Homemade Spaghetti Sauce - Perfected

I’ve posted before about my favorite homemade spaghetti sauce. The original recipe came from my Aunt Marilyn via her sister-in-law. I love the recipe but since I can’t leave well enough alone, I’ve been tweaking it here and there to suit my fickle nature.

It’s finally perfected.

This is some phenomenal sauce. It satisfies every taste bud in my mouth and is definitely my family’s favorite. I can finally rest at ease that no more tweaking is needed (for now!).

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce - Perfected

What To ServeHot, cooked spaghetti noodles
Steamed vegetable like broccoli or peas
Simple green salad (or something more fancy like this Gourmet Green Salad)

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce – Perfected

Yield: I’ve never measured how many cups of spaghetti sauce this makes, but it easily feeds my family of two adults and three children with more than enough to freeze for another meal of spaghetti or lasagna

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce – Perfected


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, chopped and divided
  • 1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 pounds hamburger (at least 90% lean) or lean ground turkey
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 12 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 14-oz. can Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 2 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 carton fresh mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add 1/2 of the onions and saute until translucent and slightly browned. Add garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add beef and cook until no red is showing. Drain beef slightly. Blend up the remaining onions and red pepper in a blender or food processor until mostly smooth. Add mixture to the garlic, onions and beef and stir to combine, cooking for another minute. Add tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring until combined. Add tomatoes, beef broth and sugar (and mushrooms, if using). Stir until combined and add the bay leaves.
  2. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Fifteen minutes before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar.


NOTE: The sauce will seem watery at first but will reduce to perfection after simmering for an hour. I’ve let it simmer on the stove for up to three hours before with no problems.

Make Ahead Instructions: The sauce can be made 2-3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. It also freezes beautifully. My favorite way to thaw/cook the sauce is to throw the heaping frozen mass of sauce in the slow cooker and cook it on low for about 5-6 hours. It thaws and heats up wonderfully well.


209 Responses to Homemade Spaghetti Sauce – Perfected

  1. Jen says:

    I love this sauce! My husband and I make a huge batch of sauce every couple months and freeze it for any night we don’t feel like cooking. This is definitely the best one we’ve made! The second batch is simmering now. We have done some of our own tweaking though. I add pound of italian sausage in addition to the beef. We like our sauce meaty! We also add way way way way more garlic (almost a whole bulb) because we are both complete garlic lovers! Thank you for such an awesome recipe!!

  2. Lisa says:

    Try this with tomato juice instead of sauce. let it simmer all day and then add the tomoatoe paste to thcken to your liking. Its magnifique!

  3. JenE says:

    My family LOVED this! I have two small boys and they gobbled it up. I will definitely be making this again and again. I have tried a few of your recipes and I have loved every one of them! Thanks!

  4. Erica Williams says:

    This was delish! And it made so much… Can’t wait for leftover night! Thanks for all of your yummy recipes, they never disappoint!

  5. Debbie R says:

    Hi Mel – I just have to tell you how much I love your spaghetti sauce recipe! I have tried for years to make my own sauce and have always gone back to Prego because I could not make one that tasted any better until today. My whole family really liked it. I am not Italian but live in community with lots of wonderful Italian cooks who could not believe I didn’t make my own sauce. I am happy to say that now I can thanks to you. I also made your ham recipe in the crockpot for Christmas and it turned out wonderfully. I won’t bother to make it in the oven again. Thanks and I am so glad to have found your blog. I look forward to trying many more of your recipes!

  6. […] Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays. Dinner, to be more precise. What’s on the menu you ask? Meat spaghetti pulled from this pin, garlic knots discovered on this pin, and my own personal spinach salad. As […]

  7. Judith Swiger says:

    Is the red pepper in your spaghetti sauce a hot pepper or mild?

  8. Mel says:

    Judith – it’s a red bell pepper.

  9. Nadia says:

    It was absolutely delicious – like every other recipe I have tried from your blog!! Thank You!

  10. Stephanie says:

    I just made this sauce and it was yummy. I didn’t have all the ingredients and tweaked it a little bit to use what I had at home. I used 3 cans of diced tomatoes, minced garlic (in the jar), 2 beef boullon cubes (didn’t have any broth in the can), brown sugar, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and my husband added a little bit of regular sugar. I browned my meat and added some tony chachere’s. It was so good! I cooked some whole grain rotini and it was perfect!

