Every household has its own secret spaghetti sauce recipe, and this is mine. It is my family's favorite, full of flavor, and so much healthier than the cans of spaghetti sauce at the grocery store.
I aim for minimum of a 1:1 ratio of vegetables to ground meat, so while this is a meat sauce, it's also packed with hidden vegetables. I always use onions, carrots, and celery, but I find that mushrooms add a meaty flavor and texture, as well as extra nutrients and fiber.
Homemade sauce is healthier than most store bought sauces because you control what goes into it, including all that extra sodium, preservatives, and other hidden ingredients. My only "hidden" ingredients are onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms, all of which are full of nutrients.
If you have picky eaters, I recommend using a food processor to chop these ingredients into small enough pieces that they melt into the sauce while it's cooking.
This spaghetti sauce is delicious on noodles, gnocchi, or even vegetables. With just a few adjustments, it can also be used to make a flavorful lasagna sauce. I have included my tips on how to make lasagna below.
- olive oil
- garlic, crushed
- sugar (optional)
- lean ground beef or turkey
- dried oregano
- dried basil
- whole canned tomatoes and tomato paste
- bone or chicken broth
- salt and pepper
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Step 1: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat on a stove top. Sauté the chopped onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sugar and cook for 2 minutes more, or until garlic becomes fragrant.
Step 2: Add the ground meat, along with the spices and seasonings, and cook until browned. You may want to drain off any excess fat at this point.
Step 3: Stir in the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer under low heat. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or longer.
Step 4: Serve the sauce over cooked pasta and enjoy!
Vegetarian Variations of Spaghetti Sauce
Use a Plant Based Protein such as tofu, which will absorb the flavors of this sauce and add significant protein to a vegetarian version. I recommend patting the tofu dry, then chopping it small by hand or with the help of food processor. I find that sautéing the tofu with the spices separately before adding it to the sauce improves the flavors and texture of the sauce.
Use a Variety of Mushrooms to give this sauce a meaty texture with both substance and umami flavor.
How to Thicken Your Sauce
Have you ever wondered how to make your watery spaghetti sauce thicker? If you have excess liquid, there are a few different ways to turn a watery sauce to a delicious sauce with a thick texture.
Method 1: Simmering
An easy way to turn a thin sauce into a thick sauce without additional ingredients is to remove the lid of your pot and cook your sauce longer on medium high heat. As the liqiud evaporates, your sauce will get thicker. Make sure to stir the pot as the tomato sauce has a tendency to burn.
Method 2: Removing liquid
If you are short on time or have a very watery sauce, you can remove some of the liquid with a ladle. Then, continue to simmer the sauce without the lid until it has thickened to your desired consistency.
Method 3: Adding tomato paste
For a slightly thicker consistency, you can add one or two tablespoons of tomato paste. Tomato paste acts as a great thickening agent. To avoid clumping, mix the tomato paste with a bit of the pasta water in a small bowl before adding it to the sauce. Since tomato paste can be acidic, you can also add a few teaspoons of extra sugar to balance out the flavor.
Method 4: Adding a thickening agent
Another alternative to achieving a thicker consistency sauce is to add 1-2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, or a gluten-free alternative such as arrowroot powder, cornstarch, or potato starch.
To make a slurry, whisk equal parts of the thickening agent with cold water until it is smooth. Then, whisk the slurry into the simmering sauce until it has thickened to your desired consistency. It will take a few minutes for the starch to thicken your sauce.
How to Thin out Spaghetti Sauce
It's not too much to expect perfect consistency for your pasta sauce, and there are a couple of different options to get that. If you have a thick spaghetti sauce, add 3-4 tablespoons of warm or room temperature broth or water. Stir, then check again before adding anymore.
If you have pasta water boiling, then use starchy pasta water to adjust the consistency of your sauce. Alternatively, if you are looking for a creamy texture, add a few splashes of cream or full fat milk to your sauce.
Spaghetti Meat Sauce for Lasagna
This spaghetti meat sauce can easily be used for making a lasagna with just a few changes. If you have more than 4 layers to your lasagna, I recommend that you double the recipe for the sauce. For a meatier version, add Italian sausage meat to the ground meat.
If you are using pre-boiled lasagna noodles, add one extra cup of chicken broth to your pasta sauce, making the total to 2.5 cups. If your lasagna is not pre-boiled, you will need to add an additional 1 to 1 ½ cups of broth or liquid, as it will soak it up as the lasagna noodles bake in the oven.
Ways to Make Spaghetti Sauce More Delicious
This spaghetti sauce can become more decadent by:
- adding 2 tablespoons of butter right before serving for a richer flavor
- adding a Parmesan rind to add depth to this delicious spaghetti sauce
- adding 3-4 tablespoons of heavy cream in the final stage of cooking for a creamy sauce
- finishing with a drizzle of your favorite olive oil, add some hot pepper flakes, some parmesan cheese, and a little bit of fresh basil to create an even more flavorful spaghetti sauce
Making in advance
The spaghetti sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored well covered in the refrigerator.
Make a big batch of this delicious spaghetti sauce and freeze leftovers. Always allow the sauce to cool before placing in a sealed container in the freezer.
Did You Make the Recipe?
Best Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 oz onion finely chopped
- 4 oz carrot finely chopped
- 4 oz celery finely chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoon garlic finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon sugar optional
- 16 oz lean ground beef or turkey or meat substitute
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 28 oz whole tomatoes in juice roughly chopped (1 large can)
- 1 ½ cups bone or chicken broth may need more
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sugar and cook for a few additional minutes. Then add the ground meat, oregano, basil, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook until browned. (Optional: drain off excessive fat)
- Add the tomato paste, and stir until paste has fully incorporated with the mixture. Then add the entire can of tomatoes plus juice, and the bone or chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes or longer.
- Serve the sauce over cooked pasta, or use in a lasagna.