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. 

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.

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


  • 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

Keywords: Spaghetti Sauce, Pasta Sauce, Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce, Homemade Pasta Sauce

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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. I’ve have roasted tomatoes in the freezer and want to know how to incorporate these into your spaghetti sauce recipe.

    1. Yum! You can simply thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and "crush" them by hand or in the food processor (don't over-process). Then, add them to the sauce in place of the canned crushed tomatoes.

  2. Very tasty and thick - the way I like it! It was really easy to make and the best part is that it's mild enough for sensitive stomachs.

    1. Hi, Anthony. I tend to use Roma tomatoes with this recipe, if I'm going with fresh. I really only do this when they're in season for best results :).

      1. Do you recommend peeling the tomatoes if I make this recipe with fresh tomatoes from my garden?

  3. My children love it. So tasty and very healthy dinner for families. I blended sauce before I added a beef mince and added cheese which gave extra mild taste. I love this recipe and I want to say 👌😉

  4. We loved it!
    First time ever for homemade tomato sauce. No turning back now!
    Thank you!

  5. WOW!
    We have been searching for a “just right” sauce and here it is. No after taste like the store bought sauces. This is great!
    Can you can this sauce in mason jars? Just wondering.

  6. I made one and a half recipes and it is simmering now. The smell is fantastic. I had a green pepper that had to be used up so I added it too.
    The addition of the carrots is the same as a friend's Italian mama used but she did not have a food processor. That makes it much better.

      1. I don't have fresh parsley or basil pn hand although I know dried herbs won't be the same is it possible to substitute ?

      2. Sure, Brenda. That will work in a pinch! Just remember that substituting dry in place of fresh requires you to use far less since dry herbs are more concentrated. For example, 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs would be substituted with 1 teaspoon of dry herbs.

  7. Om my goodness
    My husband Gregory absolutely adored this sauce and my elastic yoga pants do not fit anymore after eating so much of this sauce. I want to marry it. Mmmmmmmmmmmm delicious.
    You are the bomb
    2 big thumbs up.
    Much much much much much much love

  8. I've been making this sauce for a year now for all my clients and it never ceases to fail. 1 client of mine says she eats it with a spoon out of the container lol.

  9. I just made this sauce! It is the bomb! I told my husband we will no be buying any spaghetti sauce from now on!

    1. Hi, Maryhelen! I've never made this one with fresh tomatoes myself, but I did a quick search, and it looks like 10-12 whole tomatoes would work.

  10. Can I use a white onion instead of a yellow one. Can’t wait to make this thanks. Have a good day.

  11. 5 stars
    I made this recipe last night with ground beef and it was excellent! It seems very versatile as well - we have a ton of greek oregano growing in our garden which i may try the next time instead of using dried. I'm having fun cooking my way through your recipes!

  12. 1)I had some guests over the other night, and they said this was the best spaghetti sauce they every had!
    2)How is this still your family’s “secret” spaghetti sauce recipe when you’re posting it online?!!!

  13. I'm so excited to try this recipe tonight. Making lean ground beef meatballs with this sauce, over spaghetti squash. Thanks for the post.
    #Keepinglifediabeticfriendly.

  14. Helloooo 🙂 , I wanted to make spaghetti over the weekend and I would love to use this recipe for my sauce ... but I don’t have canned tomatoes so how many fresh tomatoes can I use for this recipe ?? Also I don’t hv fresh basil and parsley so is it ok to substitute it for dried basil and parsley ?? Thanks 😀

    1. Hi, Hannah! I've never made this one with fresh tomatoes myself, but I did a quick search, and it looks like 10-12 whole tomatoes would work. Regarding the basil and parsley... I really prefer the fresh herbs in this recipe, but you can try dried herbs...remember that substituting dry in place of fresh requires you to use far less since dry herbs are more concentrated. For example, 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs would be substituted with 1 teaspoon of dry herbs.