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  14. Beth says:

    Really, really great. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  15. […] Spaghetti Sauce (from freezer)-http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2009/10/homemade-spaghetti-sauce-perfected.html-Served on spaghetti noodles and green beans for side. -didn’t make last […]

  16. Karen Wilson says:

    I have two questions for you. Can you email me back with the answers? I would sure appreciate it.

    1. What kind or brand of flour tortilla’s did/do you use with your honey lime enchilda’s? And why no recipe for enchilada sauce?

    2. Does the ground beef you use in your spaghetti sauce also come out tasting like over-done hard pieces of beef? I don’t know why the ground beef I use always comes out tough, flavorless, hard, and over-done. It really irks me too, because my sauce is really fantastic and everyone loves it, but when I add ground beef it just ruins it, and I love having beef in my sauce. Does yours turn out the same way?

    Please let me know.


  17. melissa says:

    I made this and took it in to work. They loved it so much, they accused me of just buying a jar of spaghetti sauce. thanks! lol

  18. Samantha says:

    Made it meatless! So yummy. Thanks 🙂

  19. Stephen Webb says:

    I am really enjoying your posts and recipes. I started with your Spaghetti Pie, now your Red Sauce. We are in the middle of the biggest heat waves in years and can not wait to get in the kitchen and start cooking!

  20. john says:

    How many ounces fresh slices mushrooms?

    B sugar two tbsp packed or loose?


    • Mel says:

      Hi John – I use about 8 – 16 ounces fresh mushrooms. Yes, I seed and core and stem the pepper. And the brown sugar is lightly packed.

  21. john says:

    Is this with packed b sugar or loose?

    Is the b pepper seeded and stemmed?

  22. Katie says:

    This was delicious…the whole family loved it! A very unique sauce, I loved the balsamic vinegar in it. Thanks for yet another winner!!

  23. Stephanie says:

    Mel, I love your recipes, and am truly excited that I am going to give this one a try. I have one question. Since it makes so much, and I will be freezing it, like recommended, do I still stir in the balsamic 15 minutes before I finish cooking it, or will that give the frozen remainder a bitter taste when I reheat it in a slow cooker another day? Thanks!!! 🙂

  24. Stacey says:

    I tried this sauce for a casual spaghetti dinner with friends and it did not disappoint! Not that I thought it would….that’s why I pulled it from Mel’s site. She never does me wrong. It was so good! My go-to meat sauce from now on!

  25. Christina says:

    I have this simmering on my stovetop now. I am curious though, why do we purée the onion and pepper?

  26. Momof7 says:

    My fiancée and I have been debating for a while now to make a homemade sauce instead of store bought. We have stared really looking at ingredients and it is unbelievable what our foods are actually made of! So she decided today that we need to make a homemade sauce…And I found you! Your sauce looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it on my pick fiancée and children! I definitely will be back to let you know how it went! Thanks!

  27. Lynda says:

    This may be the best homemade spaghetti sauce I’ve ever had, and definitely the best that I’ve ever made. So, so good.

    It definitely makes a lot … We had generous helpings for dinner and I still put a bunch in the freezer for another time!

  28. Rutie says:

    Best sauce EVER ! My whole family and my best friend LOVED it !!!!! I had to promise I would always use this recipe. None of this sauce made it to the freezer….my son even had it the next day COLD from the frig for his breakfast.

  29. Jenny says:

    Hi there, love the website and the fantastic recipes! I have wanted to make my own spaghetti sauce for so long, but none of them ever fit the bill. This tastes fabulous, but I just have one or two questions. Can you leave the meat out of it so you can use it for chicken (or veggie meals)? Also apart from going getting a canning machine, could you just keep it in a sterilised and airtight jar when there is no meat in it? Or should I just stick to freezing regardless? Much thanks and love from Ireland! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Hi Jenny – yes, you could definitely leave the meat out of this for a vegetarian option. It wouldn’t be shelf stable unless it was canned according to the official ‘canning rules’ – so if you want to make large batches, I’d encourage freezing or figuring out how it will can (I believe others have left comments above saying they’ve canned it). Hope that helps a bit!

  30. CAC says:

    I have made this sauce multiple times yet every time I think it’s better than before. I’m looking in to making it without canned tomatoes/paste — any idea as to how many tomatoes would be needed for the amounts called for?

