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.
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 135 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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Comments

  1. Hands down truly the best meatsauce! My family loves it and I have fed this to my pickiest extended family. Goes great with a dollop of fresh ricotta and some sliced basil. Or over spaghetti squash for a lighter dish. I take a few extra steps to keep the sauce even. First I grind down the herbs with a mortar and pestle so there are no seed bites and at the end I use an emulsion blender to even out the chunks. I even dehydrate this and take it backpacking!5 stars

  2. Megan, have made the meat sauce several times as a retired chef it is every bit as good as the sauce I use to make from scratch that I slaved over for 14 hrs . It’s better because it’s done quickly and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of culinary skill to produce.the results are great and reproducible time after time . It has become my absolute go to . Thanks chef Rick.

  3. A few of my ingredient proportions were off, but the sauce still came out delicious. While cooking, the SO declared, “Now that smells like a real meat sauce! “5 stars

  4. My husband always says lasagna is best the next day. But, this meat sauce made it great right out of the pan. It’s definitely going to be a keeper for me.3 stars

  5. Absolutely delicious! I used San marzano tomatoes and also a splash of honey to neutralize the acidity from the tomatoes. I normally don’t try other meat sauces because I have been using the same one for years and never found any others to wow me. I can honestly say, while it just seemed so simple and I had my doubts, it’s now my new go to sauce! Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe.5 stars

  6. Made this for the first time last night after thinking that I had “perfected” my last meat sauce recipe. I’ll never make another meat sauce again and it was a huge hit! Hot tip for those low-FODMAP folks out there: you can easily convert this recipe by omitting the garlic and onions, and instead using garlic oil for the olive oil and swapping green onions (green parts only) for the regular onions. I used 1/2 lamb sausage (homemade to be low FODMAP) and 1/2 ground dark meat turkey, and between the lamb sausage and the spices in the recipe it was so flavorful that nobody missed the real garlic and onions at all. I did cut the sugar by half as I like a little tanginess and I also added crushed red pepper to the lamb sausage for a little extra heat. This recipe is my new go-to meat sauce!!! So easy and delicious!!5 stars

  7. Easy to make and tasty. Get a marinara sauce like Rau that has no garlic or onions added and it combines perfectly (instead of adding the tomatoes and tomato paste).5 stars

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