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.

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

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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.

4.98 from 41 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 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 211kcal
  • 1 pound 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
  • 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, and fennel seeds. Simmer uncovered for 15 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. Marie

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

  2. Dedra

    I made this Yesterday It was so great 😀 thanks5 stars

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Eric

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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. Lindy

    One of the best sauces I’ve ever tasted and so easy to make.5 stars

  9. Barbara Fuller

    This one’s a winner! And it’s easy to make with ingredients on hand.5 stars

  10. Jonathan Orcel

    Thank you for this! I’ve made this about 5 times now both meat and meatless version. Fantastic sauce. One addition I would suggest is using fire roasted crushed tomatoes. I’ll be using this frequently!5 stars

  11. Mimi

    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.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Wow! I’m so glad you loved it! Thank you so much!

  12. charlene rocchi-ward

    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?

    1. Paula

      Yes you’re right, but the reason for it being like that sometimes its because you might not pay dry the thawed beef. I’m not sure if u do, but you should always before cooking with it. If it’s not patted dry then it will become watery.

  13. Martin Patterson

    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.5 stars

    1. Meggan

      Thanks so much Martin! I’m glad you liked it! :D -Meggan

  14. Tim

    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.5 stars

  15. Can this be made without the meat?5 stars

    1. meggan

      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

  16. Marco Martinez

    Regular sugar? Or brown sugar?

    1. Meggan

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

  17. Ryan Smith

    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. 

    1. Heather

      I’ve made this recipe about 5 time. My father in law, from Sicily was very impressed wirh it and went back for more. A true compliment. I found it needs more sugar and I add a lot more. I guess it’s all about taste. I definitely don’t find it too sweet. Thanks for sharing.5 stars

    2. meggan

      Oh my gosh, I am forever fighting a battle on my site against people who think things like this are too sweet. It’s so refreshing to hear from you and find out you add MORE sugar! I would say the sauce can easily handle double the amount of sugar I have listed, I have tested it that way and like it. Maybe even more is good too! But people complain. So I’m glad you make it your own, and I agree, a compliment from a true Sicilian is more than I could ever hope for! Thank you Heather! -Meggan

    3. meggan

      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

  18. Frances

    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! 5 stars

  19. Rebecca

    This is so delicious! It is hard to find a good meat sauce recipe. I will be using this whenever I make spaghetti. 5 stars

  20. Allison

    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!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Allison!! That makes my day. :) I appreciate your kind words! -Meggan

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