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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 146 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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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

    1. Hi Erienne, I don’t have much experience with canning, but I own a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I’ll tell you everything I can find in the book that seems helpful! Since there is meat in the sauce, you are all set with your pressure canning method (the boiling water method wouldn’t work).

      The recipe I have from the book is for pint or quart jars. It’s just for processing ground beef but I think it would work for this meat sauce, too.
      Process the jars on medium-high. Vent steam for 10 minutes.
      Put weighted gauge on vent, bring pressure to 10 pounds.
      Process pint jars 1 hour and 15 minutes or quart jars 1 hour and 30 minutes.
      Turn off heat, cool canner to zero pressure. After 5 minutes, remove lid.
      Let jars cool 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner; do not retighten bands if loose. Cool 12 hours. Check seals.

      I hope you love the sauce whether you can it or not. It’s my favorite! – Meggan

  1. Basic, solid recipe. I tend to add broth or wine and more veggies to the mix (carrot, celery, green bell, mushrooms). It only adds flavor and nutrition. Pair this with a veggie infused pasta to really add that extra healthy punch for the kiddos. Depending on what canned tomato products you choose, you may be able to opt out of adding sugar.4 stars

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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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