This Easy Homemade Spaghetti sauce is rich, meaty, and loaded with authentic Italian flavor. Toss it with your favorite cooked pasta for a satisfying meal in about 40 minutes!
When the craving for Italian food strikes, easy recipes like this one and my Easy Tomato Cream Sauce cook quickly for a delicious busy day dinner.
There are few things that will make your home feel cozier than having a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce bubbling away on your stove. When time permits it might be my Pasta Bolognese or Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs. But when time is an issue (always!) this Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce is hands down the clear winner.
This recipe was designed to cook fast and use items I consider to be kitchen staples. With just a 30 minute simmer, this sauce takes on great depth of flavor and reaches the perfect consistency.
I’ve worked on perfecting this Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce recipe over the years and decided to jot down the “little of this, and little of that” and share it with you all. And, I’m so glad that I did! Since I originally published the recipe 7 years ago, I’ve heard from so many of you that this is your go-to pasta sauce recipe. It’s definitely mine too!
Table of contents
- Canned tomatoes: 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 hands down the best choice. These plum style tomatoes are 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. There are less expensive U.S. grown and canned “San Marzano Style” tomatoes that I have used with good success when I couldn’t locate the real deal.
- Seasoning: Dried basil, oregano, thyme, fennel seed and just enough crushed red pepper to add a kick but not much heat. If you like Italian sausage, you’ll love the flavor fennel seed adds to this sauce. It’s a unique flavor 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.
How to Make Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Heat the olive oil to a non-reactive pot or Dutch oven (see tips below) and add the ground beef, onion and garlic. Cook the beef, stirring, until crumbly and browned. Drain off any excess grease and return the pot to the heat. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute or two.
- Add all the seasonings and cook, stirring, until well combined.
- Add whole tomatoes and all liquid from the can, breaking up the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon. Add the beef broth and sugar and stir to combine.
- Increase heat to bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes while you cook your pasta or for up to 2 hours to deepen the flavors.
Tips for the Best Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
The right pan: 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 my Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch oven and a less expensive but still very high quality stainless steel pan from Calphalon.
Stir and mash: Don’t be concerned about smashing the whole tomatoes immediately after adding them to the pot. As the sauce cooks the tomatoes will soften and become easy to crush, especially if you’ve used high quality San Marzano tomatoes. Use the spoon to smash the tomatoes against the side of the pot throughout the cooking time until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
Crushed fennel seed: Before adding the fennel seed to the sauce, place it on a cutting board and use the bottom of a spoon or the bottom of a jar to lightly crush the seeds to release more fragrance and flavor. Or, just crushing them with your fingers will help bring more flavor out of them.
Adding sugar: I add just enough sugar in this recipe to balance the acid in the tomatoes but not enough to make it a sweet sauce. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, feel free to increase the amount of sugar.
Adding butter: If the sauce is still too acidic for your taste, adding a little butter at the end of the cooking time can help balance the flavors. Let the butter melt into the finished sauce then let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 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 reduce the acid and mellow the sauce if neeeded.
Salt carefully: 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 ½ 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.
- This sauce is a great starting point for so many Italian recipes from spaghetti to lasagna to a delicious baked ziti. A slight variation on this sauce creates amazing Meaty Lasagna Roll-Ups.
- Toss a Simple Italian Salad, make some Cheater Garlic Bread (pictured above), open a nice bottle of wine, and you’ve got yourself an incredible meal!
- Check out my entire collection of side dish recipes and salads for more ideas.
Storage and Reheating Tips
This sauce is a great choice for weekend meal prep as it stores and reheats exceptionally well. Make a double batch and portion it out to freeze for easy future meals.
- Refrigerate: Transfer the cooled sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Ladle the cooled sauce into large freezer-safe plastic storage bags, press out as much air as possible and seal the bags. Then they can be frozen flat and stacked to save freezer space.
- Reheat: Just warm the sauce in a saucepan over low heat until warmed through. If frozen, thaw completely in the refrigrator overnight before reheating.
More Easy Italian Recipes You’ll Love
- Lazy Lasagna Casserole
- Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- Skillet Chicken Parmesan
- One Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Meaty Tortellini Skillet
- Check out my entire collection of Italian recipes for more!
Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed (see recipe note)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- 28 ounces whole San Marzano tomatoes, (see recipe note)
- 2 cups low sodium beef broth
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, optional
- Pasta of your choice, cooked according to package directions
- Parmesan cheese for topping, optional
- Add the olive oil to a non-reactive pot or Dutch oven (see recipe note) and place it over MEDIUM heat. Add the ground beef, onion and garlic and cook, stirring to break up the beef, until crumbly and browned with no pink remaining. Drain off the excess grease and return the pot to the heat. Stir the tomato paste into the mixture and cook for a minute or two and then add the basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, fennel seed and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook, stirring, until well combined. Add the whole tomatoes and all the liquid from the can, breaking up the tomatoes a bit by pressing them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the beef broth and sugar and stir to combine.
- Increase the heat to MEDIUM-HIGH and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to LOW and simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes while you cook your pasta or for up to 2 hours to deepen the flavors. Stir occasionally throughout the cooking time and use the spoon to mash the tomato down to the desired consistency.
- Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, only if needed. If the sauce is too acidic for your taste, add the optional butter and allow it to melt into the sauce. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to allow the 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 topped with Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
This post was originally published on March 10, 2017. It has been updated with new text and images.