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

Meat sauce in a silver pot.

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.

Then put your luscious sauce to work with your next batch of Spaghetti and Meatballs, Lasagna, or Baked Ziti. Cutting carbs? This meat sauce is a critical element in our Zucchini Lasagna and Zucchini Parmesan, and I bet you could make it work with Stuffed Zucchini, too.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Homemade Meat Sauce Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for homemade meat sauce.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Ground meat: You can do 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground Italian sausage, or 1 pound of each.
  • Sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of sugar in your meat sauce, please leave it out. In my family, people add ¼ cup or even up to ½ cup.
  • Italian seasoning: It’s easy to make your own homemade Italian seasoning with dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
  • Fennel seeds: The seeds make the Italian sausage flavors pop. If you love the taste of a sweet tomato sauce, use just ground beef (no sausage), at least ¼ cup sugar, and omit the fennel seeds.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. 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.
Ground beef and onions in a silver pot.
  1. 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).
Meat sauce in a silver pot.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 2 quarts (8 cups), enough for 16 servings, ½ cup each.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: The sauce can be cooled and packed into freezer-safe containers (I like glass pint jars). Leave 1/2-inch headspace for expansion. Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Meatless: For a hearty meatless sauce, try my Quick Tomato Sauce.

Recipe FAQs

Can you make homemade meat sauce in a slow cooker?

Yes, you sure can! Transfer the browned meat, onion, and garlic mixture to a slow cooker. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, and bay leaf, then cover and cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours or LOW for 4 to 6 hours.

How can I customize my homemade meat sauce?

Mix up your mix-ins by stirring in chopped green peppers or sliced mushrooms with the onions. Substitute fire-roasted tomatoes for the crushed tomatoes. Or, add chili flakes (a pinch or a lot!) for extra heat.

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More Italian favorites

Meat sauce in a silver pot.

Homemade Meat Sauce

The BEST Homemade Meat Sauce has both beef and Italian sausage. It's perfect for lasagna, spaghetti, or zoodles, and it comes together with easy pantry ingredients.
4.98 from 166 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Servings 16 servings (½ cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 171

Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds ground beef and/or ground Italian sausage (see note 1)
  • 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 note 2)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (see note 3)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (see note 4)
  • 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).

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Ground meat: You can do 2 pounds of ground beef, 2 pounds of ground Italian sausage, or 1 pound of each.
  2. Sugar: Even a tablespoon is too much for some people. If you don’t like the sound of sugar in your meat sauce, please leave it out. In my family, people add ¼ cup or even up to ½ cup.
  3. Italian seasoning: It’s easy to make your own homemade Italian seasoning with dried basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
  4. Fennel seeds: The seeds make the Italian sausage flavors pop. If you love the taste of a sweet tomato sauce, use just ground beef (no sausage), at least ¼ cup sugar, and omit the fennel seeds.
  5. Yield: This recipe makes 2 quarts (8 cups), enough for 16 servings, ½ cup each.
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Freezer: The sauce can be cooled and packed into freezer-safe containers (I like glass pint jars). Leave 1/2-inch headspace for expansion. Label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cupCalories: 171kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 11gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 105mgPotassium: 319mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 111IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 36mgIron: 2mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. Holy Shmoley, This is the best meat sauce recipe that I have found and made. I felt like a wise guy making this. Everyone loved it. Thank you for sharing.

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