Homemade Meat Sauce

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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 homemade spaghetti sauce recipe is made from scratch and 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.

Or, just toss it with spaghetti noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Easy and delicious!

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. Choose lean ground beef if that’s important to you.
  • 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. Fresh herbs are delicious if you have them.
  • 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 pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add beef, sausage, and onion and cook until mostly browned, about 5 minutes. Break up clumps with a wooden spoon. Drain the grease if desired. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Ground beef and onions in a silver pot.
  1. To the bottom of the pot, add 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 in an airtight container in the fridge 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.
  • Customize your sauce: Change up this sauce to your personal preference. For a lighter sauce, use ground chicken or turkey instead of beef and ground pork sausage. For a spicier sauce, add red pepper flakes (a pinch of a handful, whatever you love!).
  • Meatless: For a hearty meatless marinara sauce, try my Quick Tomato Sauce. This one makes a great pizza sauce, too!
  • Bolognese sauce: Use a mixture of ground beef and pork with mirepoix, a mixture of onion, carrots, and celery sautéed in olive oil. Then, add tomato paste, white wine, and milk, and simmer. To me, the most noticeable factor of bolognese is that it doesn’t contain garlic.
  • Lasagna: This meat sauce is a key component in my Make-Ahead Lasagna, a creative recipe where standard lasagna noodles (not no-boil) go into the pan dry and soften in the sauce.
  • Spaghetti Sauce: If you prefer a meat sauce with just beef instead of the beef/sausage mixture, try my homemade Spaghetti meat sauce recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

More Italian favorites

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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.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 16 servings (½ cup each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 171
4.96 from 264 votes



  • 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


  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.


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
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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  1. I’ve made this.
    1st time I reduced the amount of Fennel by 1/4. Never cooked w/ fennel so, wanted to test its intensity.
    Turned out great.
    My kid said, “You put ur foot in that one!”
    I guess thats good…lol
    Doing it again today with Full amount of Fennel and maybe extra garlic.

  2. Made this tonight.
    Turned out great, only use 1/2 for the fennel; 1st time using it, unsure of its intensity in flavor profile.
    Served with Angel Hair, Garlic bread & salad.5 stars

  3. I have made this recipe numerous times; it is a family favorite!!! I omit the sugar and use one pound of ground beef and one pound of Italian sausage and it is perfect.5 stars

  4. Love this recipe. Putting a spin on it, I add 1/2 cup of red wine and a bit of Worcestershire sauce. I don’t use sugar and I like just a bit of crushed red pepper in there too. I simmer partially covered for 40mins and uncovered for 15-20 mins. At the end I add about a tablespoon of butter to get the sauce velvety and add pasta water until it gets to the right consistency. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. YUM! Never have I ever put that much sugar into my meat sauce-but I really enjoyed it! Didn’t need any extra salt. I didn’t have tomato sauce on hand and it didn’t even matter! Made about 3-4 good helpings on top of 1 lb of spaghetti. So tasty.5 stars

  6. Holy Shmoley, This is the best meat sauce recipe that I have found and made. I felt like a wise guy making this. Everyone loved it. Thank you for sharing.

    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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. This recipe is awesome. Doubled it up to freeze some for later. A great way to use up the last of my garden tomatoes! The kids are excited for lasagna tonight. Thanks for sharing =)

  15. This was easy and delicious. I changed it a bit and made it my own. Perfect consistency for out taste.
    2 pounds ground beef fresh basil I also added 1 cup of water
    1 and a 1/2 chopped onions fresh mint 6 ounces of tomato paste
    5 cloves of garlic 1 bay leaf
    I used diced tomatoes because thats what i had dried oregano
    24 ounces of tomato sauce pinch of hot seeds
    a pinch of sugar 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
    3/4 cup of grated carrots 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper and a sprinkle of sweet paprika5 stars

    1. So basically…. You made a completely different sauce.

      I absolutely love this recipe! It’s been my go-to for years. Thank you, Meggan!5 stars

