Chunky Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Healthy & Homemade)

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If you’re looking for the most flavorful addition to your pasta, try putting our spaghetti sauce on top. You’ll never want another sauce again. Made with the freshest ingredients, you can taste traditional Italian flavors in every bite. Spend time savoring, not searching, for the best way to elevate your meal. Our spaghetti sauce recipe could just be the greatest advantage your kitchen needs. Use a spoonful, and you will witness its charm.

Spaghetti sauce, a staple in many households, often leaves people yearning for that authentic taste reminiscent of their travels.

On my last trip to Italy and a brief stop in the Middle East, I was amazed by the rich and diverse flavors of spaghetti sauce encountered. 

Spaghetti Sauce recipe

The dilemma? Finding that same depth of flavor back home.

Many face the challenge of recreating that genuine, international taste, especially when our kids request it, or friends reminisce about a restaurant visit abroad. If you’ve felt this void, fret not. 

I’ve embarked on a journey to find the best way to capture these worldly flavors.

After numerous tastings, restaurant visits, and even consulting with friends from European and Middle Eastern countries, I’ve found a method that brings that international charm to your kitchen. 

Dive into this post; you’ll never have to settle for bland or uninspiring spaghetti sauce again.

What Is Spaghetti Sauce Recipe?

Spaghetti sauce recipe, often called marinara or tomato sauce, is a rich and flavorful sauce primarily made from tomatoes, herbs, and spices.

It is commonly used as a topping for pasta dishes, especially spaghetti. Originating from Italy, this sauce has become a staple in kitchens worldwide. 

The basic ingredients typically include tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs like basil and oregano. Over time, many variations have emerged, incorporating meat, vegetables, or cheese.

The best way to enjoy it? Pour it over cooked pasta, and you will experience its whole essence.

History Of Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Spaghetti sauce, with its roots in Italy, can trace its origins back to ancient times.

However, today’s tomato-based version is relatively recent, as tomatoes were introduced to Europe only after discovering the Americas. 

The early recipes from 19th century Naples combined tomatoes with other local ingredients like garlic and herbs. As Italians migrated, they introduced this sauce to other parts of the world. 

The variations we see today, like meatballs or Bolognese, evolved with regional influences. While no single individual can claim its invention, the collective Italian spirit gifted us this timeless sauce.

Interesting Facts About Spaghetti Sauce

  • Tomato Newcomer: Though spaghetti sauce recipe feels quintessentially Italian, tomatoes from the Americas were only introduced to Italy in the 16th century.
  • Not Always Red: Before tomatoes, early Italian pasta sauces were often white or light in color, using ingredients like olive oil and garlic.
  • Global Variations: From the meaty Bolognese of Italy to the spicy arrabbiata, there’s a sauce for every palate.
  • Preservation Pioneer: The invention of canned tomato sauce in the 19th century allowed for longer storage and broader distribution.
  • Spaghetti Western: The popularization of spaghetti sauce in the U.S. began with Italian immigrants, leading to unique Americanized versions.
  • Mediterranean Marvel: Rich in antioxidants, traditional spaghetti sauce benefits from the health-promoting properties of tomatoes and olive oil.
  • Cultural Fusion: Today, countries globally have adapted and infused spaghetti sauce with local ingredients, creating countless unique flavors.

What Are The Regional Adaptations Of This Sauce?

  • Italy: Divided by regions, from the meat-heavy Bolognese in Bologna to the seafood-infused versions of coastal areas.
  • United States: Americanized versions include chunkier sauces, often with ground beef or meatballs.
  • Middle East: Tomato sauce gets a hint of spices like cumin and sometimes incorporates ground lamb.
  • Asia: In places like the Philippines, spaghetti sauce is sweetened, often paired with hotdogs or sausages.
  • South America: In Argentina, “tuco” is a meatier version, slow-cooked with beef chunks.
  • Europe: In countries outside Italy, local herbs and meats influence the sauce, leading to unique blends.

What Will Make You Love This Spaghetti Sauce?

If you’re looking for a sauce that melds rich flavors with history, this spaghetti sauce recipe is your answer.

The fresh tomatoes are the foundation, creating a vibrant red hue and robust taste. 

The harmonious blend of garlic, onions, and herbs like basil and oregano will transport you to the Italian countryside.

The texture, neither too thick nor too thin, clings perfectly to your pasta, ensuring every bite is flavorful. 

The versatility of this sauce allows you to pair it with various pasta types and even use it in other dishes. And the most significant advantage?

The aroma that fills your kitchen as it simmers. It’s not just a sauce; it’s an experience you’ll never tire of.

