Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
This homemade spaghetti sauce is rich and hearty, made with Italian sausage or ground beef. It’s easy to make and perfect for serving over any type of pasta.
Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
When I was a teenager, my Italian grandfather taught me how to make his famous (at least in our family!) spaghetti sauce. I carefully wrote down each step of the process in detail, so that I’d remember exactly what to do when I made it on my own. I still have and treasure those recipe notes today, and they are the inspiration behind this spaghetti sauce recipe.
This recipe is easy to make and uses mostly pantry ingredients. It starts with onion, Italian sausage and garlic to build flavor, plus canned tomatoes, herbs and seasonings. You can make this sauce with Italian sausage, ground beef, or a combination of the two. I usually use Italian sausage because it brings even more flavor to the sauce. If you’re looking for a meatless pasta sauce recipe, you’ll love this Marinara Sauce.
If there’s one meal that makes me think of a Sunday night family dinner, it’s a big pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, to serve with pasta, garlic bread and a crisp Italian salad. Simmering the sauce for an hour or more melds the flavors together and creates a rich, hearty pasta sauce. It also makes your whole house smell amazing! I hope this spaghetti sauce recipe will become a treasured part of your recipe collection, as it is with my family.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the best homemade spaghetti sauce, including ingredient notes.
- Olive Oil: For sautéing the onion and browning the meat.
- Italian Sausage or Ground Beef: Use Italian sausage or ground beef, or a combination of the two. I usually make this sauce with one pound of meat total; for an extra meaty pasta sauce you can use two pounds of meat.
- Onion and Garlic: These aromatic ingredients build flavor.
- Crushed Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes add a little texture to the sauce, without adding big chunks of tomatoes.
- Tomato Sauce: You’ll need 30 ounces of canned tomato sauce, or two 15 ounce cans.
- Tomato Paste: Gives the sauce rich tomato flavor.
- Water: We need to add a little water to the sauce since it simmers on the stove for 1-2 hours, and some liquid will be lost to evaporation. Even so, the sauce is nice and thick after cooking.
- Sugar: Adding just a little sugar improves the flavor of the sauce by balancing out the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Seasonings: Italian seasoning, dried oregano, salt and pepper bring classic Italian flavor.
- Fresh Parsley: I use flat leaf Italian parsley.
- Fresh Basil: The fresh basil is optional; I add it when it’s in season and skip it when it’s not. It brings a pop of fresh flavor to the sauce.
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How to Make Spaghetti Sauce
Cook the sausage (or ground beef) and onion until the meat is browned, crumbling the meat as it cooks. Then stir in the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.
Stir in all of the remaining ingredients, except for the fresh basil.
Bring the pot to a simmer. Partially cover the pot, leaving just a little room for steam to escape, and cook at a very low simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring the sauce every 20-30 minutes.
Stir in the fresh basil, if using. Serve the sauce over spaghetti, penne, or your favorite pasta shape, with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.
Spaghetti Sauce Recipe Tips
- The longer you simmer the sauce, the thicker and more richly flavored it will become.
- Turn the heat under the pot all the way down to low when simmering. It should cook at a very low simmer.
- If the sauce gets too thick, stir in a little more water.
- This sauce is delicious with and without fresh basil. Add it when it’s in season.
- You can add about 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of spice, if desired.
This sauce is just as good on the second and third day as it is on the day it’s made. It also freezes wonderfully.
To Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
To Freeze: Once cool, store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
To Reheat: For best results, reheat in a covered pot on the stove over low heat until hot and simmering. Or, reheat in the microwave (cover with a paper towel to prevent splattering) in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until steaming hot.
More Italian Favorites
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound Italian sausage, or ground beef, or ½ pound of each
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 30 ounces tomato sauce
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, optional
- In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage (remove from casings) and/or ground beef and chopped onion and cook, crumbling, until browned.
- Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic. Cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, being careful to not let the garlic burn.
- Then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, sugar, Italian seasoning, oregano, salt, pepper and fresh parsley. Stir.
- Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Partially cover the pot, leaving just a little room for steam to escape. Cook at a low simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes. The longer you cook the sauce, the thicker and more richly flavored it will become. If it gets too thick, stir in a little more water.
- Stir in the fresh basil (if using) and serve.
- Serves 6-8 (6 if you like a lot of sauce on your pasta).
- Sauce may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Yum I’m going to make your sauce! Sounds delish! Mine is close to yours except I put in small spare ribs as well! By the time we eat there is half the amount of ribs that we started with! My son loves this sauce because of that! I would like to omit the ribs and try yours to the letter! Cant wait! Thank you for all the great recipes Christine!
Thanks for the recipe! Always up for a new spaghetti sauce recipe. Mmmm!
The spaghetti sauce was delicious.
Can this be cooked in the Instant pot or Slow cooker?
The slow cooker will work well! Follow the recipe through step 2 on the stove (cooking the sausage, onion and garlic), then add everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. The Instant Pot can be tricky for tomato-based sauces (they tend to give a burn message), but you might try this Instant Pot Meatballs and sauce recipe if you prefer the Instant Pot.