My family's secret homemade spaghetti sauce is easy to make using a few staple ingredients you may already have on hand! Perfectly thick and packed with flavor, you'll be ditching that store bought pasta sauce! 

You can make this quick vegetarian pasta sauce ahead and freeze it for later use!  And I've included a spaghetti meat sauce option for meat-lovers. Be sure to watch the video and grab all my tips below. 

Homemade spaghetti sauce topped with basil

I call this my any-time spaghetti sauce. It's easy. Unfussy. You can make it any night of the week.

And it takes just a few staple ingredients most of us have on hand: canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and carrots, plus a couple spices and fresh herbs for flavor. It's perfect for serving with simple boiled pasta, for layering zucchini parmesan and Manicotti (3-cheese stuffed pasta) with saucy goodness, or as a dipping sauce for appetizers like arancini (Italian fried risotto)

Savvy Italian nonnas don't necessarily wait for tomato season to conjure up the perfect homemade spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce, and neither should we.  Quality canned tomatoes from the pantry will do the trick just fine. 

While many pasta sauce recipes call for 3 to 4 different kinds of canned tomatoes, I found that crushed canned tomatoes provide the perfect consistency for this tomato sauce. Simpler the better! 

You'll love this homemade spaghetti sauce recipe. Just the right thickness and so much flavor. So let's get to it! 

Ingredients for homemade spaghetti sauce: onions, garlic, carrots, canned crushed tomatoes, spices, and fresh herbs

Ingredients

This homemade spaghetti sauce recipe takes a few ingredients you may already have on hand. Here's what you'll need and how to prep for this recipe:

  • Extra virgin olive oil- I used Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil. The chopped veggies/aromatics are sauteed in this EVOO to start the sauce (some use a bit of butter in addition, if you're looking for something a bit more fatty or rich).
  • Onions- 1 medium sized onion, I used a yellow onion here. It's a good idea to chop the onions as small as you can get them so they're not too chunky.
  • Garlic- Can't have a good Italian tomato sauce without a bit of fresh garlic. About 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced.
  • Carrots- While carrots are not a traditional ingredient for spaghetti sauce or pasta sauce, they are the secret ingredient here that helps thicken the tomato sauce while also adding natural sweetness. I use 2 carrots (smaller carrots are okay to use). Be sure to finely grate the carrots using a small food processor or a grater (I tried both and I liked the results using the food processor better).
  • Canned Tomatoes- I use a large 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes here. No need for different kinds of tomato sauce or canned tomatoes, but if you want to add a spoon for tomato paste in addition, that won't hurt. 
  • Seasoning- A good bit of dried oregano and pinch of sweet paprika make a simpler Italian seasoning that works really well here. If you like a little heat to your sauce, add a pinch for crushed red pepper flakes. 
  • Fresh herbs- Torn basil and chopped fresh parsley complete the Italian flavors for this marinara pasta sauce. You can play with the amounts of fresh herbs to your liking, but a good place to start is about ½ cup packed of each.

How to Make Spaghetti Sauce: Step-by-Step

(Print-friendly recipe below)

Time needed: 35 minutes

Guide for how to make spaghetti sauce

  1. Cook onions, garlic and carrots

    In a pot or braiser, add a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Heat over medium/medium-high until just shimmering. Add chopped onions, garlic and finely grated carrots. Cook, stirring regularly for 5 minutes or so. onions, garlic, and carrots sauteed in braiser

  2. Add tomatoes, water, and seasoning

    Now, add in crushed tomatoes and a little bit of water (about ½ cup). Season with kosher salt and black pepper to your liking. Stir in dry oregano, paprika and fresh herbs (basil and parsley).
    Bring this party to a boil briefly, then lower heat.

  3. Simmer till nice and ready!

    Cover and let the sauce simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (I like to check on the sauce occasionally to give it a stir or add a tiny bit of my cooking pasta water if needed).
    You should end up with a gorgeous sauce that is the perfect thickness. Add a bit of fresh basil or parsley if you have some left.Spaghetti sauce fully cooked and ready to serve

  4. Add pasta & serve

    If you're after the best tasting pasta, add your just cooked pasta to the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes or so to allow the pasta to absorb the flavors and goodness of the sauce!

Need meat? Spaghetti meat sauce option

A meatless pasta sauce is super versatile, that's why I make it more often. But it's easy to turn this into a hearty spaghetti meat sauce with very little effort.

You'll need about 1 lb of ground meat of your choices (ground beef, chicken, turkey, or Italian sauce).

Follow these steps to make this sauce with meat:

  1. Heat a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Add in your ground meat and cook over medium heat, tossing regularly, until fully browned. Drain the meat and transfer to a plate for now.
  2. In the same braiser or pot, saute the onions, garlic and carrots for 5 minutes in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Add the cooked ground meat back to the pot, and toss to combine.
  4. Add the tomatoes, water, and season per recipe. Bring to a boil.
  5. Turn heat down and let the sauce simmer for about 20 more minutes. Check occasionally and add a bit of water (or your pasta cooking water), if you need to.