  16. Easy, peasy and DELISH! I made the crock-pot version, which made the house smell wonderful and I think melded the flavors even more. I used ground chicken and turkey, which had virtually no fat. What a winner recipe. Thanks!5 stars

  17. Really good meat sauce, even for a beginner. If it’s bubbling up and splashing the stove, turn the heat down. I have been doing 1 lb 80/20 ground beef and 1lb hot ground sausage. Also added 1 large chopped green bell pepper. Everyone loves it.5 stars

  18. Love this recipe exactly as it’s written! I use 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage and 1 pound of ground Turkey and leave the sugar out! I also add 16 oz of baby Bella mushrooms because I love them and I get requests to make it all of the time!5 stars

  19. I like to monitor my sodium intake. I felt if you are using all hamburg, then 1 teaspoon of salt is fine but if you are using hamburg and sausage, you might want to dial back the salt as sausage already has quite a bit in it.

  20. I’ve tried many spaghetti sauces in the past and even tried winging it. No sauce has ever been this delicious! I used spicy Italian sausage and hamburger meat, with about a tablespoon of sugar. Fabulous!5 stars

  21. Hi Meggan!
    Tried your recipe while babysitting for my grandchildren. Left out the fennel seeds and added 1 tsp. of salt and a peeled chopped zucchini… even my 21 month old granddaughter who is a very picky eater LOVED it! Thanks 🙏5 stars

    1. If you grate the zucchini, it thickens the sauce without the need to let it simmer for hours – it virtually disappears/melts into the sauce.

  22. This is the best meat sauce ever. I used ground beef & pork 1/2 &1/2 to an equal portion of hot Italian sausage. Everything else exactly as called for. Everyone loved it. Thanks for the great recipe. It will become a family tradition.5 stars

  23. Update: My apologies for the first review😔. I didn’t realize I had to go past so many things to get to the ingredients! I’m old and used to seeing recipes listing the ingredients first. I thought the directions at the beginning were for cooks who already knew what they were doing. 😂😂😂 The sauce is really delicious!

    1. Hi Susan, I am so sorry for our post format!!! We just list out the basic method to go with the photos, and then there is the “recipe card” with the ingredients. We don’t put them together because if you print out the recipe card, you don’t want a ton of photos. I’m really sorry for the confusion. Thank you for your patience and you’re wonderful. -Meggan

  24. This the hands down the BEST pasta sauce ever!!! I have made the same pasta sauce for 35 years……and then I found this recipe. Throw out every pasta sauce recipe you’ve ever made. Everyone always wants the recipe. Pour this whole recipe over a pound of pasta and EVERYONE will be happy.

    1. WOW! Thank you so much Jeannette! What an amazing compliment! This just makes my day! I’m so happy you like it! :) -Meggan

  25. Made this today for freezing and later use in single-serving portions. I chose this recipe because it’s very simple and I actually had all the ingredients on hand, including the Italian sausage. But of course I sampled along the way. And it’s a winner! The fennel really adds to the flavor, and I found my addition of 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to be just right for a hint of heat. Next time – and there will be a next time! – I’ll probably try some other additions, like sliced creminis. In all, a very good recipe as-is.5 stars

  26. I have been making this recipe with HUGE success. Of course, I do a minor tweak, I omit the sausage but don’t double the beef. I add a bit less fennel seeds. I also add in some crushed coriander seeds. Sometimes I add chopped, butter-sautéed bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms (or make it completely vegetarian). Otherwise, its FANTASTIC AND SUPER EASY.5 stars

  27. Made this today for supper. Since I had to work through the normal dinner hour, I prepared it all earlier and put it in the slow cooker for about 3 hours on low to get yummy while I was gone. When I got home and we sat to eat it was FABULOUS.

    As for the sugar, I only used 1 teaspoon of salt. I prefer the bitter edge to the tomato products.5 stars

  28. This sauce was awesome!!! I did not have sausage so I used 1 lb chop meat lean and 1 lb Whalburg Angus burgers. I used Caraway Seeds – did not have Fennel. I added the 2 tablespoons of sugar and also added Red Wine – a Cabernet/Merlot mix. We ate it with Dreamfields Pasta – very light. I wish I had buns for sloppy joes. I’ll try it with the sausage (I like Sausage in my sauce) next time but it was just delicious without it. Thanks so much!!! Will be looking for other recipies from you.5 stars

  29. This is delicious. My only difference was, I used sweet Italian sausages in the link and sliced them into 3/4 slices and brown them. Delicious!