What Will Make You Love This Spaghetti Sauce?

Ingredients List

Onion (chopped)1
Garlic (minced)3 cloves
Olive oil2 tablespoons
Whole peeled tomatoes (canned)1 (28 ounce) can
Tomato paste2 (6 ounce) cans
Dried basil2 tablespoons
Dried oregano1 tablespoon
Bay leaves2
White sugar1 tablespoon
Crushed red pepper flakes1/4 teaspoon
Red wine1/4 cup
Italian sausage (optional)1 pound

Ingredient Tips 

  • Onion: Opt for yellow onions as they caramelize well, adding a richer flavor.
  • Garlic: Freshly minced is best. If you want a milder taste, roast the cloves first.
  • Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor and health benefits.
  • Tomatoes: If you want a smoother sauce, blend the canned tomatoes before adding.
  • Tomato Paste: Brown it slightly before mixing to deepen the flavor.
  • Herbs: Fresh herbs can replace dried ones; just remember to adjust the quantity.
  • Bay Leaves: Remove them after cooking; they’re not meant to be eaten.

What Are The Variations Of Spaghetti Sauce Recipe?

  • Marinara: A simple tomato-based sauce with garlic, onions, and herbs.
  • Bolognese: A meat-based sauce from Bologna with ground beef or pork, tomatoes, and milk or cream.
  • Arrabbiata: A spicy version using chili peppers.
  • Puttanesca: Features olives, anchovies, and capers, delivering a tangy and salty kick.
  • Carbonara: Creamy sauce with eggs, cheese (Pecorino Romano), pancetta, and pepper.
  • Alfredo: Cream-based with butter and grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Vodka Sauce: Tomato cream sauce enhanced with a splash of vodka.
  • Pesto: Basil-centric, blended with garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil.
  • Aglio e Olio: Simplicity at its best with garlic and olive oil.
  • Cacio e Pepe: Features Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper.
Variations Of Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Recipe Directions

Cooking Method

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.
  • Add chopped onions and minced garlic, sautéing until they become tender, usually around 2-3 minutes.
  • Incorporate the remaining ingredients (except the sausages) into the saucepan.
  • Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer gently for 3 hours. This slow process will develop richer flavors and a perfect consistency.
  • With approximately one hour of cooking time left, heat a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the Italian sausages, browning them uniformly on all sides.
  • Once browned, transfer the sausages to the saucepan, letting them bask in and absorb the flavors of the sauce.
  • As the final step, remember to fish out and discard the bay leaves before serving.


  • Pour the sauce generously over freshly cooked noodles. Present the sausages on the side or sliced atop the pasta, as per preference. Garnish with some grated Parmesan or fresh basil leaves if desired.

Scaling The Recipe

  • Ingredient Ratios: Ensure that the ratio of ingredients remains consistent. For instance, if you double the tomatoes, double the herbs, onions, garlic, and other components.
  • Cooking Vessel: Upscaling might require a larger pot or Dutch oven to accommodate the increased volume.
  • Cooking Time: While simmering time may not necessarily double with twice the ingredients, you may need to add extra time for flavors to meld effectively.
  • Taste Test: As you adjust, it’s vital to taste the sauce regularly, making minor tweaks if necessary.
  • Storage: Upscaling means more sauce; ensure you have adequate storage containers.
  • Downscaling: If reducing the recipe size, divide ingredients accordingly but monitor closely as cooking times might decrease.
Spaghetti Sauce

Can This Sauce Be Used As A Marinade, Dipping Sauce, Or Dressing For Salads?

  • Marinade: Its rich blend of tomatoes, herbs, and spices makes it suitable for marinating meats, particularly chicken or beef, infusing them with a deep Italian flavor.
  • Dipping Sauce: Thicken the sauce a bit more, and it serves as a delightful dip. It pairs well with breadsticks, grilled vegetables, or even cheese sticks.
  • Dressing for Salads: While unconventional, a thinned-out version of this sauce can be drizzled over fresh salads, especially those with Italian ingredients like mozzarella, olives, or roasted vegetables.

What Are The Best Dishes To Accompany Spaghetti Sauce? 