Spaghetti covered in sauce and garnished with fresh basil

How to thicken spaghetti sauce?

Why is this homemade spaghetti sauce rich and just the right thickness even though it is meatless? Here are a few things that make a difference: 

  • Add finely chopped or grated vegetables. This is another great reason why I love adding finely grated carrots. Not only do they add natural sweetness to the tomato sauce, but they also thicken the sauce and give it a nice body.
  • Use the right kind of canned tomatoes. Many recipes will use tomato sauce. That's fine, but if you're after thicker consistency, canned crushed tomatoes will give you a better result. And like I said earlier, something I don't always add is a couple tablespoons of tomato paste which could also help.
  • Do not add too much liquid. In this recipe, I use about ½ cup water earlier on to get things going. Later, I watch the sauce as it simmers and I add a little bit more if needed (great use for pasta cooking water if you have it ready, the starch from the pasta cooking water will also help).
  • Simmer the sauce. You'll notice that once the sauce boils briefly, I turn the heat down and let it simmer a good 20 minutes. If I'm not in a hurry, I leave it a few extra minutes, watching the consistency and adding liquid if it turns too thick.
  • Other ways to thicken the sauce. Not used in this recipe, but you can also use a little bit of corn starch or even add an egg to thicken the sauce (egg must be tempered before adding). I don't use either of these methods in my recipe because it is just the right thickness for me.

How long does pasta sauce last in the fridge?

This vegetarian spaghetti sauce will keep well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

First, be sure the sauce is fully cooled. Transfer to a tight-lid glass container or glass jar to refrigerate. If you've tossed it with spaghetti, try turning your leftovers into spaghetti pie!

Can you freeze spaghetti sauce? 

I often make a few batches of this spaghetti sauce to keep in the freezer for later use.

To freeze pasta sauce, again be sure it is cooled completely. Transfer to freezer-safe containers, leaving enough room for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Cover tightly and be sure to label the container clearly with content and date.

Thaw the sauce in the fridge overnight. Warm up over medium heat, stirring as needed.

Watch the video for how to make this spaghetti sauce recipe:

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Homemade spaghetti sauce topped with basil

Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce Recipe


5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.8 from 55 reviews

  • Author: Suzy
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves up to 6 people

Description

My family's secret homemade spaghetti sauce is easy to make using a few staple ingredients you may already have on hand! Perfectly thick and packed with flavor, you'll be ditching that store bought pasta sauce! 


Ingredients

Scale
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 carrots, finely grated (use a food processor or a grater)
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup water (pasta cooking water, preferred)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
  • Handful fresh basil, about ½ cup packed, torn
  • Handful fresh parsley, about ½ cup packed, chopped

To Serve:

  • ¾ lb  to 1 lb of cooked pasta of your choice

Instructions

  1. In a large pan heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, and finely grated carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly until softened.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes and about ½ cup water. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in oregano, paprika, crushed pepper flakes, if using. Finally, stir in the fresh basil and parsley.
  3. Bring the sauce to a boil, then turn heat to low. Cover and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Check partway through, and if you feel the sauce is too thick, you can add a bit more water (preferably some of your pasta cooking water). When sauce is ready, throw in more fresh basil, if you like.
  4.  If serving for dinner, add cooked pasta of your choice to the sauce. Mix to combine and let the pasta cook in the sauce over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Notes

  • Cook's Tip to Serve:  Letting the pasta and the sauce cook together for a few minutes before serving allows the past to absorb some of the sauce.  It's like the pasta is sauced from the inside out. Delicious!
  • Meat Option: If you want to add meat, start with 1 lb of ground beef, ground turkey, or ground sausage (your choice of ground meat). Heat a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Add in your ground meat and cook over medium heat, tossing regularly, until fully browned. Drain the meat and transfer to a plate for now. In the same braiser or pot, saute the onions, garlic and carrots for 5 minutes in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Add the cooked ground meat back to the pot, and toss to combine. Follow the recipe instructions above from step #2 on. 
  • Storage: This vegetarian pasta sauce will keep well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Before you store it, make sure the sauce is completely cooled, then transfer to a tight-lid glass container or jar and refrigerate.
  • Freezer Instructions: If you want to make batches of this sauce to use at a much later time, it will freeze well. Again, let the sauce cool completely. Transfer to freezer-safe containers, allowing some room for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Cover tightly and add the date. Freeze for about 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • Visit our Online Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and some of the spices used in this recipe.
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Rena Buckner says:

    I made this recipe! I have to say this is the best homemade spaghetti sauce I have ever made! Amazing!!!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Wow! What a compliment! Thanks so much, Rena!