  31. Kath says:

    I thought I’d give this a try, was thinking to myself “this could be just another site with all great reviews only to discover the dish tastes ordinary” as I have been searching for the best bolognaise recipe for years and THIS IS IT, THIS IS THE ONE! This recipe is superb, even satisfied my hard to please husband. I have also tried your sweet and sour chicken – fantastic!!! This is my go-to site for all things FOOD. Mel you are amazing! Thankyou from Australia!

  32. Melissa says:

    Mel, your website has become my new recipe box! I love everything on your site, and it all turns out delicious!! I’ve always loved cooking, but I love it even more now that I have access to all your amazing recipes. I made this spaghetti sauce last night–TO DIE FOR!! So good! Like many of the others, I too have been searching for that perfect spaghetti sauce recipe. This is the one.

  33. Kelly says:

    Another hit! My 2 year old daughter asked for seconds…and then thirds! Made with your divine breadsticks. So good!

  34. Shaun says:

    This turned out great, just a tip for everyone make sure to use real San Marzano tomatos imported from Italy, makes a big difference 🙂

  35. Tatia White says:

    Today is my second time making this and I LOVE it. My entire family does. Thank you for a wonderful recipe. I’m used to using Hunts sauce and tweaking it a little bit. I love this so much better!

  36. Pamela says:

    Made this for dinner tonight. Absolutely fabulous, Dh declared prego would never be allowed in the house again LOL This was so easy to make and it tasted like you stood over the stove all day long. Not a big hit with 3 of the kids, but they prefer butter, garlic and parm. on their spaghetti so no surprise there.
    Kind of glad they don’t like it because there was enough left to put a container in the fridge and 2 in the freezer for us to eat later. Thank you for such a yummy addition to our recipes 🙂

  37. Joyce says:

    I’ve been cooking since I was six. I’m a grandmother with 13 grandchildren now and still love to cook for others. While I was checking on different recipes, I came across your sauce recipe. Since I canned tomatoes, I wanted to experiment with a new recipe. I chose your sauce to make tonight. Before I put in the vinegar both my husband and I tasted it, and we both liked it. However, we both thought the taste was richer after I added the vinegar. I used a quart of my tomatoes, a large can of seasoned tomatoes, and a large can of sauce, plus the tomato paste. It cooked on low for two hours and then set for another hour while I prepared the rest of the spaghetti pie. I still have enough sauce for two more pies! I love the red pepper in it! I added mushrooms as well. You get an A+ for this recipe! Thank you for sharing.

  38. Sara says:

    I made this tonight for a bunch of friends – it was a BIG hit w/ everyone. I followed the recipe almost exactly – I had ground pork, so did half ground beef, half pork. And I received various frozen peppers in my meat share, so used a variety of green/red/yellow peppers. Other than that, I did everything as prescribed – and it was fantastic!!!

  39. jessica says:

    I used ground turkey only and fresh tomatoes instead of canned sliced. Threw everything in the crockpot on lowvand turned out amazing

  40. […] 2 (24-ounce) jars pasta sauce or use 6 cups of homemade sauce […]

  41. Gus Hamilton says:

    I saw this and am making it for the first time. It’s a really easy recipe. I may have made a mistake, though. I always use red wine in my spaghetti sauce, and before I realized it, I poured a cup of red wine into the the sauce along with the beef stock. I am not sure whether I need to add the balsamic at the end. I will try it both ways (with and without the balsamic-there’s definitely more than enough sauce in the pot to experiment with some of it) and hope for the best. But it smells fantastic!!!!! My grandkids keep running into the kitchen asking when will dinner be ready?

  42. Gus Hamilton says:

    I also forgot to ask: I may have added a little too stock to the mixture-it’s hard to say because there’s a lot of sauce. Do I just simmer it a little linger to evaporate the excess liquid? And, do I let it simmer covered or uncovered?

  43. Gus Hamilton says:

    Tried it with and without the balsamic. The flavor definitely deepened after I added it. It is really good. I can’t wait until tomorrow to eat some more-spaghetti sauce, like greens, is a dish that definitely improves in flavor after being on the refrigerator overnight.