  30. This is my family’s favorite meat sauce. Our grandchildren are always asking for grandma’s spaghetti. Thank you!

  31. This was great and very easy to make. I did go light on the sugar, and I added some mushrooms. Additionally, I added grated parmesan (the cheap-y Kraft stuff), just to give the flavor some body. It was fantastic! I probably needed more salt, so next time I make it, I’ll not shy away from the salt.5 stars

  32. Awesome sauce! I used what I had, so I mixed 1lb pork and 1lb beef. I used one 650 mL jar of Classico Roasted Portobello Mushroom sauce instead of the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, but I did put in the tomato paste. Also added some mushrooms, and I didn’t have fennel so used 1/2 tsp dried tarragon. I was nervous about the sugar, but it’s very good. I would use brown sugar next time because I prefer it. Great sauce, I will use this recipe often!5 stars

  33. I use all the same ingredients for my sauce and for the sugar, I use light brown sugar. And I do sausage in chunks as that is how my husband loves it. So glad someone has posted my mother’s recipe for meat sauce! Would love to see more of your recipes.

  34. I made this 5 months ago and it’s one of the best sauces out there homemade. Going to try this with some lasagna! ❤️5 stars

  35. I’m Itallian and always add a little sugar to the acidity of the tomatoes. Everyone has their own way of cooking so let’s not disparage anyone who has a difference of opinion. Be kind and respectful in your reviews; it goes a long way.

  36. This is my go to recipe. I always double it because I have a large family and it’s always fantastic. I never have fennel seeds so I omit those. And it’s still delicious5 stars

    1. Hi Becca, it’s up to you and totally flexible. I’d probably do either 1/2 pepper or the whole thing, and maybe a pound of mushrooms. They cook down so much and I just love mushrooms. But you can use less, it’s hard to mess it up! Thanks. -Meggan

  37. I am daughter of immigrant parents from Italy, there is no way in hell they would put sugar in there sauce. This must be a North American thing.

    1. Probably. People in the Midwest tend to add sugar to all sorts of things that wouldn’t normally have it. -Meggan

    2. Being pompous is annoying, and even worse when combined with idiocy. This is you. Firstly, nobody really cares about your nona, mama, or YOUR opinion, if the sauce simply tastes good. Italy isn’t a powerhouse country like the USA. They have less money, and thus, less money for production and imports. America can afford sugar, as well as cultivate it, so we’re OBVIOUSLY going to more likely use sugar. Also, thinking about it, Italy has one of the fattiest, unhealthy collections of cultural food on the planet. All pasta is pure carbs and crap, and most sauces are not truly healthy. Maybe Italy’s quality of tomatoe is better and more naturally sweet. In sauces I make, I only use canned tomatoes imported FROM Italy, from your precious nona. Each 28 can of tomatoes has 3 grams of sugar per serving. Each can of paste has 4 grams of sugar. So, regarding your overly ignorant (which is an Italian thing although you have done nothing for the world) comment, “We would never add sugar, must be an American thing,” which I’m assuming is supposed to be some kind of insult lmao, do you Italians use sugar? Well no, but actually yes, for sure. Bye.