  2. Anna Ksiazewski says:

    I never heard of putting carrots in traditional pasta sauce. Only if it's strictly vegetarian.

    1. TMD Team says:

      The carrots are a great way to cut some of the acidity and add a bit of natural sweetness.

  3. Adil Kassim says:

    how to use fresh tomatoes instead of canned??

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Adil! If we want to go with fresh tomatoes in this recipe we recommend going with 10-12 Roma tomatoes, but it's best to only do this when they're in season for best results :).

  4. Anna says:

    Made it twice and kids loved it. Much better than the one we buy at the store, even the organic one. Omitted carrots only. Will double the batch next time because it stays fresh for a while. Thank you!






    1. TMD Team says:

      You are very welcome, Anna! So glad you all enjoyed it!

  5. Emma says:

    I made that spaghetti sauce, which was very good instead of using the white spaghetti has a lot of stuff because my diabetes. I used a whole week spaghetti. And it was very good.You should try it keeps just sugar down

  6. Diana says:

    I just made this and I love it. Thank you for sharing!!






  7. Aleta says:

    Thank you so much! This was my first homemade pasta sauce. It was so easy and delicious. My whole family loved it. It was a big hit at the Thanksgiving table with your eggplant lasagna recipe. Definitely a keeper.






  8. Pam says:

    I made this and of course added my own lil touches. But it came out great and oh so delish 😋 😍. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe 😀 😊 💜💜






  9. sheryl a bebon says:

    I never heard of adding carrots, MY Nana was old school,started Sunday gravy at 6am cooked meatballs and added right away and then it simmered all day until 4pm Sunday dinner, why ONLY cook 20 minutes,is there a difference and why the carrots, I'm GOING back over 50 years with her recipe

    1. Mary says:

      Why did you even bother to look at this recipe if you're satisfied with your Nana's sauce?

  10. sheryl a bebon says:

    My Nana ALWAYS let simmer for hours,is there a difference

  11. Connie Palmer says:

    Phenomenal!!! I love the versatility of this recipe.

  12. Angie says:

    I have a garden full of fresh tomatoes, is it ok to use them instead of canned?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Sure, Nancy! I tend to use Roma tomatoes with this recipe, but whatever is fresh from your garden would probably work great, too!

  13. Ren says:

    This recipe is fantastic! I'm a college student with little to no cooking ability but I was able to easily follow this recipe and create something delicious for my roommates. I even accidently added a tablespoon of Paprika instead of a teaspoon and it was still great, but had a little more kick to it which I personally liked. Thanks so much for this awesome recipe!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Awesome, Ren! So funny about the paprika... we call that a "happy accident."

  14. Bill says:

    Suzy, thank you for starting this site, I'm really happy I found it. I started cooking when my wife had a stroke. She's doing very well now but she doesn't want me to stop cooking since I found your site. I really like this sauce and she loves your fish tacos. I bought your cook book and I follow this site so I am really enjoying it but I was wondering if I could get some advice on different cooking pans. I have an old set and I don't think it's safe so I'm going to get new ones. I have an electric glass top stove and I know it makes a difference with food with what kind of pan you're using. I'm not sure if they make a safe cast iron or not but maybe stainless steal so any advice you can give me is greatly appreciated. I also bought spices and olive oil from this site as well and I think that makes a big difference also.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Bill! Thank you so much for your sweet note! Love to hear we've been helpful to you on your new culinary journey :). Also thrilled that your wife approves of your work!!! I'm sure it's been a huge help! From our understanding, you can use cast iron on a glass top stove, as long as your mindful that it's heavy, so you have to be gentle when placing it there. Of course, you should always check your specific stove top's instruction manual to see what it might have to say. Stainless steal is also a great and very versatile type of cookware. If you go that route, we highly recommend the brand All-Clad, or something similar.

    2. Brandi says:

      You can use cast iron on glass top. I personally wouldn't cook spaghetti sauce in a cast iron pot unless it had enamel coating. The acid from the tomatoes can pit a normal cast iron pan/pot if its not cooked rather quickly.

  15. Diana says:

    Delicious. I usually do meatballs because that's my son's preference, but he was talking about how his friend made spaghetti meat sauce with carrots and really liked it.

    So I tried this - easier than meatballs - and it was a smashing success. He even ate leftovers as a pre-dinner snack when he got home today because he liked it so much.






    1. TMD Team says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Diana!

  16. Jean says:

    Have you ever tried adding eggplant, gr pepper and zucchini to this recipe. If so, How did you do it. Saute the vegetables with the onion, garlic and carrots?
    Thank you for any suggestion you may have.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Jean! We have not, but those would be delicious additions. Yes, you could add them with the onion/garlic/carrots.