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.

Applause-earning spaghetti sauce uses Homemade Italian Seasoning, an easy spice mix that tastes makes tomato sauces pop. You may also use this meat sauce for show stopping Lasagna, with lots leftover. Then spoon the rest on Roasted Spaghetti Squash or Eggplant Parmesan. More easy Italian recipes here.

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

Make the best lasagna ever. Pour it over manicotti and bake it in the oven. Make a double batch and freeze it for last-minute pasta dinners. If you're going low-carb, nothing is better than a hearty tomato sauce over raw zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. The future you will thank you.

Making a double batch of Homemade Meat Sauce? Don't do the math. Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

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 1/4 cup, or if you believe some commenters, 1/2 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.
4.99 from 56 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 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 211kcal
  • 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
  • 2 tablespoons 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
  • 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, 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 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Yield: 2 quarts of sauce.

Recipe Notes

Add sugar to taste. For some, that means omitting it entirely. For others, you can increase the sugar up to 1/4 cup.


Calories: 211kcal


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  1. Mary

    Thank you. I added a ton of spinach to the ricotta, used jar sauce and whole grain pasta and it was on point.

  2. Nancy Scott

    Made this just how the recipe is written EXCEPT that I did not have fennel and instead added about a 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper. It was delicious! My entire family loved it. I did use the 2 tablespoons of sugar and, to me, the “sweetness” of the sauce was just right. Will definitely make again. Very easy and quick to make. Thanks for a great recipe!5 stars

  3. Ghulam Mohyudin

    It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post. 5 stars

  4. Kathy T

    Didn’t follow the recipe “exactly” as I eyeballed the spices instead of strict measurements, but it came out great. The fennel is a nice addition and I semi-ground the seeds to make it more aromatic. Only used 1 T. of sugar, and think next time I’ll use a little less. This recipe is a keeper!5 stars

  5. Dan

    I don’t see tomato paste on the list of ingredients. I’m assuming half a 4 oz. can.

    1. meggan

      Hi Dan, I used to include tomato paste in the recipe but I don’t anymore (but I see I still talked about it elsewhere in the post, outside of the recipe). You can add half a can, a whole can, or no cans. It’s really about what you like and what consistency you prefer. I’m really sorry for the confusion! Thanks. -Meggan

  6. Maggie

    I made this sauce, following the directions exactly, and my family loved it. My son-in-law actually groaned when he took his first bite. This was an easy weekend sauce for me to make and provided leftovers for the next day. Thanks for a tasty and easy sauce that will be added to my repertoire.5 stars

  7. Marissa

    Hi Megan would I use the fennel seeds if only using beef for meat?

    1. meggan

      Hi Marissa, I do. I really like the flavor, and especially if I’m not using sausage I get just that tiny hint of it from the fennel seeds. Having said that, if you don’t have them already and don’t think you’ll use them much, it’s totally fine to leave them out! Whatever you want. But yes I use them with just the beef (especially if I’m doing just beef). Thanks! If you need anything else, please let me know. -Meggan

  8. Cody

    BRAVO! So delicious I literally licked the plate clean! This is just like my father used to make….only better! Can’t thank you enough! I did substitute fire roasted tomatoes though. Yum!

    P.s. I made a second batch using fire roasted tomatoes and then added 1 1/4 cup of merlot (Beringer) to the recipe half way through the simmer and WOW. I didn’t think this recipe could possibly get any better but paired with a glass of merlot on the side its simply to die for!5 stars

  9. Gabrielle

    Greatest meat sauce I ever.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow Gabrielle! Thank you!

  10. SM

    I’ve been using this recipe for a few years but has it changed recently? I clearly remember it used to have tomato paste? Is there a reason you removed it? Thanks! Great recipe btw!

    1. meggan

      Hey there, I’m REALLY sorry about the confusion. I did re-test and update this recipe within the last, I’d say, 2 weeks? Basically I periodically go through recipes and re-test them and make sure they are the best version. Especially older recipes, they might have been written before I went to culinary school and they just need to be fixed up. This meat sauce recipe was already pretty good, but I was working on it in conjunction with my lasagna (where it is featured) and I decided to take the tomato paste out. It really wasn’t necessary in my opinion, although you can definitely add it! And I will add a note about how it used to be there so no one else gets confused. Other changes include increasing the fennel seeds to 1 teaspoon (instead of 1/2 teaspoon), making the meat choices optional (using 1 pound each of beef and sausage, or just using 2 pounds of one of them), and playing around with the sugar content. It doesn’t sound like much, but I feel better about the recipe! Anyway. You can see the version you used to make in the Wayback machine here: http://web.archive.org/web/20190927032812/https://www.culinaryhill.com/homemade-meat-sauce/
      And it’s really just minor changes. But yes, we used to have tomato paste and we don’t anymore. I’m really sorry for the confusion! Thanks. -Meggan

  11. Doug

    Really great recipe. I added some tomato paste and used a pound each of ground beer and sweet Italian sausage, and my whole family loved it, even my picky 8 year old.5 stars

  12. Anne Henderson

    Great sauce. I love it. I will make this one again and again.5 stars

  13. Rebecca

    Is this one pound of beef AND one pound of sausage (two pounds of meat total) or one pound of meat total?

    1. meggan

      2 pounds of meat total! One pound of each or two pounds of either one. That was written incorrectly in the recipe, I fixed it now. Thank you for pointing that out! -Meggan

  14. Marie

    Such a great sauce! Followed as written and wouldn’t change a thing!5 stars

  15. Dedra

    I made this Yesterday It was so great 😀 thanks5 stars

  16. Linda C

    I’m making this today. My mother-in-law used to make a similar sauce using 3 small cans tomatoe paste and 1 can water per paste. Should I add water with this can of paste. I plan to let it cook simmer all day. Or was thinking of using vegetable stock instead of water. Thanks for your help.

    1. meggan

      Hi Linda, I’m SO SORRY I didn’t get back to you in time! You don’t need to add a can of water but you definitely could, especially if you’re looking at an extended cooking time. Vegetable stock instead of water would be great, either one is fine, if you think you want more liquid. It’s really going to depend on how hot your stove runs, how much liquid evaporates, whether you cover it, what you like your final thickness to be. I hope you were able to figure it out (I’m sure you were but I still feel bad) and most of all, I hope you liked it. Sorry again for not getting back to you sooner! -Meggan

  17. Scotty

    I was skeptical about adding fennel seed and italian sausage in fear it would taste to much like sausage. I was wrong. This sauce is really exceptional. Excellent consistency in thickness and very flavorful. Gonna pan up lasagna for a Xmas party for tomorrow and very much looking forward to eating it. Thank you5 stars

  18. Eric

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

  19. 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

  20. 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

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