Rich with tomatoes and herbs, this classic Italian recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce may become a family tradition in your home. A pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove will have everyone coming to the kitchen to see what’s cooking.
What’s more delicious than a big bowl of spaghetti smothered in hearty red tomato sauce? If you asked my dad, he would probably say he couldn’t think of anything he likes better. Whenever my mom asks him what sounds good for dinner, his first and immediate reply is “Spaghetti!” My grandma always made her famous spaghetti sauce (with her secret recipe) for his very best birthday dinner.
Homemade spaghetti sauce is surprisingly uncomplicated and easy to make. Lots of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs comprise the ingredient list. You may have everything you need right in your pantry. In no time, you can be simmering this delectable and classic sauce in a pot on your stove. The only attention it requires is a stir now and then.
My only question is: What are you waiting for? Open a bottle of Pinot Noir or another medium bodied red wine and raise a toast to the cook!
About this homemade spaghetti sauce
I use four different forms of canned tomatoes to make this homemade spaghetti sauce: tomato paste, crushed tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes with their juice.
Although homemade spaghetti sauce requires a nice long simmer on the stove, most of that time is hands-off. You could also use a slow cooker to simmer the spaghetti sauce on low for 8 hours.
Why bother making homemade when you can buy a jar of sauce at the grocery store? Once you taste this sauce, you’ll know the answer to that question! Anything that’s freshly made beats canned by a long shot. Plus you can be confident in knowing that the sauce you make is preservative and additive free, and made with love.
Listen for the “Grazie” (thank you!) that’s sure to come your way. The correct response to that is “Prego!”(meaning: you’re welcome!).
How do you make homemade spaghetti sauce?
It’s simple! Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, add a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce and heat it up for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes.
Add the dried spices: oregano, thyme, bay leaf, a tablespoon of sugar, and red pepper flakes.
Stir well and simmer for at least one hour, but up to three hours. Just before serving, remove the bay leaf, and stir in a little butter, and some fresh basil and parsley.
Serve over your favorite pasta with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Buon appetito!
How to make this spaghetti sauce your own
- If you have a garden full of tomatoes, that’s wonderful! You can easily substitute peeled fresh tomatoes for the crushed and diced tomatoes. Roma tomatoes or another meaty variety work best. You’ll need about four pounds.
- Add more veggies: Chopped bell peppers or mushrooms can be added. Sauté them with the onions. Or stir in a few handfuls of baby spinach right before serving.
- I like to serve this sauce with homemade meatballs or baked turkey meatballs. Frozen meatballs are so handy. Just add them to the sauce about halfway through the simmering time so they get heated through.
- If you would like to make a spaghetti sauce with meat, sauté ground beef or turkey, or Italian sausage with the onions, and then continue the recipe as directed.
- If you happen to have a rind of Parmesan cheese, put that in the sauce as it simmers to enhance the flavor.
- Make this sauce vegan or Whole30 simply by omitting the butter and sugar.
- Don’t have any fresh herbs? Simply add a tablespoon of dried basil and parsley instead.
- If you prefer a sauce made without tomatoes, maybe this isn’t the recipe for you. Try this creamy chicken spaghetti or chicken Marsala pasta.
There seems to be some debate about the difference between spaghetti sauce and marinara. Generally, marinara is a thinner sauce, made with tomatoes and seasoning, which isn’t simmered as long as spaghetti sauce, giving marinara a fresher flavor. Spaghetti sauce is similar, but usually includes additional ingredients such as onions, peppers, mushrooms, or meat, and has a longer cooking time and a heartier flavor.
Ultimately, I guess you could say that spaghetti sauce is any sauce that you put on spaghetti, right? The word “sauce” comes from the Italian word salsa, which means “a topping.”
Reheating and Storage Tips
Leftover spaghetti sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Store in a resealable container. Reheat gently in a saucepan on the stove when ready to serve.
Homemade spaghetti sauce is a meal preppers’ dream. You can make a big batch of this sauce when you have extra time and freeze it in freezer containers indefinitely. Preferably, you should allow time for it to thaw overnight in the fridge before using.
Or, make a big batch of sauce on Saturday or Sunday, and plan meals around it for the rest of the week. It’s perfect for more than spaghetti and meatballs. Use it for this easy skillet lasagna, pizza stuffed spaghetti squash, rustic polenta stack, or pizza quesadillas, or as a dipping sauce for air fryer mozzarella sticks or chicken strips.
Other pasta sauce recipes
Looking for more delicious ways to top your favorite pasta?
- Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce with or without meat (stovetop directions, too!)
- Turkey Bolognese — with ground turkey and turkey Italian sausage
- Fresh tomato cream sauce with angel hair pasta
- Baked Feta Pasta Recipe (with vegan option)
- Instant Pot Bolognese
- Instant Pot spaghetti and meat sauce
- Skinny Alfredo sauce made with cauliflower
- Vegan Bolognese — it has a meaty texture with quinoa and lentils
- Carrot pesto
- Lemon cream sauce with spinach
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon minced garlic)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes and their juice
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Heat oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring, for one minute or until fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it coats all the onions (about 1 minute).
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.
- Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and simmer, partially covered, for at least an hour or up to three hours. Stir occasionally. Make sure the sauce isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. Adjust heat if necessary.
- Carefully remove bay leaf and stir in butter, basil, and parsley until butter is melted.
- Taste, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
- For a sauce with meat, add ground beef, turkey, or Italian sausage. Brown in pan with onions before adding the garlic.
- Additional vegetables can be added such as chopped bell peppers or mushrooms.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.