Who knew that you could make a rich and hearty homemade spaghetti sauce in just 20 minutes? Simple and flavorful, this weeknight spaghetti sauce is perfect.

15-Minute Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Well, what do you know? Miracles do exist!

Two recipe posts during spring break week! I am rewarding myself for getting this post up and running by diving headfirst into my well-hid (I’ll never tell) stash of dark chocolate.

My kids decided to have an epic Lego building battle for a couple hours this afternoon, which worked in my favor.

Actually, it works in your favor, because if you love homemade spaghetti like I love homemade spaghetti, you are going to fall head over heels for this recipe.

Quick and simple, this 20-minute homemade spaghetti sauce is the answer when you want rich and hearty, flavorful spaghetti sauce without having to plan hours (or days) in advance…

…or without opening a jar.

Now before you revolt and feel attacked, we all know there’s no shame in popping open a jar of store bought spaghetti sauce, but if you get excited about from-scratch versions that are almost as easy as prepackaged, this recipe is for you. And me.

15-Minute Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I have a long-standing tried-and-true favorite homemade spaghetti sauce recipe here.

Hundreds of you have made it and loved it and saved the recipe to your forever files. It is hands down the best homemade spaghetti sauce ever.

It makes a lot, so I often freeze half of the batch, which makes for an exceptionally quick weeknight dinner. While the noodles boil, the sauce can be thawed and reheated.

But sometimes, there is no leftover frozen spaghetti sauce to be found. Nor do I have an hour or so to get it started and let it simmer.

That is when this 20-minute killer spaghetti sauce version jumps in to save the day.

Not only is it amazingly delicious, it is also a fabulous dinner solution for a crazy weeknight when you just need a healthy, tasty, filling dinner on the table fast.

Rich and hearty, there are a few key ingredients in this simple, weeknight spaghetti sauce that help replicate the flavor of a low and slow, long-simmered sauce.

Any idea what they are?

15-Minute Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

First, tomato paste! The concentrated flavor of tomato paste adds a depth of flavor quickly without the need for special ingredients or longer cooking time.

I know it’s slightly annoying to open a can of tomato paste only to use a few tablespoons, so let me offer you two solutions:

1) Spoon the rest of the tomato paste into a small ziploc bag and freeze it to use another time


2) Buy tomato paste in the squeezable tubes (kind of like toothpaste!); they are popping up in most stores these days and revolutionize using a tablespoon or two of tomato paste at a time.

Here’s a visual if you’ve never seen them before.

The second key ingredient might be a little surprising, but I promise it works: soy sauce.

You don’t need a lot – just a tablespoon, but that little dash of complexity does wonders for the overall flavor of this quick-simmered sauce.

{I haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing a gluten-free alternative, like tamari, might work, as well.}

15-Minute Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

The real test of success for this sauce was when I made it a while ago but didn’t tell anyone in my family it was the fast and furious version instead of our longtime favorite homemade version.

While eating, one of the boys said: “I love mom’s spaghetti sauce” and Brian said “yep, there’s nothing that can beat it.”

I sat there beaming (trying to ignore the one child at the end of the table who was gagging on the Instant Pot brussels sprouts accompanying dinner).

I almost didn’t have the heart to tell everyone that I had kind of tricked them – subbing in this quick and simple spaghetti sauce for our beloved go-to homemade spaghetti sauce.

I’m sure in a side-by-side taste test, they’d be able to pick out the long standing favorite, but we clearly love this weeknight version enough to make it over and over and over.

This week, during spring break, each of the boys have a night they are assigned to make dinner by themselves. When deciding the menu, they were arm wrestling over who got to make this easy homemade spaghetti sauce for their night.

In the end, we may enjoy it five days in a row just to keep the peace.

P.S. It kind of goes without saying that the Asiago bubble bread from earlier this week served with this spaghetti would be straight up phenomenal. #embracethecarbs

15-Minute Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Hot, cooked spaghetti noodles
Divine breadsticks or this Asiago pull-apart bread
Thrown together green salad

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookie Bars
Two Years Ago: Fudgy Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cake
Three Years Ago: Overnight Raised Waffles

15-Minute Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

15 votes


Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce




Yield 6 servings

To get a full spaghetti meal on the table fast, cook the noodles while you make the sauce. It probably goes without saying, but you could use ground sausage, if that's your preference, or experiment making this meatless. Also, I won't tell if you decide to opt for 1/2 or so teaspoon garlic powder in place of the minced, fresh garlic.

