great! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It makes me so happy when I hear someone tried a recipe from the site and they liked it.
You are right, junetina is baby beef
This is so cool - I tried making couple recipies and they are awesome. You made it so simple to make bosnian dishes for someone not very skilled. Thank you. Do you know can I use crockpot for this recipe and how long to leave it in
(Great name!) Thanks for stopping by. It makes me happy that you're enjoying the recipes. I've never made this sauce in a crockpot, but I don't see a reason why not. Perhaps just do the simmering in a separate pan first, and then bring it all into the crockpot for the last part. If you do it in the crockpot and you like it, please drop by and let us know how it was!