Homemade Meat Sauce Recipe

The BEST Homemade Meat Sauce has both beef and Italian sausage. It’s perfect in lasagna or on spaghetti, and it comes together with easy pantry ingredients.

My ideal meat sauce is thick and hearty with bright tomato flavors and not one, but two meats.

Bonus if it’s ready sooner rather than later with no crazy, exotic ingredients.

Homemade Meat Sauce - a photo of red meat sauce in a blue pot with a metal ladle in the middle - click photo for full written recipe

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My favorite Homemade Meat Sauce recipe has all that and more, and I’m sharing it with you today so you never have to resort to jarred sauce again.

The quest for perfect Homemade Meat Sauce was born out of the quest for perfect lasagna. You can’t have one without the other.

My Make-Ahead Lasagna recipe yields a giant batch of meat sauce, more than you need for the recipe itself. So, you’ll get at least a quart out of that or you can just make it on its own.

Homemade Meat Sauce - a photo of lasagna being lifted out of a white casserole dish with a granite countertop background - click photo for full written recipe

I like using both beef and ground sausage here as well as fennel seeds (for extra sausage flavor). Everything else is straight out of your pantry including a tiny bit of sugar for sweetness.

Make lasagna with it, pour it on spaghetti, or eat it with a spoon.

In fact, if you want to eat zoodles? Eat them with this sauce. It makes everything better. Leave the zucchini noodles raw, pile on the meat sauce, and let the hot sauce soften the zoodles just a little. (I added mushrooms to my sauce in this photo).

Homemade Meat Sauce - a photo of red meat sauce with mushrooms over zucchini zoodles in a white bowl - click photo for full written recipe

Is it a good replacement for pasta? No.

Is it a good replacement for a salad? Yes.

4.98 from 37 votes

Homemade Meat Sauce Recipe

The BEST Homemade Meat Sauce has both beef and Italian sausage. It's perfect in lasagna or on spaghetti, and it comes together with easy pantry ingredients.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword sauce
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 211kcal
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook beef, sausage, and onion over medium heat until mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain if desired. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, fennel, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Remove bay leaf. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired (I like an additional 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, but you may prefer less).


Calories: 211kcal


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  1. Eric

    Absolutely delicious! Great recipe and easy to make.5 stars

  2. Janice Rapinchuk

    can i grind fennel seeds? Some family don’t like the seed,
    Also how much ground? Thanks

    1. meggan

      Hi Janice, I totally understand! If you are grinding your own fennel seeds, you just use the same 1/2 teaspoon as in the recipe and grind them up. If you are substituting ground fennel you bought from the store, substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel. I didn’t expect it to be the same, but I ground 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds myself and that’s what I ended up with. :) Thanks! -Meggan

  3. Nora

    Due to not being able to eat pork (religious restrictions) what can I substitute that with instead which will taste just as great? Can I use all beef? Just would like an experts opinion!


    1. meggan

      Hi Nora, yes you can absolutely use all beef. I’m actually thinking of changing the recipe to be all beef. I like the sausage personally but I don’t think it adds enough to have it in the recipe. So! That’s my “expert” opinion, ha ha. Use all beef! Thanks Nora! -Meggan

  4. Lindy

    One of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted and so easy to make.5 stars

  5. Barbara Fuller

    This one’s a winner! And it’s easy to make with ingredients on hand.5 stars

  6. Jonathan Orcel

    Thank you for this! I’ve made this about 5 times now both meat and meatless version. Fantastic sauce. One addition I would suggest is using fire roasted crushed tomatoes. I’ll be using this frequently!5 stars

  7. Mimi

    My boyfriend made this for dinner last night because I told him I’m craving for spaghetti meat sauce it came out so delicious, the best spaghetti I ever had. This morning I had it for breakfast then lunch and dinner today. Thank you. I forwarded the recipe to my son in New York.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow! I’m so glad you loved it! Thank you so much!

  8. charlene rocchi-ward

    Love the recipe. I have a general question you may know the answer to. It seems using thawed beef makes sauces a little more watery than fresh. Am I imagining this or is there a reason it does?

    1. Paula

      Yes you’re right, but the reason for it being like that sometimes its because you might not pay dry the thawed beef. I’m not sure if u do, but you should always before cooking with it. If it’s not patted dry then it will become watery.

  9. Martin Patterson

    OMG… This was the best meat sauce I ever made. I learned what fennel seeds were and I finally found where the sweet Italian sausage was in the grocery store. In addition to the yellow onion I also added green onion. I did put in about half my onions at the start, but saved the rest to put in in the last 30 minutes so they remain distinctive flavor and crunch. I did eat a serving with spaghetti right after, while the rest I set in the refrigerator for two days before bagging. While bagging I found out that I only had four servings left. If I would have read the recipe it says 5 servings. I’m going to look to see if Culinary Hill has recipes on vegetable beef soup.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thanks so much Martin! I’m glad you liked it! :D -Meggan

  10. Tim

    Great recipe. Will definitely make this again. I did add just a bit of garlic powder and onion powder and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for added depth of flavor but a fantastic recipe you’ve got here. Simply delicious. As others have said, I did use just a tablespoon of sugar and found it perfect. You can always add more later. Also, I used just a teaspoon of salt.5 stars

  11. Can this be made without the meat?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Anna, I don’t see why not. You’ll just have to keep an eye on the texture (it might be more watery, for example, but maybe not; I don’t know for sure). But the flavor will still be there. Thanks! -Meggan

  12. Marco Martinez

    Regular sugar? Or brown sugar?

    1. Meggan

      Hi Marco! I’m sorry that wasn’t clear in the recipe. For this one you will want regular white sugar. :D -Meggan

  13. Ryan Smith

    This sauce is way to sweet. I’d recommend only using a teaspoon of sugar. You can always add more. Two tablespoons is crazy sweet. I had to add a ton of salt and red pepper flakes to balance it out. 

    1. meggan

      Hi Ryan, sorry about that! I will update the recipe to show a range. Clearly something like sweetness is based on personal taste and people should go into it with their own preferences in mind. I’m really glad you knew how to correct the sauce so you could still enjoy it. -Meggan

  14. Frances

    Hi, this was delicious! My teenage daughter rarely eats anything made with ground meat but she ate this up! A keeper as they say. Thank you! 5 stars

  15. Rebecca

    This is so delicious! It is hard to find a good meat sauce recipe. I will be using this whenever I make spaghetti. 5 stars

  16. Allison

    Just made this to use in lasagna tomorrow. It is FANTASTIC. So delicious. Will definitely be putting on all sorts of things and making again!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Allison!! That makes my day. :) I appreciate your kind words! -Meggan

  17. Mark

    The only thing I do different is to use ground venison instead of the ground beef. Great recipe!5 stars

  18. Donna McCrickard

    I actually made this in my crock pot. Browned the meat and garlic then put everything in the crock pot. Took about 4 hrs on high. It is amazing.5 stars

  19. Nadia

    can i simmer this longer low and slow like 2-3 hours? or would that not be recommended.

    1. Meggan

      Hi Nadia! Yes, low and slow with this one would be fine, I would recommend no longer than 3 hours. Make sure that you are stirring frequently so that the sauce doesn’t stick, and you will be good to go! :) . -Meggan

  20. Gail

    I have been making spaghetti and meatballs for years that was always delicious. But I always felt meat sauce lacked flavor so would go back to meatballs. However, this sauce was really good and will be used over and over. Not cooking for very long keeps the meat tender. I made it in the morning and let it sit to melt the flavors until I was ready to use it. Thank you for sharing.5 stars

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