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The best spaghetti sauce recipe includes plenty of ground beef and Italian sausage, simmers on the stovetop for hours, and is full of rich Italian flavor. Serve it over pasta, garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, and offer a salad and garlic bread on the side. This is the only homemade spaghetti sauce that you’ll ever need!

An overhead shot of a bowl of spaghetti topped with a homemade stovetop spaghetti sauce, garnished with grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves.
Table of Contents
  1. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
  2. Ingredients for Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
  3. How to Make the Best Spaghetti Sauce
  4. What to Serve with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
  5. Storage Tips for Stovetop Spaghetti Sauce
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
  8. More Spaghetti Recipes to Try
  9. More Pasta Sauce Recipes to Try
  10. Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I’ve made many, many versions of the classic dish over the years, but this recipe truly yields a pot of the best spaghetti sauce ever! That’s a bold claim to make, and I understand that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to these things, but here’s why this particular homemade spaghetti sauce has won the hearts of everyone at my dinner table:

  • Easy: for any busy parent, ease is important! This recipe requires one pot, minimal hands-on effort (aside from the occasional stirring), and simple, easy-to-find ingredients.
  • Flavorful: simmering the pot uncovered for a few hours allows the flavors to come together and condense as steam releases. The end result is a pot of thick, rich, spaghetti meat sauce with a concentrated tomato flavor.
  • Make-ahead and freezer-friendly: the recipe yields a large batch of sauce, which means that you’ll have plenty of leftovers to share with friends or to stash in your freezer for another day. Why not get two meals for one effort, right? The sauce keeps really well in the fridge, too, so you can simmer a batch on the weekend and use it for quick meals throughout the week.
A woman pours a big can of tomato sauce into a dutch oven, filled with spaghetti sauce.

What is the difference between marinara and spaghetti sauce?

Marinara and spaghetti sauce are both popular tomato-based sauces; however, there are a handful of distinctions between their taste, texture, and prep time.

  • Texture: marinara sauce has a fairly thin consistency, while spaghetti sauce is much thicker.
  • Prep Time: marinara sauce cooks quickly (in about 30-60 minutes), while the best spaghetti sauce requires hours of simmering on the stovetop to develop a thicker consistency.
  • Taste: marinara is a simple sauce, typically made with just tomatoes, herbs and a handful of other ingredients. As a result, marinara has a light, bright flavor. Spaghetti sauce, by contrast, requires more ingredients than marinara, usually includes meat, and has a richer, stronger, heartier flavor.
A woman pours red wine from a bottle into a blue Dutch oven filled with cooking spaghetti sauce.

Ingredients for Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a pot of easy spaghetti sauce. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Italian sausage and ground beef: the meat that gives the sauce its rich, hearty flavor.
  • Onion and garlic: for savory flavor.
  • Tomato sauce: the smooth base of the sauce.
  • Tomato paste: for rich, highly concentrated tomato flavor.
  • Water: to thin the sauce.
  • Red wine: for a bolder, richer flavor. I recommend a dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot. If you don’t want to cook with wine, just add an extra cup of water instead.
  • Sugar: in order to achieve great tomato flavor, it’s important to balance acidity and sweetness. Too much acid or too much sugar yields a sauce that tastes one-dimensional. The right amount of sugar perfectly balances the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Salt: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
  • Italian seasoning: a combination of dried herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, savory, sage, and marjoram.
  • Cayenne pepper: for just a touch of heat in the background. You can omit this ingredient if you like, or add extra for a spicier dish.
A woman holds a ladleful of homemade stovetop spaghetti sauce, scooped from a large blue Dutch oven.

How to Make the Best Spaghetti Sauce

Making spaghetti sauce from scratch is easier than you might think! Patience is key because the tastiest, thickest, richest sauce simmers on the stovetop for hours…

  1. Brown ground beef, Italian sausage, onion, and garlic. Drain off the fat.
  2. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 ½ – 3 hours, until the sauce thickens.
  4. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles, and then garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh herbs.
An overhead image of two bowls of spaghetti topped with a homemade spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese. Pieces of bread, basil leaves, and bowls of grated parmesan cheese surround the bowls.

Why is my spaghetti sauce watery?

If your sauce seems watery or thinner than you’d like, no problem — just continue simmering the pot on the stovetop (uncovered) until it reduces and thickens to the desired consistency.

What to Serve with Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Serve the spaghetti and meat sauce with any of these easy sides:

More Uses for Spaghetti Meat Sauce

While it’s delicious when served over a big bowl of spaghetti, you can also use a jar of homemade sauce in a variety of other ways. Here are some ideas:

Storage Tips for Stovetop Spaghetti Sauce

How to store spaghetti sauce:

Store leftover spaghetti sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Can spaghetti sauce be frozen?

Yes! The recipe yields a large batch, so allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then package in airtight, freezer-safe containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Tip: a Ziploc freezer bag can be frozen flat and then stacked to maximize freezer storage space!

How to reheat spaghetti sauce:

Thaw frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat the meat sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop over low heat, just until warmed through. If it’s too thick, you can thin the sauce with a splash of warm water, beef broth, or tomato sauce.

Is spaghetti meat sauce healthy?

Yes! I like to use lean (or extra lean) ground beef, which offers plenty of satisfying protein. The tomatoes and other vegetables that comprise the base of the sauce are full of an antioxidant called lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. The tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.