Like I mention in the post above, since the recipe calls for two tablespoons of tomato paste, you can freeze the remaining tomato sauce (from a can) to use later OR look for the tomato paste in the squeezable tubes (life changing!).

This sauce is obviously delicious as a quick spaghetti meal, but it's also wonderful subbed in a multitude of pasta dishes, like this manicotti or these lasagna rolls.


  • 1 pound ground beef, ground turkey, or ground pork (or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • Hot, cooked noodles, for serving
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)


  1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground meat, onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper, breaking the meat into small pieces as it cooks, until the meat is not longer pink. 
  2. Drain any excess grease. 
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about a minute, until the mixture smells fragrant. 
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, brown sugar and soy sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes (or as long as you like/need).
  6. Serve over hot, cooked noodles.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

62 Responses to Quick Weeknight Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

  1. Kris says:

    So wonderful! Just made this and my two year old LOVES!!! “Mo mo pasta, Mama please”. Thanks for helping satisfy my toddler! We love it too. Definitely making again.

  2. Shar says:

    Hi Mel, I made this last week and my whole family loved it. In fact, it is the only meat sauce my 12 year old will eat, but she sure gave it the evil eye before she tasted it. The next day, I asked my 15 year old what he’d like for dinner and he said he wanted spaghetti. When I remarked that we had it for dinner last night, he replied, “I know, it was awesome!” That is some pretty high praise from my 2 picky eaters. I just wanted to say thanks for another great recipe.

  3. Sarah says:

    This was EXCELLENT! I REALLY don’t like using jarred pasta sauce, but tasty homemade has always been so time consuming. No more! We all loved this. So great to have a recipe where I likely already have all of the ingredients in the house, as well. Thank you!

  4. Sandra says:

    I finally made this sauce–delicious! If anyone is skeptical about the soy sauce, DO NOT TASTE SAUCE IMMEDIATELY AFTER ADDING IT! After 15 minutes of simmering, however, the flavor mellows and you’re left with a great tasting spaghetti sauce.

  5. Soonhee says:

    I love spaghetti and could eat it almost every day so I had to try this one and it may now be my favorite. I made it as written except I used a pound of mild Italian sausage. It made the sauce spicier, but it was delicious. This sauce has the perfect consistency to be thick and satisfying while still spreading out over the noodles enough. Thank you for sharing!!

  6. Christine says:

    This sauce was fantastic! It tasted similar to my mom’s recipe that took all day to make! Great recipe for a busy weeknight. Filling too! I’ve made probably close to 50 of your recipes and have not been disappointed once. I also have not ever had a problem reading or understanding the recipe!

  7. Marisa says:

    This was great; rich and just salty enough. This will definitely be our go-to in the seemingly never ending quest to find a spaghetti sauce the entire family likes. We are having a Mel’s Kitchen week at our house: this spaghetti, beef stroganoff, meatloaf, and the chicken/quinoa/butternut squash stew for lunches (which is so, so good). Thanks for all of your great recipes!

  8. Michelle says:

    I come from an Italian/Sicilian family and am the first generation to call it “sauce”, not “gravy” (weird, right?). My mom taught me to make sauce in a huge pot and freeze portions because it takes all day to cook down. UMMMM…no it doesn’t!! This recipe, while my grandma might just be rolling in her grave that I sought a recipe from a blogger in Idaho, is perfect. Quick enough that I don’t need to make a day of it (mine was done in 20 easily), and better because my thawed sauce was always on the watery side. I love it I love it I love it! And my husband and kids do too. Thanks so much, Mel. You are (and always will be) my cooking hero.

