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.
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.
- 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!
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.
- First, grab your biggest, heaviest pot. A Dutch oven works great.
- Next, sauté the beef, sausage, and chopped onion until browned. At this point, you can drain off any extra fat, if you see fit.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- To begin, brown the meat and onions on the stove, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so.
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.