    3. Mr. Derkle’s comment must be the most obnoxious and nasty one I’ve ever read in such a context. America’s the greatest country in the world you might think? Gimme a break. You just called this lady pompous and annoying. Speak for yourself man. I’m just a pasta loving canadian planning to do this recipe… With brown sugar!5 stars

  38. This is a fabulous sauce! I use 1/2 hamburger and 1/2 Italian sausage. I use it for spaghetti sauce and the base for my baked ziti. It’s the rave at my house!!5 stars

  39. Thanks so much for posting this recipe. It was super easy to make and tasty. I made the recipe according to the instructions, but added an extra 1/2 lb. ground beef and 1/2 lb. Italian sausage – my husband likes the extra meat. I added this meat sauce to the slow cooked (plain) tomato sauce I bake in the oven from http://www.seriouseats.com. (I use this recipe for plain sauce now after finding it because when I would make sauce on the stove, I would always burn sauce when I would get distracted while waiting for it to cook.) Was a big hit with the family – my son-in-law even asked for the recipe! Looking forward to trying other recipes…Jan5 stars

  40. Made it, with some suggestions. Draining the meat is a most, to watery. Use sweet or mild pork sausage. Tomato paste should be in the ingredients list. A tablespoon of garlic power for more garlic flavor. Next time I am using diced tomatoes and adding one more can of tomato sauce.

  41. Thank you. I added a ton of spinach to the ricotta, used jar sauce and whole grain pasta and it was on point.5 stars

  42. 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

  43. 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

    1. 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

  44. 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

    1. 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

  45. 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

  46. Hello,
    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. 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

  47. 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

    1. 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

  48. 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. 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

  49. 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

    1. 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

  50. 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. 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

  51. 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

  52. 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

  53. 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?5 stars

    1. 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.

  54. 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

  55. 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

    1. 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

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

  56. 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. 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

    2. 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

    3. 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

  57. 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

  58. 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

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

  60. I actually made this in my crock pot. Browned the meat and garlic then put everything in the crock pot. Took about 4 hrs on high. It is amazing.5 stars

    1. Hi Nadia! Yes, low and slow with this one would be fine, I would recommend no longer than 3 hours. Make sure that you are stirring frequently so that the sauce doesn’t stick, and you will be good to go! :) . -Meggan

  61. I have been making spaghetti and meatballs for years that was always delicious. But I always felt meat sauce lacked flavor so would go back to meatballs. However, this sauce was really good and will be used over and over. Not cooking for very long keeps the meat tender. I made it in the morning and let it sit to melt the flavors until I was ready to use it. Thank you for sharing.5 stars

  62. I made this tonight and it was absolutely deliocious! I followed the recipe to a few and added a splash of red wine which gave it a deeper flavor. My oh my, it was so good. Hubby loved it too! Looking forward to eating leftovers :)5 stars

  63. Meggan thank you so much for this delicious recipe. It is the absolute best meat sauce I have ever eaten. I would love to make a pot of meatless sauce to have on hand that I could use for my other favorite Italian dishes that is equally delicious. Do you have any tomato sauce recipe recommendations?5 stars

  64. This is the bomb! I am so proud I finally made something edible!! Easy to follow directions .I know what I’ll be eating all winter. 😋5 stars

  65. Thanks for responding so quickly! Just finished making this and it is wonderful! I did double all ingredients but also added sauteed mushrooms and diced green peppers. Because of the extra vegetables, I added an extra 8 oz can of tomato sauce and got the perfect consistency. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.5 stars

  66. Hi Megan, This recipe sounds delicious and would like to double it. Do you recommend doubling all ingredients as stated in original recipe? Thanks so much

    1. Hi Carol, I would double all the ingredients as stated. I’m pretty sure I’ve done that before without issue. If you find out that you DO have issues, such as it seems watery, let it simmer longer. Or if it seems too thick, add some water. But you should be fine. It’s a very forgiving recipe! Thank you! :D

  67. A few weeks ago while traveling, I tried the Meatball Pizza Bowl at Olive Garden. The meatballs were ‘so so’; however I fell in love with their sauce for the dish. Once I got back home, I proceeded to try and find a similar recipe and found this. It is almost a perfect match to the one at Olive Garden and we all love. 5 Stars to you.5 stars

    1. This is the highest possible comment I could ever hope for, Larry. Thank you. 5 Stars to YOU!! So grateful that people like you come across my recipes. Take care.