    • Mel says:

      You made my day, Michelle! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so happy you loved this quicker (totally not authentic, apologies to your grandma) sauce. 🙂

  9. Teresa says:

    Mel, this sauce was just fantastic. I blended up the tomatoes to ensure a smooth base, which is what we all prefer. It had such a richness to it. I added tamari, which is what I keep on hand and it was perfect. I simmered mine for about 40 minutes though. I like a more “cooked” sauce. Still, much quicker than most sauces with a simmered all day taste. We really loved it.

  10. Tara says:

    Who’da thunk to add soy sauce! Perfect! Now I must try your favourite if it’s better than this! This really hit the spot today with several hangry kids, though mine was not ready in 20 minutes! Not even close! Maybe if I had it prepped like a tv show! Lol . But thanks for another keeper!

    • Mel says:

      Haha, that’s good feedback on the 20-minute thing. I actually hate estimating the time for recipes but most recipe formats require it now. I’ll make a mental note to slow down the timing. 🙂

  11. Becky says:

    Ok so I love your first spaghetti sauce recipe…..have made it for a few years now. This one tops it for my family, simply has a great flavor, a nice texture between meat and sauce. It is a winner in my house!!! And the asiago bread as a side, sooooo yummy!

  12. Jodi says:

    Have you ever measured how many tablespoons of tomato paste is in a can of tomato paste? I started buying tomato paste in tubes, but still come across recipes that call for a 6, 8, or 12 oz can of tomato paste. I absolutely love, love, love your blog. Thanks!


  13. Mazey says:

    I will make this soon. I plan on replacing the meat with Morningstar sausage patties or crumbles since we aren’t big meat eaters, but I wanted a homemade sauce so thank you for sharing.

  14. Josie R. says:

    So, so good Mel!! I’ll admit I’ve still been buying jars of Prego for spaghetti, holy cow, not ever after this!! I’ve been wanting to try your fave homemade version and just hadn’t gotten around to it, I decided to give this a go tonight and I’m never going back! Thank you, first of all for making a post happen on spring break! And thank you, thank you for this awesome recipe! My family loved it so much!

  15. Loretta says:

    This was absolutely delicious!

  16. Stacey says:

    Can’t wait to try this! Have been wondering if your perfect spaghetti sauce could be adapted for the Instant Pot as it is so, so good! This quick version probably makes that unnecessary.

  17. Amy W. says:

    Mel, thank you! You’ve done it agaIn! This looks SO GOOD!!! I absolutely LOVE your other spaghetti sauce but this will be nice to have in a pinch. Any thoughts on sub for brown sugar, please? Trying to avoid it right now… Thank you!!

    • Mel says:

      What about just a drizzle of honey? You just need a tiny bit of sweetness to counteract the acidity.

      • jill says:

        a few pinches of baking soda while the sauce is bubbling also counteracts the acidity without added sugar.

    • Allyson says:

      I added a tsp or so of coconut sugar and the finished product was delicious. Honey and/or baking soda would work too (I’ve used those in the past with a different recipe). Happily, brown sugar isn’t necessary!

  18. Amanda says:

    This sounds perfect! I recently had to change things up in the kitchen due to my husband being diagnosed with celiac disease & La Choy soy sauce is actually gluten free! Also, I appreciate your GF & GF adaptable recipe section. It saved me so much in that first month when cooking anything felt daunting. I find myself falling in love with your site more with each recipe, & I’ve already loved it for years,… & I say that in the least creepy way possible 😉

    • Mel says:

      Haha, not creepy at all, Amanda! I can’t remember if you already mentioned in a comment about your husband being diagnosed with Celiac disease. I’m glad you’ve been able to find some ways to make cooking gluten-free less daunting as you start out. Do you know Nicole’s blog: glutenfreeonashoestring.com? I’ve made several of her gluten-free baked goods for friends that eat gluten-free. She has a huge archive of gluten-free recipes.

  19. Heather M. says:

    This sauce is so easy and so delicious!!! I made it exactly as written except I increased everything by 2 1/2 times the recipe (because I have a very big family) and it was the perfect amount to go with the 3 lbs. of spaghetti I cooked to go with it. It was met with rave reviews and every plate was cleaned with gusto tonight. An absolute winner! I even called my Mom after supper to tell her she absolutely has to make this now 🙂 This is my new favorite sauce, so so good (next to your Classic Marinara, oh how I love that one!). Thank you!!!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for your review, Heather! I love that classic marinara sauce, too (the flavor!) – I’m so happy you liked this quick weeknight version!

