This Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe is so hearty, delicious, and easy to prepare you’ll never want to buy the jarred stuff again. Made with simple ingredients like ground beef, onions, and tomatoes, learn how to make this delicious spaghetti sauce and enjoy it over cooked pasta or cooked into your favorite Italian recipes.
The Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
I grew up eating some version of “homemade” spaghetti sauce at least once a week. It was one of my dad’s favorite dinners to prepare (and it was one of my favorite things to eat). Not much has changed in the past two-plus decades. I still love carbs and hearty meat sauces, and my dad still loves to make his very own spaghetti sauce creations.
In this recipe, you’ll find all the things you’d expect in a homemade spaghetti sauce: ground beef, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and simple Italian seasonings. No wild fillers or preservatives, just simple, delicious, meaty homemade sauce perfect for all your favorite recipes.
Difference Between Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce
The key difference between marinara sauce and spaghetti sauce is that spaghetti sauce has meat, whereas marinara sauce does not.
Marinara sauce is meat-free and made primarily from onions, garlic, Italian seasonings, and tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce, on the other hand, comes filled with yummy chunks of meat in a thick and savory tomato sauce.
Ground Beef – There’s no “best” type of ground beef for spaghetti sauce, so go with whatever works for you and your family. If you find ground beef on sale, awesome! In general, I typically purchase 85-90% lean ground beef. All out of ground beef but stocked up with Italian sausage and chicken? Feel free to use that instead!
Onions, Green Bell Pepper, Garlic – Your “mirepoix,” this collection of aromatics is the first (and arguably most important) layer of flavor for the entire sauce. The green bell pepper is completely optional. I wasn’t a fan of the addition as a kid, but now it’s a must-have in all my spaghetti sauce recipes.
Tomato Paste – Tomato paste helps thicken your sauce. Start with less and add more as needed.
Tomatoes (diced, crushed, sauce) – There is no need to get fancy here. I added 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes, 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes, and 1 (14-ounce) can of tomato sauce.
Seasoning – Aside from a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley just before serving, I prefer to add dried herbs to my spaghetti sauce. I added dried oregano, thyme, and basil. If it’s easier, feel free to add a heaping tablespoon of your favorite Italian seasoning blend.
Worcestershire sauce – is a funny ingredient that is hard to describe. While it’s not a mandatory addition, the added umami flavor is a huge flavor upgrade.
Sugar – If you’ve ever looked at the nutritional information for your favorite jarred spaghetti, you may be surprised by how much sugar is in each serving. While so much sugar isn’t necessary, a little sugar is helpful to help balance the acidity from all those tomatoes – just be careful not to add too much.
Looking for a deeper, more complex pasta sauce? Try adding one or more of the following,
- Red wine
- Fresh basil
- Bay leaves
- Balsamic vinegar
- Red pepper flakes
- Additional veggies: carrots, celery, kale, spinach, mushrooms
How to Make Spaghetti Sauce
1. Brown the ground beef: Add the olive oil to a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it apart into smaller crumbles. After the meat is fully cooked, transfer it to a clean plate and set aside.
2. Cook the onions, green pepper, and garlic: Add the remaining olive oil to the same pot set over medium heat. Cook the onions for 5-7 minutes, or until soft and translucent, stirring often. Stir in the diced bell pepper and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir in the minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute.
- What is Mirepoix? Mirepoix is a mix of aromatics made from finely diced vegetables (the mix of vegetables will often vary by country and cuisine) that are cooked in butter or oil, low and slow as to sweeten the ingredients rather than caramelize them. These slow-cooked aromatic vegetables form the first layer of flavor in many recipes.
- In this recipe, the mirepoix consists of onions, green bell pepper, and minced garlic.
3. Tomato paste and seasoning: Combine the tomato paste with the vegetables. Mix well to combine before adding the dried basil, thyme, oregano, salt, and black pepper. If you don’t feel like purchasing individual jars of dried basil, thyme, and oregano, a simple mix of store-bought or homemade Italian seasoning will work.
4. Spaghetti sauce needs tomatoes: Pour the canned diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and water into the pot and return the cooked ground meat back to the pot. Bring sauce to a low boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and allow the sauce to simmer for at least 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour).
Note: This recipe calls for simple, unseasoned, plain, canned tomatoes. I did not use jarred spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce, or pizza sauce, nor did I use canned fire-roasted tomatoes.
5. Season and Serve: Season with additional salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, or sugar, to taste. Serve with cooked spaghetti noodles or other pasta of choice. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and shredded parmesan cheese, if desired.
How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce
The easiest way to thicken spaghetti sauce is by adding more tomato paste, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. You can also simmer the sauce over low heat, uncovered, until the desired consistency is reached.
How to Cook Spaghetti Sauce in the Slow Cooker
Start by browning the ground beef in a large Dutch oven or stockpot, then saute the onions, green bell pepper, and garlic. Transfer the cooked ground meat and vegetables to a large crockpot, then add the tomato paste, seasonings, canned tomatoes, and other ingredients. Mix well and cook on low for up to 4-6 hours, or on high for 2-3 hours.
How Long is Spaghetti Sauce Good for in the Fridge
Stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, spaghetti sauce will last for up to 5-7 days. Reheat it in a small saucepot over medium heat or in the microwave before serving.
Can You Freeze Spaghetti Sauce
Yes. Allow your sauce to cool to room temperature before transferring it to freezer bags or containers. You may choose to freeze your leftovers as individual servings or all together in one gallon-sized ziplock bag. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool overnight. The next morning, transfer your spaghetti sauce to the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to Use Spaghetti Sauce?
There are so many uses for spaghetti sauce. Serve it with meatballs, stuffed shells, or cooked pasta with garlic bread. Spread it over pizza or mix it into your favorite chili recipe or soup, like this cheesy lasagna soup.
Have you tried making this spaghetti sauce recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes. I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
- 2 tablespoon olive oil - divided
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 medium yellow onions - diced
- 1 green bell pepper - stem removed, seeded, and diced (optional)
- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 2-3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt + black pepper - to season
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1-2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ cup water - plus more as needed
- 1 pound spaghetti noodles - cooked according to package instructions
- Brown the ground beef – Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepot set over medium-high heat. Brown the ground beef and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to season. Transfer beef to a clean plate and set aside.
- Cook the onions, bell pepper, and garlic – To the same pot add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and return to medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until soft and translucent, stirring often. Mix in the diced bell pepper and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and stir in the minced garlic. Cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute.
- Mix the onions with the tomato paste and seasoning – Add the tomato paste to the vegetables, mixing thoroughly until combined. Add the basil, thyme, oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
- Add tomatoes – Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, water, and return the cooked ground beef back to the pot. Mix well to combine. Bring sauce to a low boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and allow the sauce to simmer for at least 20 minutes.
- Season to taste – Season with additional salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, or sugar, to taste. Serve with cooked spaghetti noodles or other pasta of choice. Garnish with chopped parsley and shredded parmesan cheese, if desired.
- This recipe is terrific with all ground beef or substituted for ground pork, Italian sausage, ground lamb, chicken, or ground turkey.
- Thin the sauce by adding additional water, chicken stock, or even salted pasta water. To thicken the sauce stir in more tomato paste 1 tablespoon at a time.
- As written, this recipe is dairy-free and gluten-free (double check with your Worcestershire sauce to confirm as each brand is different)
- Leftovers: Keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)