  68. I made this for our supper this evening just subbing onion powder for the medium onion. The spaghetti was delicious, served with a caesar salad and garlic toast. My husband and son loved it and I had enough sauce to freeze for another couple of meals. Thanks for an excellent recipe!5 stars

  69. I did a variation of this recipe tonight using whatever was available at home at the time and it was a winner. I  had minced beef but no Italian sausage…minced or otherwise. I also had no cans of either crushed tomatoes or sauce but fresh home grown tomatoes including a bowl of small but very sweet cherry tomatoes picked last week which were now quite ripe – I live in Trinidad so this is Caribbean grown sun ripened stuff. Also used fresh homegrown basil instead of dried…actually used quite a lot of basil and a herb grown in the Caribbean and known as Chandon Beni or Culantro (consider it to be cilantro on steroids). And a couple seasoning peppers also homegrown (flavour only no heat). I did use tomato paste and puréed my fresh tomatoes and poured mixture into saucepan instead of the cans. This recipe rocked! Thanks a whole lot!5 stars

  70. I am making this sauce today (yum)! My meat comes from a local butcher, so no water and not much fat. I added the tomatoes and tomato sauce, plus enough red wine to rinse the can. The sauce is already thick, so should I still add the tomato paste or skip?5 stars

    1. Hi Mari! I’m sure my reply is way too late, your sauce is already done. In any case, I would say you could skip the tomato sauce if you want and if the sauce seems sufficiently thick. When it comes to cooking, you can always do whatever you want! I hope it worked out and that you enjoyed the sauce. Thanks for your comment.

  71. I’ve was told a long time ago that using sausage and putting Italian seasoning on it was sufficient enough for Italian sausage. Have I been doing ITV wrong all these years. Guess should have looked on label of Italian sausage

    1. Hi Miriam! Italian Seasoning is kind of like chili powder – it depends on which brand you buy. Here’s an easy recipe you can start with and tweak. If you don’t have one of the ingredients, don’t go out and buy it! 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
      1 teaspoon dried marjoram
      1 teaspoon dried thyme
      1/2 teaspoon dried basil
      1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
      1/2 teaspoon dried sage
      Thanks, I hope this helps!

    1. Hi Jill, you are absolutely right. The serving size is 1/2 cup. I just made the sauce again and had about 8 cups total, or 16 1/2-cup servings. And after looking at it, 1 cup of sauce would be WAYYYY too much! Thanks for the question, I’ll definitely update the post with this info!

    2. Thank you!  Carb counters here…so saw the carb count and wanted to be sure it was for the half cup. 5 stars

    3. Hi Jill! Just in case it is helpful! If you leave out the 2 tablespoons of sugar in the recipe, the recipe is 205 calories per serving with 14.8g fat, 8.3g carb (4.7g sugars), and 10.7g protein per 1/2 cup serving. Thanks!

    4. Do you want the carb count without the 2 tablespoons of sugar? I dabble in Keto and totally understand!

  72. This is a solid recipe. When I make it a tweak it a little bit. First off I always sweat the onions before making a sauce. It takes just a bit more time, but is worth the effort.

    The other thing is that I use two big cans of San Marzano tomatoes instead of using a combination of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. I have to mash the tomatoes but that is not a big deal. And it takes a longer simmer time, but I don’t really care.

    As for Italian seasonings you can use the constituents in the ratios that you prefer.4 stars

    1. Hi Angela, I would add the mushrooms in Step 1 with the meat and onions. They have a lot of liquid to release, so you want to get rid of that before you add everything else (the liquid will come out of the mushrooms and then cook off). Thanks!

  73. Hi– I jut made this last week and it was amazing! Thanks for the recipe.  What is your best recommendation for storing it in the freezer? what kind of container? 5 stars

  74. Hi Meggan,
      Do you prefer sweet or hot Italian sausage?  I want to try your sauce but wondering what others prefer along with you. I have made with all Italian sausage but it seems to be overwhelming. I also use green pepper. I’m told sugar cuts the acidity from tomatoes. Please help!

