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.

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

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.

A square photo of a blue dutch oven filled with delicious dark red homemade meat sauce. There is a silver ladle serving a scoop of the sauce.
4.97 from 26 votes

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.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 211 kcal


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

  3. 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).

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  1. Would love to try this spaghetti sauce and use it for me pasta 

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

    • 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!

    • Cant wait, making a huge family meal

  3. 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.  

    • 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!

    • 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!!!

  4. It was ALL u said and then some!! And that’s not something I say often lol it was delicious!!

    • 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. Do you need to drain the the oil out of the meat?

    • 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!

  6. 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!

    • 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!

  7. EXCELLENT Post.thanks for share..more delay.

  8. 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!!

    • 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. :)

  9. 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?

    • 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.

  10. 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!

    • 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!

  11. If I needed to skip the sausage and use 2 pounds of ground beef, would you recommend adding any additional seasoning?

    Thank you!

    • Hey Julie! Personally I would not change the seasoning even if I was skipping the sausage and doubling the beef. But, the best thing to do is just taste it as you go (once the beef is cooked through, of course). That’s always the best way! :)

  12. I recently started pressure canning. Have you ever tried to can your sauce? I’m excited to try the recipe. Thanks!

    • Hi Melissa! I don’t have much experience with canning, but I own a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I’ll tell you everything I can find in the book that seems helpful! Since there is meat in the sauce, you are all set with your pressure canning method (the boiling water method wouldn’t work).

      The recipe I have from the book is for pint or quart jars. It’s just for processing ground beef but I think it would work for this meat sauce, too.
      Process the jars on medium-high. Vent steam for 10 minutes.
      Put weighted gauge on vent, bring pressure to 10 pounds.
      Process pint jars 1 hour and 15 minutes or quart jars 1 hour and 30 minutes.
      Turn off heat, cool canner to zero pressure. After 5 minutes, remove lid.
      Let jars cool 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals.

      If you didn’t actually NEED a recipe, sorry for listing it out. I hope you love the sauce whether you can it or not. It’s my favorite! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  13. Omg, so delicious!  This is what my son requested for his birthday today.  I’m sure he’ll love it!!  

  14. I cooked this and it was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S thank you for the recipe it was really nice with this cold wheather.

  15. Hi Meggan –
    Here is my question…I want to serve this at my Super Bowl party this year, but we have to travel out of town leaving on Friday and returning Sunday around noon. Would it be to make on Thursday evening, leaving in the refrigerator until time to cook on Sunday? Or should I serve something else?

    • Hi Stephanie, yes you would be fine to do that. You’d actually be safe until Monday (leftovers are good for up to 4 days per the FDA and also per my Food Safety Manager certificate from the National Restaurant Association). If you have ANY doubts you could always freeze it and just give it some extra time to heat up. But yes, I would not hesitate to serve it 3 days later. Thank you!

  16. What if I wanted to put it in the slow cooker?? Do I have too cook the meat first or can just toss it in?

    • Hi Danielle, personally I would cook the meat first before adding it but that as not technically required. If you cook it in a slow cooker, though, none of the liquid will be able to evaporate so the sauce might be a little watery (not as thick). But otherwise you should be good, probably 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW.

  17. I just made this for dinner. Everyone loved it! Even picky kids loved it! Definitely making this again. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Pamsy! It’s one of my favorite recipes. I really can’t get enough! Have a fantastic weekend. :)

  18. Read the comments …. sounds soo good and I will try.
    Question: ground Italian Sausage … are they links Italian sausage
    and what brand you recommend.
    Thank you for your help and feedback

    • Hi Myrna, thanks so much for your question! When I buy ground Italian sausage, I look for the bulk packages (looks like a package of ground beef but says “italian sausage” on it). It’s basically ground pork with spices. I usually buy whatever the store brand is or whatever I can find. Johnsonville sells it sometimes but only at certain stores. If you can’t find it, you could buy links (similar to bratwurst but again, Italian sausages) and take off the skins and use that. Same thing. Does this help at all? I hope so! Thanks again and take care.

  19. I grew up making pasta sauce on Saturday mornings with my father, who enjoyed cooking.  We always used a bell pepper.  We cooked it all day in a black iron pot and it was so good.  It was very similar to your recipe.  Thanks for sharing.

