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. 

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: It’s easy to make and tastes rich and velvety.

How long it takes: 1 hour 30 minutes, but a lot is hands-off
Equipment you’ll need: large pot, spoon
Servings: 14 servings

Homemade spaghetti sauce in a yellow pot.
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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!

Spaghetti in a white bowl with classic marinara.

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.

Listen for the “Grazie” (thank you!) that’s sure to come your way. The correct response to that is “Prego!”(meaning: you’re welcome!).

Spaghetti sauce in pan with large serving spoon.

How to make this Recipe

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!

Spaghetti with spaghetti sauce and cheese.

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


What’s the difference between spaghetti sauce and marinara?

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 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?


Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

4.53 from 489 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 14 servings
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. 
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  • 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 granulated 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 1 pound 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.
  • Makes 7 cups.



Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 22kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 0.4g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 0.2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 0.1mg, Sodium: 22mg, Potassium: 57mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 169IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 15mg, Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Scott says:

    This is a plate licking recipe. I would recommend it to everyone.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad to hear you feel that way! Thanks for taking the time to leave a review, it means a lot to me!

  2. Sue says:

    Have made this recipe 3x and it’s the best. My family loves it. It’s definitely a keeper! I give it a 5 plus rating.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words! I’m glad you like this recipe!

  3. Lois Kinney says:

    I am typing this as your Spaghetti sauce is simmering.  I have tasted it numerous times and it is fantastic not only in smell but flavor.  I think using 4 different kinds of canned tomatoes makes a difference!!!!  I always add one grated zucchini and half a chopped pepper .  This is a keeper and I am going to make this for my sons family as a surprise drop off dinner.  
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Love the added veggies! Thanks for taking the time to come back and leave a comment!

  4. Susanna says:

    This was wonderfully hearty! I made it with penne and then some home-made garlic bread as a side dish. My family loved it and it was the perfect warm dinner for how freezing this winter has been. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Sounds like the perfect meal! I’m so glad you liked the sauce, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  5. Dee- Ana says:

    My families gives this sauce 5 stars! Thank-you for sharing this recipe.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      I’m so glad to hear it! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  6. JESSIE DIXON says:


    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Many people have had luck making this sauce with fresh tomatoes. If you read the comments, you’ll get some good tips!

    2. Emily says:

      Jessie, I love the passion you have for using whole foods but maybe bring the intensity with which you wield this passion down a notch cause your turning people off of a good message with your catastrophizing.

  7. ott says:

    Made this today and lived it…after I doctored it. Seems the little old lady in me grabbed the salt container instead of the sugar container. Wondered why it was so salty thag I added additional sugar! Second mistake….then….I read the label..SALT! Took quite a bit of reseasoning with sugar and a cut of vinegar to rectify the old gals error. I will be using this recipe again…reading my labels as I go. LOL

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Oh no! I’m glad you were able to salvage it!

  8. Lynda says:

    Really great sauce.  I liked it especially because it has the tomato sauce in it so It clings to the pasta.  Many recipes just have tomatoes.  Worth the effort

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Thanks Lynda! I’m so glad you liked the recipe and I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment!

  9. Edna says:

    Amazing sauce! First time making my own (used to doctor up store-bought) and it paired beautifully with my husband’s grandmother’s Bracioli recipe. 

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  10. Elmo says:

    I like to make a fresh sauce, and use fresh tomatoes to do it, This is because I need to lower and eliminate salt from my diet. If you notice on store-bought sauces, the salt content can be from 600-1000mg. Enough to kill a horse. You also need to watch out for any canned products, as salt and vacuum are the two preserving ingredients. Having said this, I do make my own much like this with meat. Then it becomes not only a spaghetti sauce, but an overall pasta sauce. You can also use this with lasagna and many other dishes. I never use no-boil lasagna noodles, and a good amount of sauce will soften and cook the noodles as you bake the lasagna. An all-around sauce.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Sounds wonderful!