  20. Paige says:

    I totally need to make this! I need a go-to sauce recipe!


  21. Amy says:

    I made this today after seeing it here and wow!! Everyone declared it delicious!!! Thanks for the fabulous recipe!!

  22. Sara says:

    Hey Mel! I am excited to try this as Spaghetti is one of my favorite comfort foods! And a quick version would do wonders for my heart! Anyway, One thing I use for tomatoe paste is the Thrive tomatoe powder! You probably already know/use it but I thought I would throw this out there just in case

  23. Lauren says:

    Can’t wait to try the soy sauce twist! I’d love to have your instant pot brussels sprouts recipe!

    • Mel says:

      It’s so easy – saute bacon (optional) in IP (I use turkey bacon, maybe 4 strips), add 2 pounds brussels sprouts, 1 cup broth, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. High pressure 2 minutes, quick release. SO tasty! It’s adapted from Bob Warden’s book: Great Food Fast.

  24. Nancy says:

    Mel, I make a quick sauce as well, but use balsamic vinegar, instead of soy sauce. Have you ever tried that? Delicious!

  25. JoAnn says:

    Hi Mel, I normally don’t take the time to comment (mom to four littles so…. you know 🙂 ) but I have been wanting to tell you that after trying numerous recipes from other blogs, I’ve found myself coming back to your recipes over and over again. They do not disappoint! Thank you so much!!! The spaghetti sauce and asiago bread are going on my menu. Enjoy the rest of spring break!

  26. Helen says:

    Perfect!! I love your other recipe too… but this new spaghetti sauce take is so practical for most days of my life. I’m excited to try it. Also on an unrelated note, I just made Yumm sauce and yum yum bowls (cooked a big batch of quinoa in chicken broth in the Instant Pot –life/game changing for my quinoa loving soul). Thanks for convincing me a year ago that I needed an Instant Pot in my life. Yum Yum bowls have become one of my favorite lunch options. I make up a bunch of the veggies and sauce and quinoa and then I eat it for days….. I know this had nothing to do with this post, but It seemed like a good time to tell you! Happy Spring Break!!

  27. Ellen says:

    I have a very similar recipe I’ve used for years. It doesn’t have the soy sauce in it but does have a glass of red or white wine (whichever I’m drinking). I’ll have to try the soy sauce (or maybe even Worcestershire) next time!

  28. Dani B says:

    Ok, having each of your boys take a turn preparing dinner 1 night during spring break week…this is genius. And their future wives will bow and worship at your feet.

    • Mel says:

      Haha, hopefully, unless the only thing they ever master is mac and cheese (a distinct possibility at the rate things are going…)

  29. Emily M. says:

    This looks perfect! Also, I want to know how to make brussels sprouts in the instant pot…

    • Mel says:

      Oh, they are our favorite: It’s so easy – saute bacon (optional) in IP (I use turkey bacon, maybe 4 strips), add 2 pounds brussels sprouts, 1 cup broth, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. High pressure 2 minutes, quick release. SO tasty! It’s adapted from Bob Warden’s book: Great Food Fast.

  30. Bridget says:

    I want to thank you for posting even with all of your kids home for spring break! You are a great example to me in managing time! Also, I am excited to try this quick spaghetti sauce version. My kids beg to have spaghetti Every. Single. Week. I don’t always have time to make your other recipe and there is no going back to jarred sauce, so this looks like a great medium ground. Thanks again! I can’t wait to try it.

  31. Bryn says:

    If you think the tubes are life changing…
    Thank you for the recipe, I love your perfected sauce so much, but will give this a go for sure.

  32. Heather bell says:

    My sons are spaghetti sauce snobs and we do bust out the bottled spaghetti sauce (no shame here) but I’m thinking of trying years. Prob will have to blend the diced tomatoes but I can handle that. Thanks! Also, love the hashtag. Carbs for life

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