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4.89 from 34 votes

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce (The Best)

I've been making this homemade spaghetti meat sauce for 40 years. No one will let me change a thing. It's thick, rich and delicious. And freezes perfectly, making it an easy weeknight meal. 
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr 10 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings (change as needed): 5 (or 6 smaller portions)
Author: Cheryl


  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef I use lean
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh garlic cloves, chopped (4 teaspoons)
  • 1 28-ounce can (835 ml) or jar of plain tomato sauce (regular or thick)
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste (12 tbsp or 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Garnish: Fresh grated Parmesan cheese optional


  • 1 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon each, salt and black pepper
  • 3 bay leaves


  • SAUTE GROUND BEEF AND ONIONS: Heat oil to medium-high heat in a medium-large pot and sauté onions for 3 minutes until translucent. Add ground beef and separate with a wooden spoon. Sauté meat for 3-4 minutes until all pink is gone. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
  • SIMMER MEAT SAUCE: Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, mustard (if using) and all seasonings. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Stir to combine. Simmer over medium-low heat (about 3 out of 10) for 1 hour, partially covered, with the lid slightly ajar. As sauce cooks, stir half way through to make sure sauce is not burning on bottom of the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings. If sauce is too thick, add a splash of water.
  • TO SERVE WITH SPAGHETTI: Cook spaghetti to al dente (or softer if preferred) in salted water according to package directions. A typical box of 375 g (10-12 oz) will serve 4-6 people. Drain. Place portions of spaghetti on plates or bowls and generously ladle on the sauce. Or toss spaghetti with meat sauce and serve in a large family-sized bowl. Pass freshly grated Parmesan cheese as a topping.


To add meatballs when making the sauce: Buy an extra half pound of ground beef and mix it with 1/2 an egg, 1/4 cup bread crumbs, salt, pepper and a bit of onion powder.  I form the mixture into little 1 1/2 inch meatballs and drop them into the simmering sauce.  Then I stir and let them cook along with the sauce.
How to make meat sauce in an instant pot: Sauté beef in oil until browned, then add chopped onion and sauté until translucent (another 3 minutes). Turn off. Add in the rest of the ingredients. Set Pressure to 15 minutes on high. When finished, do a quick release. If not thick enough, turn on sauté and cook it uncovered for 5-10 minutes. 
To Make Ahead or Freeze: The sauce will keep in the fridge for 5-6 days. Freeze it in ziploc bags in portions or in a freezer friendly airtight container for up to 4 months. The sauce can also be frozen combined with the spaghetti. 
Nutrition information is an estimate and does not include the spaghetti or optional Parmesan cheese. The sauce and spaghetti combined will be approximately 560 calories. The sauce alone is about 280 calories. 
Calories: 281kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 848mg | Potassium: 696mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 723IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 3mg