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Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce

4.5 stars (17 ratings)

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Homemade spaghetti meat sauce starts with garden fresh, frozen, or canned tomatoes. Add pork sausage, basil, and oregano then simmer it low and slow for a rich, meaty flavor. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd or can be frozen for later. Serve with spaghetti or your favorite pasta shape for a delicious homemade dinner.

Overhead shot of homemade spaghetti sauce over a bed of spaghetti noodles surrounded by a colander of noodles, a pan of sauce, a cutting board, and fresh basil.

I love the comfort found in a bowl of homemade spaghetti with meat sauce. There is something nostalgic about the aroma of a rich tomato sauce simmering on the stove top. It takes me back to my childhood.

Homemade spaghetti and meat sauce has always one of my favorite meals. Growing up, mom wouldn’t make it on just any weeknight. It had to be a weeknight that nothing else was going on. No sports, no church, just mom in the kitchen keeping a watchful eye while letting that pot simmer. The hour and a half or so that it took to cook down and thicken always seemed to take forever, but it was always worth it.

Over the years I’ve created and perfected my own homemade spaghetti meat sauce recipe. The challenge taught me that good flavor is worth the wait and that food will forever tie me to my mother.

Overhead shot of homemade spaghetti sauce over a bed of spaghetti noodles surrounded by a colander of noodles, a pan of sauce, and a cutting board with a wedge of parmesan cheese with a grater leaning on it.

The Secret to Excellent Meat Sauce: The Simmer

When it comes to making homemade spaghetti meat sauce from scratch, the extra simmer time makes all the difference. You’ll need about ninety minutes at a minimum, but it only gets better with time. It can go all day if you let it.

During the simmer lots of things are happening. The spice from the sausage is drawn out, the fat from the meat is rendered, the tomato flavor is concentrated, and the carrots all but disappear. The longer the sauce simmers, the more the flavors meld and the richer they get.

While the results are always worth it, this is also the reason so many people settle for store bought sauce. I make this sauce about 3 or 4 times a year. It’s worth the time and effort, but more so because of the large quantity it produces.

A jar of homemade spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes, basil, and a wedge of parmesan in the background.

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce

Depending on the cooking method you choose and how long you allow it to simmer, you should end up with about 5 quarts of homemade spaghetti meat sauce. A shorter cook time will leave you with more sauce, while a longer cook time allows the sauce more time to concentrate, but will leave you with less sauce. Below I cover the three most common methods for making this sauce.

Spaghetti Meat Sauce on the Stovetop

My go to method for making this sauce, and the one referred to in the recipe card, is on the stovetop using a 6 quart enameled dutch oven. It has space to hold everything with just enough room to stir. I place it at the back of the stove, over my simmer burner, and leave it on low. The cast iron does an excellent job of retaining the heat, so it seems to maintain a simmer with a lower flame.

Spaghetti Meat Sauce in the Slow Cooker

When I worked in an office instead of at home, I used a slow cooker to make my meat sauce. I don’t think it used any less energy, but I felt better not having an open flame running while I was away from home.

To adapt yours for the slow cooker make two minor adjustments. First, do all the cooking steps in a large skillet or saute pan then transfer it to the slow cooker. Also, be sure to puree the veggies before adding the cooked meat. One trick to speed up the process with a slow cooker: start it on high as you build the sauce, then turn it to low when you are ready to walk away and let it simmer.

Spaghetti Meat Sauce in the Instant Pot

This is a recipe that does not put the instant into Instant Pot. I have tried it two times using troubleshooting methods from others in the instant pot community, but it has failed. The flavors are okay, but the texture of the sauce is way off.

Created according to the recipe, the sauce burns to the bottom leaving the entire thing with an off flavor that doesn’t do your ingredients justice. Adding more stock or water may prevent burning, but it also leaves you with a watered down texture that only faintly tastes like spaghetti sauce.

The one thing I haven’t tried yet is using the slow cooker function on the instant pot. I think it has the best chance of getting the job done safely without burning. It won’t save you much time, but since you can saute and slow cook in one pan, it may save some dirty dishes. Once I get that tested, I’ll come report back (and update the photos!)

Ingredients for homemade spaghetti sauce with beef, pork, basil and oregano. Slow simmered for a rich, meaty, tomato flavor. Boil some pasta and dinner is served.

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce Ingredients

The fun thing about spaghetti meat sauce is how much you can customize the recipe based on your own tastes and what’s available depending on the season. The two ingredients where this matters most is in the meat and the tomatoes.

The Meat in Meat Sauce

My personal preference for this sauce is to use a combination of both mild and hot Italian sausage, mainly because of the flavor, but also because they are easily available to me at the local market. I try to use leaner versions when I can find it.

If pork sausage isn’t your thing, you could make this sauce with any combination of ground meat. It’s will turn out great, as long as you use the right quantity. Lamb, turkey, pork, beef, chicken, and even wild game work well in meat sauce.

One thing to consider is that a lot of the spice is coming from the suggested sausage. If you remove it, you may need to adjust the salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and red pepper. Don’t want the extra spice? Swap the sausage for unseasoned ground pork. Want yours really spicy? Use all hot Italian sausage. The choice is up to you.

