Homemade Spaghetti sauce is an easy recipe made with pantry ingredients! Make a double or even triple batch for freezing or canning so you always have some fresh sauce ready to go.
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Spaghetti and meatballs is on our menu at least once a month, so I always make a huge batch to portion and freeze and save myself some time. Most recipes want you to simmer the sauce for hours, but my simplified spaghetti sauce recipe can be ready in about 30 minutes.
How to Make Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
Start with quality ingredients. One of the most crucial parts of your sauce is good quality tomatoes. I use San Marzano canned tomatoes – they are high quality and taste fresh because they are canned immediately after being picked. Trust me, this is worth a little splurge.
Saute onion and spices. Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat and cook some diced onion, fresh minced garlic and whatever herbs you’re using.
Add tomatoes. Pour in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. I like to add all three to get a rich tomato flavor.
Bring the sauce together. Once the tomatoes are combined and the sauce is starting to take shape, add the remaining ingredients – chicken broth (or water), balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.
Simmer. Bring the sauce to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes. You can totally toss some pasta with the sauce at that point and call it good, and it will taste good. But if you’ve got the time, keep it simmering for an hour or 2 to develop a richer, deeper flavor.
What is the difference between Spaghetti Sauce, Marinara and Pizza Sauce?
Spaghetti sauce and marinara sauce are only slightly different. Both are tomato based sauces and simmered for great flavor. Marinara is a more simple tomato sauce, made with tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Sometimes herbs like basil and oregano are added.
Spaghetti sauce is more hearty, and often has a few ingredients added for richness and balance, like balsamic vinegar and sugar. Sometimes ground beef or Italian sausage is cooked with the sauce.
Pizza sauce can be any type of sauce you put on a pizza, but traditionally is similar to marinara, but it’s uncooked.
Make Ahead, Storage and Freezing Tips
Storage: Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a small pot on the stovetop.
Freezing: Let the spaghetti sauce cool completely, then store in a freezer safe container or resealable plastic bag. Pour into a gallon sized plastic bag and lay flat to freeze for easy storage for up to 4-6 months.
Make Ahead: You can make your sauce up to a few days in advance and store in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Keep in mind that if you have leftovers, you will want to freeze them right away.
Canning Instructions: Sterilize 6 pint size mason jars and add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar. Fill the jars with the prepared sauce, screw on the lids and bands tightly, then process in a water bath for 35 minutes.
Expert Tips and FAQs
- If you’re family is anything like mine, they refuse to eat my sauce with chunks of tomato. Do yourself a favor and pick up an Immersion Blender. (aff) It will puree your sauce in minutes – no more chunks left at the bottom of the spaghetti bowl!
- Feel free to customize the sauce – saute some bell pepper with the onion or add mushrooms. More red pepper flakes will intensify the heat level, or you can leave them out completely.
- Adding meat to your sauce: This is a personal preference! You can cook ground beef with the onions, cook some Turkey Meatballs or Italian Sausage (link or ground).
When using canned tomatoes, I always choose San Marzano. They are a favorite for their sweet flavor and low acidity. This variety of plum tomatoes are grown in the rich volcanic soil at the base of Mount Vesuvius, The flesh is firm and not too juicy, they are deep red in color with an easy to remove skin and low seed count. San Marzano canned tomatoes (aff) are considered a premium type, and there are several brands that carry them.
I like to keep it fairly simple with some dried oregano, basil and red pepper flakes for heat. I will sometimes add parsley, fennel or thyme. If you have access to them, fresh herbs are almost always recommended.
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 28- ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
- 1 15- ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar to taste
- ¼ cup fresh chopped basil or 2 teaspoons dried – add with the spices above
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- fresh basil leaves for garnish
- Heat olive oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup pot. Add onion and sauté until translucent and soft; about 4 minutes.
- Add minced garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chicken broth, sugar, vinegar and fresh chopped basil. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, cook spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) according to package directions. Drain (do not rinse) and toss with homemade spaghetti sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.
- For meat sauce, add 1 pound of ground beef or Italian sausage after the onion is soft and translucent. Cook until no longer pink, then drain grease from the pot, then continue with step 2.
- Regular spaghetti sauce will make about 4-5 1-cup servings. Meat sauce will make 6-7 1-cup servings.