The rich, delicious flavor of this homemade spaghetti sauce is nothing short of amazing! Tried-and-true, this spaghetti sauce recipe really is the best.

This has been my go-to spaghetti sauce for years. I make a batch, freeze half, and we have several meals to look forward to!

The flavor in this spaghetti sauce is out of this world delicious.

Homemade spaghetti sauce on top of cooked spaghetti noodles, all on a white plate.

How to Make Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

This sauce begins by building levels of flavor.

First: throw a chopped onion and red pepper in a blender and process until mostly smooth.

Doing this gives the sauce loads of flavor with minimal texture (making it especially kid-friendly!).

Blender with onion and red pepper.

Second: brown ground beef (or a combination of ground beef, ground pork, or ground sausage) with lots of garlic and add the following.

  • tomato paste
  • blended onion and red pepper
  • dried basil, oregano and thyme
  • salt and pepper

Cook that mixture until sizzling and fragrant.

Pot with ground beef, basil, oregano, salt, tomato paste, and blended red pepper and onion.

Third: add the “saucy” ingredients and a few more ingredients for flavor.

  • diced tomatoes
  • crushed tomatoes
  • beef broth or stock
  • brown sugar
  • bay leaves
Pot with spaghetti sauce and two bay leaves.

A Boost of Flavor

Cook the sauce at a low simmer for about an hour. It will reduce and thicken as it cooks.

Also: your house is going to smell amazing!

When it’s done cooking, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Why? This balances out the sauce while adding a rich depth of flavor.

Wooden spoon in pot of homemade spaghetti sauce.

Slow Cooker Variation

This sauce can easily be made in a slow cooker for even easier prep!

Slow Cooker Instructions: cook the meat and garlic in a skillet on the stove. Drain the grease. Then add the cooked meat and everything else (minus the olive oil and balsamic vinegar) to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 4-6 or low for 7-9 hours. Stir in the balsamic vinegar about 15 minutes before serving.

A fork twirling a bite of homemade spaghetti sauce and cooked spaghetti noodles to get ready for a bite.

A Family Favorite

This sauce has been our go-to homemade spaghetti sauce for over ten years. It’s perfect for spaghetti. But it can also be used for baked ziti, manicotti, and many other pasta dishes!

So many of you have become lifelong fans of this recipe as well.

Elizabeth says: This sauce is so good. I made everything exactly to a T. AMAZING!

Jorene says: I have been making this sauce for a couple years now. It truly is the best recipe. Everybody that eats it loves it. My sister asked for the recipe. That says a lot. I keep it in my freezer all the time.

Christy says: Omg! I haven’t made homemade sauce in over 20 years and I’m here to tell you that this is by far the best sauce I’ve ever tasted or made. Love it and wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you.

FAQ for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Can I make this without meat?

Yes, it’s delicious meatless, too (you can also use it for spaghetti and meatballs – add cooked meatballs toward the end after the sauce has simmered and let the meatballs heat through in the sauce).

Can I can this recipe for later?

I haven’t canned this recipe, but here’s another option!
 https://www.melskitchencafe.com/homemade-spaghetti-marinara-sauce-for-canning-or-freezing/
The flavor is a bit different than this homemade spaghetti sauce (in order for the sauce to be safe for canning), but it’s super tasty.

Should I leave the lid on or off while simmering?

I simmer partially covered.

Can I use the leftovers for lasagna, ziti, etc?

Yes I do that all the time!

What to Serve With This:

Hot, cooked spaghetti noodles
Divine breadsticks
Simple green salad (or something more fancy like this Gourmet Green Salad)

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The Best Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

4.55 stars (449 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, chopped and divided
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or lean ground turkey
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cans (14-ounces each) Italian-style diced tomatoes or regular diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans (28-ounces each) crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces button or baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups beef stock or beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions 

  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the chopped onions, and sauté until translucent and slightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, and cook, stirring constantly for a minute or so.
  • Add beef, and cook, breaking into small pieces, until it is no longer pink, 6-7 minutes. Drain excess grease.
  • In a blender or food processor, blend remaining 1 cup onion and the red pepper until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pot with the beef and onions.
  • Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and thyme, and cook for 1 minute, stirring until combined.
  • Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, mushrooms (if using), beef broth, and sugar. Stir until combined before adding the bay leaves.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and let the sauce rest for 10-15 minutes (for the flavor to absorb) before serving.

Notes

Sauce: the sauce may seem watery at first but will reduce to perfection after simmering for an hour. It can simmer for 2-3 hours (very low heat) with good results, especially if you want a super thick, flavorful sauce.
Slow Cooker: I’ve also had good success making this in the slow cooker; I brown the meat ahead of time and throw everything (minus the olive oil and balsamic vinegar) in the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 or low for 7-9 hours. I add the balsamic vinegar 15 minutes before serving.
Halving the Recipe: this sauce halves (or even quarters) great if you don’t want to make such a large batch. I have never tried canning it (but hopefully will figure out a canning recipe soon!).
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.
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 95kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 184mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g
Follow @MelsKitchenCafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Recipe originally published September 2016; updated September 2022 with additional photos, notes, etc (did not change the recipe).