An angled shot of homemade spaghetti sauce over a bed of spaghetti noodles next to a grater and wedge of parmesan cheese with fresh tomatoes, a jar of sauce and a colander of noodles in the background.

Tomatoes: Fresh, Frozen, or Canned

In season fresh tomatoes are going to give you the best flavor. However, if you’re making this sauce out of season go for whole, canned or frozen tomatoes. These are usually picked at the peak of ripeness and will give you better flavor than watery, flavorless, off season tomatoes you’ll find in the produce department.

While I love making this sauce with garden fresh tomatoes, often I just don’t have the time when the tomatoes are perfectly ripe. Instead, I freeze my whole tomatoes and come back to them later.

To freeze your tomatoes: Completely remove the stems from your ripe tomatoes, place them on a baking sheet top down, and freeze for 4 – 6 hours or until solid. Place them in a freezer safe container and store in the freezer for up to 4 – 6 months.

Tomatoes: To Peel or Not to Peel

If you are using unpeeled tomatoes you have to consider the peels. Most people will tell you to peel the tomatoes, but I’m not most people. When working with fresh tomatoes I usually chop the tomatoes in a large dice and leave the skins in place. With frozen tomatoes however, I usually remove the skins.

While the skins do contribute to the rich flavor, some people think they have a bitter flavor. Also, if you aren’t using a professional-level blender for the puree step, you may end up with larger than desired chunks of tomato peels.

Removing the skin is pretty simple and doesn’t require blanching. To start, fresh tomatoes should be scored with a paring knife to break the skins, while the skins on frozen tomatoes are usually broken during the freezing process. Since we are working with frozen tomatoes in their frozen state, if the skin looks intact, it’s safer to pierce them after you douse them in boiling water.

Place the fresh or frozen tomatoes in a colander in the sink. Pour boiling water over them, then flush them with cold water from the tap. The skins will almost fall off. It has the same effect as blanching, but is a bit quicker in practice.

Homemade spaghetti sauce over a bed of spaghetti noodles in a white bowl with two fresh tomatoes, a wedge of parmesan and a cheese grater in the background.

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Spaghetti Meat Sauce Recipe

This homemade spaghetti meat sauce is made with fresh, frozen, or canned tomatoes, and a mixture of mild and hot Italian pork sausage. Slow simmered for a rich, meaty flavor that beats store bought sauce any day. Serve yours over boiled spaghetti or your favorite kind of pasta for a delicious dinner that will keep them coming back for more.

Looking for more tasty tomato recipes try my Tomato Basil Bisque, Tomato Burrata Salad, or see all my main dish recipes.

If you like this recipe, please give it a FIVE-STAR rating and share it on your favorite social channel!

Overhead shot of homemade spaghetti sauce over a bed of spaghetti noodles surrounded by a colander of noodles, a pan of sauce, a cutting board, and fresh basil.

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce

Homemade spaghetti meat sauce is made with fresh, frozen, or canned tomatoes, and a mixture of mild and hot Italian pork sausage. Slow simmered for a rich, meaty flavor, it beats store bought sauce any day.
4.5 stars (17 ratings)
prep: 1 hour
cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
total: 2 hours 30 minutes
servings: 20 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean Italian style sausage (I use a mix of hot and mild, removed from casings)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil*
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 5 – 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 6 pounds whole (peeled tomatoes, fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions

  • In a 6 quart dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium heat.
  • Remove the cooked meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat.* Cook onions for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft, fragrant, and translucent.
  • Add carrots and cook 3 minutes longer. Then add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and broth. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. 
  • Using a stick blender, puree vegetables completely. (Alternatively you can process the mixture using a food processor or blender.)
  • Crumble the, now cooled, meat into bite sized pieces.
  • Add meat, tomato paste, wine, balsamic vinegar, parmesan, oregano, basil, salt and pepper to the pan. Stir to combine. 
  • Cover, drop heat to the lowest it will go, and simmer at least 90 minutes up to 8 hours.
  • Stir every hour or so for a longer simmer.
  • Serve with your favorite cooked pasta.

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Notes

*If using meat with a higher fat content, there will be enough residual fat left in the pan to cook the onions, etc. In this case, the additional olive oil can be omitted. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 165kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 7gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 455mgFiber: 3gSugar: 8g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.

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About Renee N Gardner

I'm the recipe developer, food photographer, and mastermind behind Renee Nicole's Kitchen, where I help create kitchen confidence to inspire home cooks to become home chefs. No fancy fads here, just high-quality, homemade recipes featuring seasonal ingredients.

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27 Comments on “Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce”

    • Tom,

      Thanks for pointing out my error. I updated the recipe to reflect my use of only pork, and missed removing the beef reference. The sauce can be made with any kind of ground or minced meat, so while I use all pork sausage, you could swap it for all beef if desired. I’ve made updates to the post to better explain it. I hope it helps with the confusion.

      Reply
  1. I was tried many times to make a sphegati sauce but I am failed it but I try this recipe, it is perfect taste and flavour. thanx

    Reply
    • I can’t tell if the pun was intended or not, but I like the humor! One of my favorite things about this sauce is you can use fresh, frozen, or tinned. I always freeze my extra tomatoes at the end of the summer so I can make a batch of this in the middle of winter.

      Reply

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