  44. Shellice M says:

    This is my second time making your sauce and my house smells awesome. The first time I did a meatless sauce, and this time I am adding the ground beef. My teenage daughter and I love to cook together. And we have made some great memories in the kitchen from many of your recipes. I can’t thank you enough for that. ♥

  45. Mike O says:

    Mel – After several attempts to make a home made sauce to my liking, I was thrilled with this recipe. Perfect consistency of the sauce, delicious flavor. I called an audible and used a combo of pork, veal and beef, but otherwise, followed it to a T. This recipe is now part of my arsenal! thanks

  46. Debbie H says:

    I made this spaghetti sauce today for dinner tonight. It was absolutely delicious!!
    My husband who is not a huge fan of italian even commented on how good the sauce was. I followed the recipe exactly but next time I will chop the italian stewed tomatoes into smaller pieces. I prefer smaller chunks of tomatoes in my sauce. I allowed it to simmer about 2 hours. The house smelled so good while it was simmering.
    The recipe made a big 6 quart pot of sauce so after the sauce cooled I distributed it in 1 quart jars with seal and ring and froze the sauce. It will be the just right for recipes that call for a 28 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce. After eating this sauce I will never use jarred sauce again!!
    Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe!

    • Debbie H says:

      I forgot to mention. I used 1 lb. ground beef and 1 lb. mild Italian sausage and it was great! I bought Italian stewed tomatoes accidentally instead of the Italian diced tomatoes so that is why I had chunky sauce. The sauce is GREAT!!

  47. Janet says:

    Love this recipe! I will make up batches of this yummy sauce and freeze for the future. I recently found your website and have enjoyed every recipe I’ve tried. You’ve got it down! Thank you!

  48. Tara says:

    I made this last night when we had some visitors over. It was a huge hit! I almost forgot to add the balsamic, and am so glad I remembered, because it just put the flavor over the top. One of my guests even joked that they kind of just wanted to drink the sauce straight because it was so delicious. Thanks for another great recipe. I will definitely be making this again.

  49. Kandel says:

    Hi! Can you tell me if the brown sugar makes the sauce taste sweet at all? I prefer no sweet taste in my sauces 🙂 I can omit it if it does. Wasn’t sure if it had another purpose. Love all of your recipes! Your site is a go-to for anything I’m looking for!

    • Mel says:

      Kendel – Yes, this sauce does have a hint of sweetness so you may want to leave it out or cut back. Hope you like it if you try it!

  50. DENISE says:

    why add balsamic vinegar?

  51. Denise says:

    Best spaghetti sauce EVER!! Thanks for sharing

  52. Doug Mills says:

    Loved your spaghetti sauce!! I’ve always loved my own spaghetti sauce but love to experiment also. I made your sauce with a fee tweeks and loved the addition of the red pepper, balsamic and beef broth. I usually add cream sherry to my sauce it gives it some sweetness along with a hint of wine flavor.

    My question is this. You said you have finally perfected this sauce, I’m sure during this process you experimented with putting some sort of wine in it, what made you decide to leave it out in this recipe??

    I also made the spaghetti pie, WOW, that was a hit!! Love your website and recipes. You can really tell what a great talent and love you have for cooking.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Doug – thanks for your comment; happy to hear you are enjoying the recipes! About your question, I actually didn’t add wine during any of the variations mostly because I am not an alcohol drinker and usually don’t use it in my cooking, either. I know it imparts great flavor but since I never drink it, I don’t really know what I’m missing. 🙂 Thanks for checking in!

  53. Melissa Goodwin says:

    I followed the recipe but somehow ended up with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Any idea how I got that and how to avoid it next time? Otherwise, I really liked the taste and the texture. Thanks!

  54. Donna says:

    Wow…it is perfect

  55. Kristyn says:

    Made this today for my post-baby freezer stash and it’s lovely! Thanks for sharing, Mel!
    For those curious, this made about 12 – 13 cups. I filled up 2 quart mason jars and 2 pint-and-a-half jars. I left a good amount of headspace, since I plan to freeze them.
    Thanks, again!

  56. Brad Evans says:

    Just curious , what does the balsamic Vin do to it ? I’m making this today and was just wondering what it added to it

    • Mel says:

      Hi Brad – it helps balance out the flavors and adds a nice rich acidity. Some people have left it out, though, and liked the sauce just fine.

  57. Amy says:

    Hi Mel! I am so happy I found your blog… I have been using your recipes and my picky family has been very pleased. I do have a question about the spaghetti sauce. My family does not like to have chunks of tomato in their sauce, can I replace the diced tomatoes with tomato sauce or is there some other tweak you would suggest? I am really hoping to get away from prepackaged sauces. 🙂

  58. Robin G says:

    This was good, but definitely needed much more salt, at least for my taste. Much too sweet with the brown sugar, maybe I’ll add only a teaspoon next time. I think that’s why I needed much more salt, to counteract the sweetness. But a good recipe. I’ll try it again, and tweak it to my taste. Everybody’s tastes are different, that’s what makes the world go ’round 🙂

  59. Tracy says:

    Made this recipe last night and loved it! The balsamic and red pepper are a delicious addition. It does make a ton, so there is plenty to spare for the freezer and leftovers.