  • Pasta Varieties: Beyond spaghetti, try penne, rigatoni, or fusilli, which hold the sauce well.
  • Garlic Bread: Crispy on the outside and soft inside, it’s perfect for mopping up any leftover sauce.
  • Meatballs: A classic choice, they add protein and heartiness to the meal.
  • Grilled Vegetables: Zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplants complement the sauce’s depth.
  • Caesar Salad: The creamy dressing contrasts nicely with the tangy tomato sauce.
  • Roasted Chicken: The mild flavor of chicken is enhanced by the sauce.
  • Risotto: A creamy Italian rice dish that pairs beautifully.
  • Stuffed Bell Peppers: Fill them with rice, meat, and spaghetti sauce.
  • Polenta: The cornmeal base offers a delightful texture contrast.
  • Antipasti: An assortment of olives, cheeses, and cured meats.
Best Dishes To Accompany Spaghetti Sauce

What Are Some Classic Dishes That Feature Spaghetti Sauce Recipe? 

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs: The iconic pasta pairing with juicy meatballs drenched in sauce.
  • Lasagna: Layered pasta sheets, cheese, and sauce create this hearty Italian bake.
  • Eggplant Parmesan: Breaded and fried eggplant slices layered with sauce and cheese.
  • Chicken Parmesan: Breaded chicken cutlets topped with sauce and melted cheese.
  • Stuffed Shells: Pasta shells filled with ricotta cheese and smothered in sauce.
  • Baked Ziti: Tubular pasta mixed with sauce, cheese, and sometimes meat, then baked.
  • Ravioli: Pasta pockets filled with cheese or meat, served with sauce.
  • Manicotti: Large pasta tubes filled with ricotta and topped with sauce.

What Are The Key Flavor Profiles And Taste Sensations That Spaghetti Sauce Recipe Offers? 

  • Savory: The tomatoes, onions, and garlic base establishes a robust umami foundation.
  • Sweet: Natural sugars in tomatoes, sometimes enhanced with added sugar, bring mild sweetness.
  • Tart: The inherent acidity of tomatoes introduces a tangy note.
  • Herbaceous: Dried or fresh herbs like basil and oregano add aromatic depth.
  • Spicy: Ingredients like crushed red pepper flakes or fresh chilies can impart a gentle heat.
  • Earthy: Tomato paste and certain herbs contribute an earthy undertone.
  • Rich: Olive oil or added meats enrich the sauce, giving it a full-bodied mouthfeel.
Classic Dishes That Feature Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Can This Sauce Be Stored And Preserved For Future Use? What Is Its Shelf Life? 

Spaghetti sauce recipe is ideal for storage and preservation:

  • Refrigeration: In an airtight container, the sauce can last 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • Freezing: Portion the sauce into freezer-safe bags or containers. It can be stored frozen for 4-6 months. Ensure you leave some space for expansion during freezing.
  • Canning: Spaghetti sauce can be preserved in jars for extended shelf life, up to a year, using the proper canning procedure. Make sure to follow safety guidelines.
  • Shelf Life: Once opened or if homemade without preservatives, consume it within a week for the best flavor and safety.

What Are The Substitutes For Spaghetti Sauce? 

  • Marinara Sauce: A simple tomato sauce with garlic, onions, and herbs, it’s a close kin to spaghetti sauce.
  • Alfredo Sauce: A creamy blend of butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Pesto: A fresh, green sauce made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan.
  • Olive Oil and Garlic: Sauteed garlic in olive oil (aglio e olio) offers simplicity and flavor.
  • Arrabbiata: A spicy tomato sauce with red chili peppers.
  • Tomato Soup: In a pinch, a can of tomato soup can be seasoned to resemble pasta sauce.
  • Salsa: A chunkier, spicier tomato-based alternative.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Season with some herbs and garlic for a quick sauce.
  • Bechamel: A white sauce made from butter, flour, and milk.
  • Primavera: Sauteed vegetables in light garlic and olive oil.
Substitutes For Spaghetti Sauce

How To Adjust The Consistency Of The Sauce? 

Adjusting the consistency of spaghetti sauce can be done based on your preference:

Thicker Sauce

  • Simmer Longer: Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered, letting excess moisture evaporate.
  • Tomato Paste: Incorporate more tomato paste to give a thicker texture.
  • Starch: A cornstarch or flour slurry can be added in small amounts.

Thinner Sauce

  • Water or Broth: Add gradually until the desired consistency is achieved.
  • Canned Tomatoes: Blend and add more canned tomatoes for a liquid base.
  • Wine: A splash can thin the sauce while adding flavor.

Should We Serve The Sauce Cold Or Warm? 

  • Flavor Enhancement: Warming the sauce allows the ingredients to meld better, intensifying and elevating the overall flavor.
  • Texture: Warm sauce typically adheres to pasta more effectively, ensuring an even distribution of flavor in every bite.
  • Comfort: A hot meal, especially with spaghetti sauce, offers comfort and satisfaction.
  • Versatility: Warm sauce blends well with various dishes, from pasta to meats.
onsistency For Spaghetti Sauce

Nutritional Values

Spaghetti sauce is rich in vitamins and minerals, primarily from tomatoes, offering vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants.