    1. Hi Shari! I always use sweet or mild Italian sausage. I have small kids so it just seems like a safe bet. I do like it with half beef and half sausage because otherwise like you said, all you taste is sausage. Green pepper would be a safe bet! The sugar is great in here, but you can leave it out if you’re worried about sugar… but yes, it tastes great! If you make the sauce, just taste it as it cooks and see what you think. You can always adjust as you go along, you know? You will be the best judge of what you like. If you have any other questions just let me know! Thanks Shari. :)

  75. I have tried so many different recipes for pasta sauce, this by far is the best!  I am usually altering recipes here and there, but followed this one exactly and if was awesome!  Thank you, this will be my go to!5 stars

    1. You made my day! Thank you Stephanie! I’m so happy to hear that and flattered that you made it as-is. :) Glad it worked for you! Thanks again and take care.

  76. Just curious if the recipe was correct about the 2 tablespoons of SUGAR, NOT SALT??  Someone else commented that the recipe  had  too much salt but the recipe does not call for salt

    1. Hi Jennifer! Salt is to taste, it’s the last ingredient listed and if you check out the 2nd instruction, you’ll see I personally add 3 teaspoons of salt. I add 1 teaspoon before the 30-minute simmer and then another 2 teaspoons after. And yes, sugar is awesome in meat sauce AND is also easily left out if you are avoiding sugar for any reason. I hope this helps! Thanks.

  77. Hi Meggan,
    I just stumbled on this recipe and wondered if I could use this for my baked ziti? I always use spaghetti sauce from a jar but wanted to try doing something more natural and healthy. Anything I should change for ziti??

    1. Hi Wendy! You can certainly use this and I don’t think there would be any changes. I’m assuming you cook the noodles first right? If you do that, there wouldn’t be any changes. Sounds like a great dish, please send leftovers ha ha! :)

  78. BEST MEAT SAUCE EVER. We don’t eat pork so I usually either do 2 lbs ground beef or 1 lb beef and 1 lb chicken. Sometimes I throw in mushrooms. It’s amazing everytime! Thank you! 5 stars

  79. Hi Meggan,
    If you wanted a little oil in the sauce I would drain the oil off from the meat and add a little olive oil.
    Everything else is perfect. Thanks Meggan.

  80. I grew up making pasta sauce on Saturday mornings with my father, who enjoyed cooking.  We always used a bell pepper.  We cooked it all day in a black iron pot and it was so good.  It was very similar to your recipe.  Thanks for sharing.5 stars

  81. Read the comments …. sounds soo good and I will try.
    Question: ground Italian Sausage … are they links Italian sausage
    and what brand you recommend.
    Thank you for your help and feedback

    1. Hi Myrna, thanks so much for your question! When I buy ground Italian sausage, I look for the bulk packages (looks like a package of ground beef but says “italian sausage” on it). It’s basically ground pork with spices. I usually buy whatever the store brand is or whatever I can find. Johnsonville sells it sometimes but only at certain stores. If you can’t find it, you could buy links (similar to bratwurst but again, Italian sausages) and take off the skins and use that. Same thing. Does this help at all? I hope so! Thanks again and take care.

  82. I just made this for dinner. Everyone loved it! Even picky kids loved it! Definitely making this again. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much, Pamsy! It’s one of my favorite recipes. I really can’t get enough! Have a fantastic weekend. :)

  83. What if I wanted to put it in the slow cooker?? Do I have too cook the meat first or can just toss it in?

    1. Hi Danielle, personally I would cook the meat first before adding it but that as not technically required. If you cook it in a slow cooker, though, none of the liquid will be able to evaporate so the sauce might be a little watery (not as thick). But otherwise you should be good, probably 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW.

  84. Hi Meggan –
    Here is my question…I want to serve this at my Super Bowl party this year, but we have to travel out of town leaving on Friday and returning Sunday around noon. Would it be to make on Thursday evening, leaving in the refrigerator until time to cook on Sunday? Or should I serve something else?

    1. Hi Stephanie, yes you would be fine to do that. You’d actually be safe until Monday (leftovers are good for up to 4 days per the FDA and also per my Food Safety Manager certificate from the National Restaurant Association). If you have ANY doubts you could always freeze it and just give it some extra time to heat up. But yes, I would not hesitate to serve it 3 days later. Thank you!

