Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe

Is there anything more revered for family meals than Spaghetti and Meatballs? Not in our home, at least. It seems that everyone will cancel plans, turn off the electronics, sit, talk, and bond over this classic dinner. I like to make my own easy spaghetti sauce  and serve it up with delicious garlic bread and a salad or veggie. It’s just pure heaven.

classic spaghetti sauce recipe

Ingredients for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

For the Sauce:

  • 1 large onion: Diced for a rich base.
  • 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil: For sautéing; olive oil for a lighter option.
  • 3 cloves garlic: Minced, adds so much flavor!
  • 2 fresh tomatoes: Chopped, for freshness and texture. During summer months, be sure to grab some from the farmers market!
  • 1 (28 oz) jar crushed tomatoes: For the sauce body.
  • 1/2 cup wine, water, or broth: To deglaze and add depth. Wine for richness, broth for savoriness, or water for simplicity.
  • 1 jar tomato paste: For thickness and intensity of flavor.
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil: Or fresh for a brighter flavor. Make sure to save some for garnish.
  • 2 teaspoons salt: Adjust to taste. Start with 1/2 and add more as you taste.
  • 1 teaspoon pepper: For a hint of spice.
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar: To balance acidity. Skip this, if your family prefers.

Optional Additions:

  • Fresh herbs: Like parsley or oregano, for garnishing.
  • Chili flakes: For a spicy kick. Add it with the onion and garlic.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: For serving.
homemade spaghetti sauce recipe that is easy, classic, and one you'll use again and again! #MeatballMasters

My spaghetti sauce is a classic tomato sauce with very few frills and adaptations. I don’t add veggies or meats…just good ol’ tomatoes. But once you’ve made the classic you might want to jazz it up to suit YOUR style. I have some tips, variations, and add-ins to get you started below.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

1. Sauté the Base:

  • Prepare the Onion and Garlic: Dice 1 large onion and mince 3 cloves of garlic.
  • Cooking: In a large pot, heat 4 tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add the diced onion. Sauté over medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and aromatic, add the garlic for the last 30 seconds.

2. Build the Sauce:

  • Add Fresh Tomatoes: Incorporate chopped fresh tomatoes into the pot, stirring for a couple of minutes.
  • Incorporate Tomato Products: Add the jar of crushed tomatoes and a jar of tomato paste. These ingredients form the base of your sauce.
  • Seasoning and FlavoringStir in the dried basil (or fresh, if available), 2 teaspoons of salt, and a teaspoon of pepper. Adjust these seasonings to your taste.
  • Liquid Addition: Pour in 1/2 cup of your choice of wine, water, or broth. Wine adds a richer flavor, broth a savory note, and water maintains simplicity.
  • Sweetness to Balance: Mix in 1 tablespoon at a time of brown sugar to counter the acidity of the tomatoes.

3. Adding the Meatballs (optional):

  • Incorporate Meatballs: I often use frozen meatballs, to keep it easy. Or simply brown ground beefitalian sausage, or ground turkey to add to the pasta sauce.
  • Simmer to Perfection: Bring the pot to a low boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer on low for 15 minutes. This step allows the flavors to meld and the meatballs to cook through.

4. Final Adjustments:

  • Taste and Tweak: After simmeringtaste the sauce. Adjust with additional liquid, herbssalt, or pepper as needed to suit your flavor preferences.
  • Serve and Enjoy: Serve this hearty meatball tomato sauce over a bed of your favorite pasta, garnished with fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

My spaghetti sauce is a classic tomato sauce with very few frills and adaptations. I don’t add veggies or meats…just good ol’ tomatoes. But once you’ve made the classic you might want to jazz it up to suit YOUR style. I have some tips, variations, and add-ins to get you started below.

Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe that is easy, fast, and classic. You'll make it again and again! #MeatballMasters from

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Cooking a perfect homemade spaghetti sauce can be straightforward, but there are a few common pitfalls to be aware of:

  1. Burning the GarlicGarlic can burn quickly and turn bitter, spoiling the sauce’s flavor. To avoid this, sauté garlic only until it becomes fragrant, which usually takes about a minute.
  2. Over-Stirring the Sauce: Constant stirring can break meatballs apart and prevent the sauce from developing a rich consistency. Gently stir the sauce only a few times after adding the meatballs.
  3. Rushing the Simmering Process: The flavors in the sauce develop and meld together over time. Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 15 minutes. If time allows, a longer simmer can enhance the flavors even more.
  4. Not Adjusting SeasoningsTaste your sauce towards the end of cooking and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Adding a bit more salt, pepper, or herbs can make a big difference.
  5. Ignoring Sauce Thickness: If your sauce is too thick, add a little more liquid (broth, wine, or water). If it’s too thin, let it simmer uncovered for a few minutes to reduce and thicken.

Customization Tips for Meatball Tomato Sauce

One of the joys of cooking is making a recipe your own. Here are some ways to customize this meatball tomato sauce to suit your taste or dietary preferences:

  1. Spice It Up: If you love a bit of heat, consider adding chili flakes to the sauce. Start with a small amount and adjust according to your spice tolerance.
  2. Vegetarian Options: For a vegetarian version, replace the meatballs with plant-based meatballs or add hearty vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers, or zucchini.
  3. Cheese Variations: Experiment with different types of cheese. While Parmesan is the classic choice, trying something like smoked mozzarella can add an interesting twist.
  4. Herb Mixes: Don’t hesitate to play around with herbsFresh basiloregano, or thyme can bring new dimensions of flavor to the sauce.
  5. Wine Selections: The type of wine you use can change the sauce’s flavor profile. A big red wine can add depth, while a white wine might offer a lighter taste.
  6. Pasta Pairings: While spaghetti is traditional, try putting your sauce on fun pasta, zoodles, ravioli, or zucchini boats.
classic spaghetti sauce recipe is easy, fast, and delicious!

Storage and Leftover Ideas for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Tips for storing and using leftovers:

  1. Refrigeration: Let the sauce and meatballs cool to room temperature. Then, store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. Freezing for Longevity: For longer storage, put the cooled sauce in the freezer-safe containers (I like using freezer bags). Label them with the date and freeze. You can store it for up to 6 months.
  3. Reheating: When you’re ready to serve the sauce, reheat it slowly on the stove over medium heat or, of course, in the microwave. If frozen, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  4. Repurposing Leftovers: I use leftover tomato sauce as a base for a meatball sub, as a topping for homemade pizza, or even as a filling for a savory pie or lasagna.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

| 4 large servings
Cook Time | 30 minutes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe


  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 to matoes chopeed
  • 1 28 oz jar crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup wine water, or broth
  • 1 jar tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil use fresh, if you can
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


  • Saute onions in the butter or oil until about 6 minutes on medium heat until translucent (if you are adding additional veggies, add them in this step increasing the oil or butter as needed). Add the garlic for the last 30 sec.
  • Add the tomatoes, paste, herbs, salt, pepper, brown sugar, meatballs, and liquid.
  • Bring to low boil.
  • Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
  • Add additional liquid, herbs, or salt & pepper and heat through.


Calories: 142kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 5gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 1444mgPotassium: 864mgFiber: 6gSugar: 18gVitamin A: 967IUVitamin C: 30mgCalcium: 114mgIron: 4mg


4 thoughts on “Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe”

  1. Interesting recipe! One I am sure hubby would love! I don’t care for tomatoes and tend to use tomato sauce and paste and then herbs, but have never tried fresh dried herbs! Now I want to experiment with my sauce using some of your tips and see if I can make it better! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This recipe looks perfect for a family night! With a 2 and 5 year old there is slurpping going on in our house!

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