  60. Cali says:

    I used some that I had frozen (you’re right in saying this makes a lot!) to make Argentine Canelonis, which is basically a baked savory crepe. Delicious! I was SO glad to have saved so much time by having the sauce on hand. Thank you!

  61. Suzanne says:

    Am making this now and it smells yummy… I was a bit confused by your note that it might seem watery… mine is quite thick before starting to simmer… 12 oz of tomato paste and 2 X 48 oz cans of crushed tomato, even offset by the broth and diced tomato doesn’t equal a lot of excess liquid. I just added some water as the bottom was scorching as the sauce was simmering.

  62. Michelle says:

    How do I adapt this for the slow cooker?

    • Mel says:

      I’ve never made it in the slow cooker so you’ll have to experiment. Others may have reported back in the comments about how they’ve done it. I’ve made it on the stovetop before and kept it warm in the slow cooker but never done it start to finish that way.

  63. Alisha says:

    I’ve only made this recipe like a million times. I love it so much. Making it today with no canned tomatoes – all fresh from the garden. Can’t wait!

  64. Erin says:

    I’d love to make this using all the fresh tomatoes I have piling up from my garden. Any idea how many to use and how I would do that?

    • Mel says:

      I would add up the ounces of crushed and diced tomatoes in the recipe and substitute a similar amount of fresh tomatoes, blending the amount that would sub in for the crushed tomatoes. Good luck!

  65. Jennifer says:

    Do you happen to have a yummy spaghetti sauce recipe that uses fresh tomatoes? I have toms from my garden that I would like to use.


  66. Yogicfoodie says:

    Hi Mel,
    I stumbled upon your site last night. Made the sauce this morning… doubled the recipe in a massive 18qt. pot for my three kiddos play date tomorrow and for our meals. Everyone loved it! Thank you so much. My picky eater wiped the plate clean!

  67. Erin says:

    MY KIDS ATE DINNER!! I’m shouting and celebrating because dinner is routinely a difficult experience (I.e. I make dinner & they complain about eating it). But tonight I made this awesome sauce (puréed it for the kids) and served over low carb penne. Amazing! I followed the recipe exactly, except I quartered it because I only had a half pound of mild Italian sausage & no ground beef. When I finally got to the basalmic vinegar stage I was salivating in anticipation… I reached for my trusty old bottle and… It was gone! I had used it up and forgot to buy more. What??? I knew I needed something with a full, tangy flavor & finally decided on red plum sauce. Weird, but magnificently good! Thanks Mel, this one’s definitely a winner! (Can’t wait to try it with Basalmic)

  68. Lisa Rocco says:

    Looks like you’ve had plenty of comments about this sauce, but I’m gonna add my 2 cents. Been married to an Italian for 34 1/2 years. nearly every recipe I’ve tried has been okay, Made yours, and jack pot……………………he fell in love. Just perfect!!!!! He raves, which makes me smile. Thank you…………………..you Rock.

  69. Laura says:

    Hi Mel! I absolutely LOVE your site! It’s become my go-to for pretty much everything food wise.
    We also love this sauce! I replace one pound of the ground beef with one pound Italian sausage and we like it even more. SO yummy!

    Thank you so much for all you do! I appreciate you 🙂

    Have a Merry Christmas!

  70. Christina Strapp Lambert says:

    I just wanted to let you know I have been making this recipe for a while now. My family loves it and so does everyone that comes over. I have tried so many recipes and then found this one and it’s all I use.

  71. Joyce T. says:

    Mel. I love your site.
    As luck would have it, I need to make a batch of Spaghetti Sauce for the freezer, and found your recipe. One of the comments, someone said to use San Marzano (sp?) canned tomatoes. Do you use a particular brand?
    Can’t wait to make your recipe.

    • Mel says:

      I’ve made this recipe with probably every brand on the market and to be honest, I think it’s great with everything from Hunt’s to San Marzano (those are hard to find in my neck of the woods).

  72. Carmin says:

    I made this without the meat and it made exactly 12 cups for me. Just for others who might wonder. What a yummy sauce!! Another win from Mel’s kitchen to mine.

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