  85. I recently started pressure canning. Have you ever tried to can your sauce? I’m excited to try the recipe. Thanks!

    1. Hi Melissa! 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.

      If you didn’t actually NEED a recipe, sorry for listing it out. I hope you love the sauce whether you can it or not. It’s my favorite! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  86. If I needed to skip the sausage and use 2 pounds of ground beef, would you recommend adding any additional seasoning?

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Julie! Personally I would not change the seasoning even if I was skipping the sausage and doubling the beef. But, the best thing to do is just taste it as you go (once the beef is cooked through, of course). That’s always the best way! :)

  87. Oh my goodness I made this tonight to use over tortellini it was amazing,I added some mushrooms just because I am a mushroom freak, soooo good thanks for the recipe!5 stars

    1. Hi Wendy, yes adding mushrooms is practically mandatory for mushroom freaks like us! I just love it! Thank you so much and I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe. :) Take care!

  88. Meggan; I agree 100% I like to keep the oil and not drain. You did mention what kind of grd beef is used. I Like the 80-20 %, is that a good choice for your sauce?

    1. Hi Paul, I think 80/20 is a GREAT choice! You don’t want it too lean (at least in my opinion) but sometimes the 70/30 stuff just looks too fatty and out of control. 80/20 is my go-to… 85/15 if I’m feeling like I need to slim down. :) I will add this info to the post! Thank you so much for your comment.

  89. Meggan, Meggan, Meggan…..this is by far thee absolute best sauce I have ever made. Lately, I have been trying a lot of spaghetti recipes looking for the perfect meat sauce and I have found it in yours. So simple, so easy, and yet so delicious. My family swore it was from a restaurant! A million thank you’s for sharing this delicious recipe!!5 stars

    1. Wow Shae, that is high praise indeed!! Thank you! It is my favorite too, I feel like I could eat it every day. :) So glad it was a hit! Thanks for the note, you made my day. :)

    2. I 100% agree. This is the restaurant style spaghetti sauce everyone craves but cannot find a recipe for, well done!

  90. This recipe is so delicious! I made this sauce for a lasagna and loved how it turned out! The only thing I’ll change next time is the amount of salt, 1 tablespoon was a little too much for my husband and I. The rest of the flavors were perfect though!

    1. Hi Ashely, thank you so much for the comment! I am going to adjust the recipe to give a range now so people can salt more to their taste. Other than that small issue, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thanks again, your feedback makes this site better for everyone. Take care!

    1. Hi Veronica, no. I never do. You could, and I will add that option in to the recipe just in case people want to. I think that depends somewhat on what kind of beef you use. Yes, the sausage will have grease in it, but I’m okay with that. Personal preference! I am definitely going to suggest that option though in the directions. Good call. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Mychele! I appreciate your comment so much. :) I do adore the meat sauce, it’s pretty incredible. Thanks again and have a great weekend!

  91. This has got to be one of the BEST meat sauces I have ever made (I actually followed the recipe, which is rare for me).  So glad I doubled it; I was making one lasagna to give and one for home.  There is just enough sauce left for serving with the lasagna or for a quick weeknight dinner of spaghetti.  5 stars

    1. Lori, YAY!!! This is great news! I mean, how can you go wrong with both beef and sausage right? But really, it makes me so happy that you enjoyed the recipe as much as I do and that it met your needs. And I do love that you had enough for one more meal. When I make my lasagna, that happens too. One time we even just ate the meat sauce with garlic bread instead of spaghetti and that wasn’t too shabby either. Thanks again and have a great weekend!

    2. Yes, put leftover sauce in fondue pot and have meat sauce with a good crusty bread for dipping. Maybe even add some freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
      Serve with a good salad. Yummy!!!5 stars

  92. Does this freeze well? Not sure my husband and I could eat all of this in one meal. Looks amazing though!

    1. Hi Mary! It freezes like a dream. I can’t think of anything that would freeze better. Just thaw it in the fridge overnight if you want. No problem. Take care!