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.

Homemade meat sauce in a silver pot with a wooden spoon.

This made-from-scratch spaghetti sauce is worth getting excited about. First of all, it beats anything out of the jar. You can breeze right through the pasta sauce aisle, knowing that your homemade meat sauce is worlds better. Galaxies, even.

Homemade Meat Sauce ingredients:

Here’s what to grab at the store for the best spaghetti sauce.

  • Ground beef. You can use turkey, venison, chicken, or ground pork. Change it up if you like.
  • Italian sausage. If you can’t eat pork, double up on the beef. No hard and fast rules here.
  • Onion.
  • Garlic. More or less, that’s up to you.
  • Crushed tomatoes. You can also make the sauce with an equal amount of fresh tomatoes–just let things simmer longer.
  • Tomato sauce.
  • Sugar. As it’s written, the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons. Some cooks prefer 1 tablespoon, while others like it sweeter. Maybe start with one, then simmer and stir, taste, and see if you want more. This sauce can take up to ¼ cup, or if you believe some commenters, ½ cup!
  • Dried basil. By all means, if you have fresh, use that.
  • Italian seasoning. Make your own Italian seasoning here and never overpay in the spice aisle again.
  • Fennel seeds. This ingredient really makes a difference, boosting the Italian sausage flavors. If seeds aren’t your thing, crush them up in a spice grinder. You’ll love it.
  • Salt and pepper. Always!
    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.

How to make Homemade Meat Sauce from scratch:

The photos take you through the general steps of making the best spaghetti meat sauce without giving you exact amounts—see the recipe card below for the details.

  1. First, grab your biggest, heaviest pot. A Dutch oven works great.
  2. Next, sauté the beef, sausage, and chopped onion until browned. At this point, you can drain off any extra fat, if you see fit.
    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.
  3. After that, stir in the fresh garlic. Then pour in the crushed tomatoes (juices and all), tomato sauce, sugar (only if you want), basil, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, bay leaf, and some salt and pepper. Give the sauce a few good stirs.
    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.
  4. Then all that’s left is to let the meat sauce simmer uncovered for about half an hour. If it still looks too watery, cook a little longer.

How to make homemade Italian spaghetti sauce in the crock pot:

  1. On the stove, this meaty marinara cooks up in about 45 minutes. But if you’re willing to wait, you can cook this recipe in the slow cooker.
  2. To begin, brown the meat and onions on the stove, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so.
  3. Then transfer the mixture to the crock pot and add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 hours on HIGH, or 4 to 5 hours on LOW.

Homemade spaghetti sauce, no meat:

Not only for the meat eaters, this recipe can be made without meat. Use extra olive oil and a vegetarian meat replacement: impossible meat, tempeh, tofu, or even just lots and lots of fresh mushrooms. Then proceed with the recipe as written.

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.

Other variations for this easy meat sauce:

It’s official, you don’t ever have to make another easy meat sauce with jar sauce. Once you have this basic recipe, it’s arrivederci, Prego.

Plus you can customize the sauce to your taste exactly. Who knows, maybe you’ll become famous, like Giada?

  • Green peppers. Cook them down with the onions so they have time to soften.
  • Mushrooms. If you’re a mushroom person, this should make you very happy. Add them when you cook the onions.
  • Fire roasted tomatoes. A reader’s fabulous suggestion to use canned fire-roasted tomatoes for a little extra smokiness. Try it!
  • Chili flakes. For a spicy tomato sauce with meat.
  • Homemade meat sauce with fresh tomatoes. Switch out some fresh ones for the crushed tomatoes in the recipe, but keep the sauce. Add a small can of tomato paste if you want your sauce even thicker.
Homemade meat sauce in a silver pot with a wooden spoon.

Homemade Meat Sauce

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.
5 from 144 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 16 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 155

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds ground beef and/or ground Italian sausage (I like to use one pound of each)
  • 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 granulated sugar or to taste (see notes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add beef, sausage, and onion and cook 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 seeds, and bay leaf. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper). Yield: 2 quarts of sauce.

Recipe Video

Notes

Add sugar to taste. For some, that means omitting it entirely. For others, you can increase the sugar up to ¼ cup.

Nutrition

Calories: 155kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 10gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 40mgPotassium: 169mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 19mgIron: 1mg
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Comments

  1. Oh my goodness I made this tonight to use over tortellini it was amazing,I added some mushrooms just because I am a mushroom freak, soooo good thanks for the recipe!5 stars

    1. Hi Wendy, yes adding mushrooms is practically mandatory for mushroom freaks like us! I just love it! Thank you so much and I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. :) Take care!

  2. Meggan; I agree 100% I like to keep the oil and not drain. You did mention what kind of grd beef is used. I Like the 80-20 %, is that a good choice for your sauce?

    1. Hi Paul, I think 80/20 is a GREAT choice! You don’t want it too lean (at least in my opinion) but sometimes the 70/30 stuff just looks too fatty and out of control. 80/20 is my go-to… 85/15 if I’m feeling like I need to slim down. :) I will add this info to the post! Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. Meggan, Meggan, Meggan…..this is by far thee absolute best sauce I have ever made. Lately, I have been trying a lot of spaghetti recipes looking for the perfect meat sauce and I have found it in yours. So simple, so easy, and yet so delicious. My family swore it was from a restaurant! A million thank you’s for sharing this delicious recipe!!5 stars

    1. Wow Shae, that is high praise indeed!! Thank you! It is my favorite too, I feel like I could eat it every day. :) So glad it was a hit! Thanks for the note, you made my day. :)

    2. I 100% agree. This is the restaurant style spaghetti sauce everyone craves but cannot find a recipe for, well done!

  4. This recipe is so delicious! I made this sauce for a lasagna and loved how it turned out! The only thing I’ll change next time is the amount of salt, 1 tablespoon was a little too much for my husband and I. The rest of the flavors were perfect though!

    1. Hi Ashely, thank you so much for the comment! I am going to adjust the recipe to give a range now so people can salt more to their taste. Other than that small issue, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thanks again, your feedback makes this site better for everyone. Take care!

    1. Hi Veronica, no. I never do. You could, and I will add that option in to the recipe just in case people want to. I think that depends somewhat on what kind of beef you use. Yes, the sausage will have grease in it, but I’m okay with that. Personal preference! I am definitely going to suggest that option though in the directions. Good call. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Mychele! I appreciate your comment so much. :) I do adore the meat sauce, it’s pretty incredible. Thanks again and have a great weekend!

  5. This has got to be one of the BEST meat sauces I have ever made (I actually followed the recipe, which is rare for me).  So glad I doubled it; I was making one lasagna to give and one for home.  There is just enough sauce left for serving with the lasagna or for a quick weeknight dinner of spaghetti.  5 stars

    1. Lori, YAY!!! This is great news! I mean, how can you go wrong with both beef and sausage right? But really, it makes me so happy that you enjoyed the recipe as much as I do and that it met your needs. And I do love that you had enough for one more meal. When I make my lasagna, that happens too. One time we even just ate the meat sauce with garlic bread instead of spaghetti and that wasn’t too shabby either. Thanks again and have a great weekend!

    2. Yes, put leftover sauce in fondue pot and have meat sauce with a good crusty bread for dipping. Maybe even add some freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
      Serve with a good salad. Yummy!!!5 stars

  6. Does this freeze well? Not sure my husband and I could eat all of this in one meal. Looks amazing though!

    1. Hi Mary! It freezes like a dream. I can’t think of anything that would freeze better. Just thaw it in the fridge overnight if you want. No problem. Take care!