  20. Hi Meggan,
    If you wanted a little oil in the sauce I would drain the oil off from the meat and add a little olive oil.
    Everything else is perfect. Thanks Meggan.

  21. BEST MEAT SAUCE EVER. We don’t eat pork so I usually either do 2 lbs ground beef or 1 lb beef and 1 lb chicken. Sometimes I throw in mushrooms. It’s amazing everytime! Thank you! 

  22. Hi Meggan,
    I just stumbled on this recipe and wondered if I could use this for my baked ziti? I always use spaghetti sauce from a jar but wanted to try doing something more natural and healthy. Anything I should change for ziti??

    • Hi Wendy! You can certainly use this and I don’t think there would be any changes. I’m assuming you cook the noodles first right? If you do that, there wouldn’t be any changes. Sounds like a great dish, please send leftovers ha ha! :)

  23. Just curious if the recipe was correct about the 2 tablespoons of SUGAR, NOT SALT??  Someone else commented that the recipe  had  too much salt but the recipe does not call for salt

    • Hi Jennifer! Salt is to taste, it’s the last ingredient listed and if you check out the 2nd instruction, you’ll see I personally add 3 teaspoons of salt. I add 1 teaspoon before the 30-minute simmer and then another 2 teaspoons after. And yes, sugar is awesome in meat sauce AND is also easily left out if you are avoiding sugar for any reason. I hope this helps! Thanks.

  24. I have tried so many different recipes for pasta sauce, this by far is the best!  I am usually altering recipes here and there, but followed this one exactly and if was awesome!  Thank you, this will be my go to!

    • You made my day! Thank you Stephanie! I’m so happy to hear that and flattered that you made it as-is. :) Glad it worked for you! Thanks again and take care.

  25. can you use your own tomatoes

  26. Hi Meggan,
      Do you prefer sweet or hot Italian sausage?  I want to try your sauce but wondering what others prefer along with you. I have made with all Italian sausage but it seems to be overwhelming. I also use green pepper. I’m told sugar cuts the acidity from tomatoes. Please help!

    • Hi Shari! I always use sweet or mild Italian sausage. I have small kids so it just seems like a safe bet. I do like it with half beef and half sausage because otherwise like you said, all you taste is sausage. Green pepper would be a safe bet! The sugar is great in here, but you can leave it out if you’re worried about sugar… but yes, it tastes great! If you make the sauce, just taste it as it cooks and see what you think. You can always adjust as you go along, you know? You will be the best judge of what you like. If you have any other questions just let me know! Thanks Shari. :)

  27. Hi– I jut made this last week and it was amazing! Thanks for the recipe.  What is your best recommendation for storing it in the freezer? what kind of container? 

  28. i store mine in sandwich zip bags squeeze air out and pat bag flat easy to store and easy to thaw.

  29. When would you add the mushrooms?

    • Hi Angela, I would add the mushrooms in Step 1 with the meat and onions. They have a lot of liquid to release, so you want to get rid of that before you add everything else (the liquid will come out of the mushrooms and then cook off). Thanks!

  30. This is a solid recipe. When I make it a tweak it a little bit. First off I always sweat the onions before making a sauce. It takes just a bit more time, but is worth the effort.

    The other thing is that I use two big cans of San Marzano tomatoes instead of using a combination of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. I have to mash the tomatoes but that is not a big deal. And it takes a longer simmer time, but I don’t really care.

    As for Italian seasonings you can use the constituents in the ratios that you prefer.

  31. What is a serving size?  Half cup?

    • Hi Jill, you are absolutely right. The serving size is 1/2 cup. I just made the sauce again and had about 8 cups total, or 16 1/2-cup servings. And after looking at it, 1 cup of sauce would be WAYYYY too much! Thanks for the question, I’ll definitely update the post with this info!

    • Thank you!  Carb counters here…so saw the carb count and wanted to be sure it was for the half cup. 

    • Hi Jill! Just in case it is helpful! If you leave out the 2 tablespoons of sugar in the recipe, the recipe is 205 calories per serving with 14.8g fat, 8.3g carb (4.7g sugars), and 10.7g protein per 1/2 cup serving. Thanks!

    • Do you want the carb count without the 2 tablespoons of sugar? I dabble in Keto and totally understand!

  32. Thank you so much!!!

  33. what does the Italian seasonings consist of???