Recipe Variations

  • Use different types of meat: For instance, try 2 lbs. of ground beef and omit the sausage, or use 2 lbs. of Italian sausage and omit the ground beef. Other good options include ground turkey, ground chicken, and ground pork.
  • Make it spicy: increase the amount of cayenne, to taste. You can also garnish individual servings with crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Instead of the dried Italian seasoning blend, use fresh herbs when available, or try other spices. Nice options include fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh rosemary, and fresh thyme. Just taste and season as you go!
  • Sliced fresh mushrooms are a great addition to the sauce. I leave them out because my boys don’t love them, but my mom’s spaghetti sauce always includes mushrooms! Diced green bell pepper is also nice.
  • I like the rich flavor of the spaghetti meat sauce with red wine. Don’t worry — the alcohol cooks off! That said, if you would rather not use wine in this recipe, you can substitute with an extra cup of water.
  • For a smaller pot of sauce, cut all of the ingredients in half. The rest of the cooking instructions remain the same.
Bowls of homemade spaghetti served at a table surrounded by pieces of french bread, basil leaves, and a glass of red wine.

Tips for the Best Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

  • Use a dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot.
  • Add sugar. In order to achieve great tomato flavor, it’s important to balance acidity and sweetness. Too much acid or too much sugar yields a sauce that tastes one-dimensional. The right amount of sugar perfectly balances the acidity of the tomatoes. I generally prefer ¼ cup of sugar in this recipe; however, if you’re working with particularly sweet tomatoes, or if you like a less-sweet sauce, you can start with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Give the sauce a taste and add more, if necessary. Similarly, if you like a sweeter sauce, you may want to increase the sugar and use up to ½ cup.
  • Simmer the sauce over very low heat. Stir occasionally, as well. This will prevent any scorching or burning on the bottom of your pot.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs for a bright touch that balances the rich, hearty sauce. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious!
An overhead shot of a bowl of spaghetti topped with a homemade spaghetti sauce, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil leaves.

More Spaghetti Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of the best spaghetti sauce recipe

Best Spaghetti Sauce

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 16 cups
Calories 113 kcal
The best stovetop spaghetti sauce is packed with ground beef and Italian sausage. The tomato-based sauce is rich and hearty, the perfect topping for any spaghetti recipe.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 29 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • ¼ cup sugar (or start with 2 tablespoons for a less-sweet sauce)
  • 2-3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For serving: cooked spaghetti, Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley or basil

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, cook sausage and ground beef over medium heat for 6 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break apart the meat. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the meat is no longer pink, about 4 more minutes. Drain off the fat.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, red wine, sugar, salt, Italian seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 ½ – 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, or sugar, if necessary.
  • Serve over cooked spaghetti; garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.

Notes

  • Use different types of meat: For instance, try 2 lbs. of ground beef and omit the sausage, or use 2 lbs. of Italian sausage and omit the ground beef. Other good options include ground turkey, ground chicken, and ground pork.
  • Make it spicy: increase the amount of cayenne, to taste. You can also garnish individual servings with crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Instead of the dried Italian seasoning blend, use fresh herbs when available. Nice options include fresh basil, fresh oregano, fresh rosemary, and fresh thyme. Just taste and season as you go!
  • Sliced fresh mushrooms are a great addition to the sauce. I leave them out because my boys don’t love them, but my mom’s spaghetti sauce always includes mushrooms!
  • I like the rich flavor of the spaghetti meat sauce with red wine. Don’t worry — the alcohol cooks off! That said, if you would rather not use wine in this recipe, you can substitute with an extra cup of water.
  • For a smaller pot of sauce, cut all of the ingredients in half. The rest of the cooking instructions remain the same.
  • Use a dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot.
  • Add sugar. In order to achieve great tomato flavor, it’s important to balance acidity and sweetness. Too much acid or too much sugar yields a sauce that tastes one-dimensional. The right amount of sugar perfectly balances the acidity of the tomatoes. I generally prefer ¼ cup of sugar in this recipe; however, if you’re working with particularly sweet tomatoes, or if you like a less-sweet sauce, you can start with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Give the sauce a taste and add more, if necessary. Similarly, if you like a sweeter sauce, you may want to increase the sugar and use up to ½ cup.
  • Simmer the sauce over very low heat. Stir occasionally, as well. This will prevent any scorching or burning on the bottom of your pot.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs for a bright touch that balances the rich, hearty sauce. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious!

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 113kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 6gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 651mgPotassium: 397mgFiber: 2gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 425IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: best spaghetti sauce, homemade spaghetti sauce, spaghetti meat sauce
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I just love your spaghetti sauce recipe. Very easy to make and flavorful. I have one question, where did you purchase those bowls that are in the photo shoot? I hope you can share that information. Happy Holidays to you and to your family.

    1. Going to make this sometime this week!!! Thank you for this recipe and can’t wait to make it when I have my work from home day Friday 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Blair’s spaghetti sauce really is the best I’ve made and it smelled heavenly as it was simmering on the stove. I didn’t use as much sugar or water as the recipe calls for, but had a heavy hand with the wine (think Julia Child). I will definitely use this recipe many times.

    1. Hi, Cheryl! I wouldn’t recommend the slow cooker for this recipe, since you need to let it simmer uncovered so that it reduces and thickens. If you cook it in the slow cooker, the lid will trap condensation and make it really watery. If you do use the slow cooker, you would need to reduce the liquid significantly, and I haven’t tested it that way to know exactly how much would work.