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Everyone needs a good homemade spaghetti sauce in their recipe collection and this one is mine. It’s rich, meaty, deliciously seasoned and easy enough to make any night of the week.
I’ve worked on perfecting this Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce over the years and recently decided it was time to jot down the “little of this, and little of that” and share it with you all. There are some really great jarred sauces out there, but from time to time I feel the need to cook up a batch from scratch.
Because, after all, there are few things that will make your home feel cozier than having a pot of homemade sauce bubbling away on your stove.
This recipe was designed to be easy and use items I consider to be kitchen staples. Dry herbs, canned tomatoes, beef broth, onion, and garlic. All you need to do is defrost a pound of ground beef, get it started, and let it simmer while you boil your pasta.
With just a 30 minute simmer, the sauce will reach just the perfect consistency for spooning over a mound of cooked pasta. If you’d like, you can let it simmer longer for an even richer, thicker sauce.
The most important aspect to ensure you end up with a sauce that has a nice acid balance is to choose the right canned tomato product. Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes are an excellent choice for sauce making. The plum style tomato is highly flavorful, sweet, and naturally less acidic than many other varieties. Authentic San Marzanos are grown in Italy and the cans will be marked as such, but the seeds are available and grown worldwide. I’ve had good luck with the less expensive U.S. grown and canned “San Marzano Style” tomatoes and will generally use what I find at a good price at my local store.
From time to time I will sub crushed tomatoes but always try to use a high quality Italian tomato product.
The seasonings are what you would expect – basil, oregano, and thyme – but I’ve also added a bit of fennel seed and just enough crushed red pepper to add a kick but not much heat. The fennel seed adds that somethin’ somethin’ that sets this sauce apart from your average run-of-the-mill sauce and makes it abundantly clear that you’re eating something homemade. To amp the flavor, lightly crush the fennel seed before adding it to the pot.
Salt is vital but don’t forget that canned tomato products have plenty of sodium so it’s best to go light on the salt in the beginning. I find the 1/2 teaspoon I add at the beginning is enough for our taste. Always taste your sauce before serving and add additional seasoning only if you think it needs it.
THE BUTTER OPTION
For an even more velvety, flavor balanced sauce, try melting a couple of tablespoons of butter into the sauce at the end of the simmer time. I’ve added this as an optional step and honestly, I rarely find it needs it, but butter really does do something magical to tomato based sauces. Try it sometime!
It’s vital to use a non-reactive pan when cooking with very acidic or alkaline foods like tomatoes. Reactive pans, including unlined aluminum, cast iron, and copper, can cause the food to pick up a metallic flavor. Instead, opt for a non-reactive pan with a stainless steel or enameled cast iron cooking surface. My favorites include this Le Creuset enameled cast iron pan and this less expensive but still very high quality stainless steel pan from Calphalon.
A slight variation on this sauce creates these incredible Meaty Lasagna Roll-Ups. The recipe includes complete make-ahead and freeze directions.
This sauce is a great starting point for so many Italian dishes from spaghetti to lasagna to a delicious baked ziti. Toss a simple green salad, slice a loaf of French bread, open a nice bottle of wine, and you’ve got yourself an incredible meal!
More easy Italian recipes you’ll love:
My Mom’s Legendary Italian Salad Dressing | Brown Eyed Baker
Easy Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta | The Wanderlust Kitchen
Easy Garlic Parmesan Knots | Valerie’s Kitchen
Easy Tomato Basil Pasta with Veggies | Chelsea’s Messy Apron
Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken | Well Plated by Erin
Skillet Lasagna | Valerie’s Kitchen
Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
It's rich, meaty, deliciously seasoned and easy enough to make any night of the week.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed lightly crushed (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 28 ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes (see recipe note)
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter optional
- Pasta of your choice cooked according to package directions
- Parmesan cheese for topping
- Add olive oil to a non-reactive pot or Dutch oven (see recipe note) and place over MEDIUM heat. Add ground beef, onion and garlic and cook, stirring to break up the beef until crumbly and browned with no pink remaining. Drain off excess grease, if necessary. Stir tomato paste into the mixture and cook for a minute or two and then add basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, fennel seed and crushed red pepper (if using). Cook, stirring, until well combined. Add whole tomatoes and all liquid from the can, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Add beef broth and sugar and stir to combine. Use the spoon to mash the tomato down to desired consistency.
- Increase heat to MEDIUM-HIGH and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to LOW and allow to simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes while you cook your pasta or for up to 2 hours to deepen the flavors.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, only if needed. If the sauce is too acidic for your taste, add optional butter and allow to melt into the sauce. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving for sauce to mellow. If you've used San Marzano tomatoes, it is unlikely you'll feel the need to add the butter but it is an excellent way to balance the flavors even further if you'd like.
- Serve over cooked pasta or your choice and top with Parmesan cheese.
Before adding fennel seed to sauce, place it on a cutting board and use the bottom of a spoon to lightly crush the seeds to release more fragrance and flavor.
Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes are an excellent choice for sauce making. The plum style tomato is highly flavorful, sweet, and naturally less acidic than many other varieties. Authentic San Marzanos are grown in Italy and the cans will be marked as such but the seeds are available and grown worldwide. I've had good luck with the less expensive US grown and canned "San Marzano Style" tomatoes and will generally use what I find at a good price at my local store.
It's vital to use the correct pan when cooking with very acidic or alkaline foods like tomatoes as cooking in a reactive pan can cause the food to pick up a metallic flavor. Reactive (no-no) pans include aluminum, cast iron, and copper. Instead, opt for a non-reactive pan with a stainless steel or enameled cast iron cooking surface.