    • Hi Miriam! Italian Seasoning is kind of like chili powder – it depends on which brand you buy. Here’s an easy recipe you can start with and tweak. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, don’t go out and buy it! 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
      1 teaspoon dried marjoram
      1 teaspoon dried thyme
      1/2 teaspoon dried basil
      1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
      1/2 teaspoon dried sage
      Thanks, I hope this helps!

  34. How much of this meat sauce would you use for about  one pound of lasagna noodles?
    Thank you

  35. Thank you for the fast reply.  I can’t wait to try your lasagna and the meat sauce recipe. 

  36. I’ve was told a long time ago that using sausage and putting Italian seasoning on it was sufficient enough for Italian sausage. Have I been doing ITV wrong all these years. Guess should have looked on label of Italian sausage

  37. I am making this sauce today (yum)! My meat comes from a local butcher, so no water and not much fat. I added the tomatoes and tomato sauce, plus enough red wine to rinse the can. The sauce is already thick, so should I still add the tomato paste or skip?

    • Hi Mari! I’m sure my reply is way too late, your sauce is already done. In any case, I would say you could skip the tomato sauce if you want and if the sauce seems sufficiently thick. When it comes to cooking, you can always do whatever you want! I hope it worked out and that you enjoyed the sauce. Thanks for your comment.

  38. I did a variation of this recipe tonight using whatever was available at home at the time and it was a winner. I  had minced beef but no Italian sausage…minced or otherwise. I also had no cans of either crushed tomatoes or sauce but fresh home grown tomatoes including a bowl of small but very sweet cherry tomatoes picked last week which were now quite ripe – I live in Trinidad so this is Caribbean grown sun ripened stuff. Also used fresh homegrown basil instead of dried…actually used quite a lot of basil and a herb grown in the Caribbean and known as Chandon Beni or Culantro (consider it to be cilantro on steroids). And a couple seasoning peppers also homegrown (flavour only no heat). I did use tomato paste and puréed my fresh tomatoes and poured mixture into saucepan instead of the cans. This recipe rocked! Thanks a whole lot!

  39. I made this for our supper this evening just subbing onion powder for the medium onion. The spaghetti was delicious, served with a caesar salad and garlic toast. My husband and son loved it and I had enough sauce to freeze for another couple of meals. Thanks for an excellent recipe!

  40. A few weeks ago while traveling, I tried the Meatball Pizza Bowl at Olive Garden. The meatballs were ‘so so’; however I fell in love with their sauce for the dish. Once I got back home, I proceeded to try and find a similar recipe and found this. It is almost a perfect match to the one at Olive Garden and we all love. 5 Stars to you.

    • This is the highest possible comment I could ever hope for, Larry. Thank you. 5 Stars to YOU!! So grateful that people like you come across my recipes. Take care.

  41. Hi Megan, This recipe sounds delicious and would like to double it. Do you recommend doubling all ingredients as stated in original recipe? Thanks so much

    • Hi Carol, I would double all the ingredients as stated. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that before without issue. If you find out that you DO have issues, such as it seems watery, let it simmer longer. Or if it seems too thick, add some water. But you should be fine. It’s a very forgiving recipe! Thank you! :D

  42. Thanks for responding so quickly! Just finished making this and it is wonderful! I did double all ingredients but also added sauteed mushrooms and diced green peppers. Because of the extra vegetables, I added an extra 8 oz can of tomato sauce and got the perfect consistency. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.

  43. This is the bomb! I am so proud I finally made something edible!! Easy to follow directions .I know what I’ll be eating all winter. 😋

  44. Made this last and everyone loved it!! thank you!!

  45. Meggan thank you so much for this delicious recipe. It is the absolute best meat sauce I have ever eaten. I would love to make a pot of meatless sauce to have on hand that I could use for my other favorite Italian dishes that is equally delicious. Do you have any tomato sauce recipe recommendations?

  46. I made this tonight and it was absolutely deliocious! I followed the recipe to a few and added a splash of red wine which gave it a deeper flavor. My oh my, it was so good. Hubby loved it too! Looking forward to eating leftovers :)

  47. 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.

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

    • 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

  49. 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.

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

  51. 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!

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

  53. 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! 

  54. 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. 

    • 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

  55. Regular sugar? Or brown sugar?

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

  56. Can this be made without the meat?

    • 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

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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?

  60. 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.

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