Additionally, herbs and olive oil are beneficial compounds promoting heart health and overall well-being.

What Are The Total Calories In Spaghetti Sauce? 

The total calories in spaghetti sauce can vary based on its ingredients and preparation.

A homemade spaghetti sauce made from tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, and basic seasonings typically has about 70-100 calories per half-cup serving.

However, the calorie count can increase when ingredients like meat, cheese, or additional oils are added.

It’s essential to check the nutrition label for store-bought versions or use a nutrition calculator for homemade recipes to get an accurate count.

Dietary Restrictions Of The Spaghetti Sauce 

  • Gluten-Free: Most basic spaghetti sauces are naturally gluten-free. Check additives in store-bought versions.
  • Vegan: Ensure no animal products like meat or cheese are added. Some store brands may use animal-derived ingredients.
  • Low-Carb/Keto: Opt for sauces with minimal added sugars.
  • Low-Fat: Avoid or reduce olive oil, meat, or cheeses.
  • Low-Sodium: Use fresh tomatoes and monitor salt input.
  • Nut Allergies: Ensure no nut-based additives, especially in pesto-influenced sauces.
  • Lactose-Free: Avoid cheese-infused sauces or use lactose-free alternatives.

Nutrition Table

Dietary Restrictions Of The Spaghetti Sauce 

What Are The Common Mistakes While Making This Sauce?

Making spaghetti sauce seems straightforward, but there are common pitfalls that can affect the outcome:

  • Overcooking Garlic: Burning or overcooking garlic can give the sauce a bitter taste. It’s crucial to sauté garlic just until fragrant.
  • Not Simmering Long Enough: A quick cook won’t allow the flavors to meld. Letting the sauce simmer enriches its taste and texture.
  • Overseasoning: It’s easier to add more seasoning later than to correct an overly salty or spicy sauce.
  • Using Low-Quality Tomatoes: The quality and ripeness of tomatoes can significantly influence the sauce’s taste.
  • Not Tasting As You Go: Regular tasting helps adjust the seasoning and ensure a balanced flavor.
  • Skipping Sugar: A pinch can balance the acidity of the tomatoes, but be cautious not to add too much.
  • Inconsistent Texture: Aim for a consistent texture, whether you like it chunky or smooth. Blending can help achieve a smoother sauce.

What Are Some Creative Uses Of Leftover Sauce?

  • Pizza Base: Use it as a spread for homemade pizzas.
  • Stuffed Peppers: Fill bell peppers with rice, meat, and sauce, then bake.
  • Meatloaf: Incorporate into the mixture for added moisture and flavor.
  • Shakshuka: Create wells in the simmering sauce and crack in eggs for a tasty breakfast.
  • Bruschetta: Spread on toasted bread topped with cheese.
  • Chili: Add beans, meat, and spices to transform it into chili.
  • Enchiladas: Use as a filling or topping.
  • Grilled Cheese Dip: Enhances a classic sandwich.
  • Rice Casserole: Mix rice, vegetables, and cheese, then bake.
  • Soup Base: Dilute with broth for a tomato-based soup.
Uses Of The Spaghetti Sauce 

Special Tools & Equipment Needed

  • Dutch Oven: Ideal for simmering the sauce evenly for extended periods.
  • Immersion Blender: Helps achieve a smooth consistency without transferring to a blender.
  • Food Mill: Processes tomatoes, removing skins and seeds to create a smoother sauce.
  • Garlic Press: Ensures evenly minced garlic without much effort.
  • Canning Jars: If you’re making large batches to preserve.
  • Herb Scissors: Efficiently snip fresh herbs into the sauce.
  • Wooden Spoon: Great for stirring and preventing sticking at the bottom.
  • Fine Mesh Strainer: Helps remove seeds and any lumps.
  • Digital Thermometer: Useful for canning to ensure safe temperatures.
  • Heavy-bottomed Pan: Ensures even heating and reduces the risk of burning.

Frequently Asked Questions  

Can I Use Fresh Tomatoes Instead Of Canned Ones In The Recipe?

Yes, you can use fresh tomatoes. About 4-5 cups of fresh, chopped tomatoes can replace a 28-ounce can. It’s advisable to blanch, peel, and seed the fresh tomatoes before using.

How Long Can I Store Leftover Spaghetti Sauce?

Leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you want to store it longer, you can freeze it for 4-6 months.

I Don’t Consume Alcohol. What Can I Use Instead Of Wine In The Recipe?

You can substitute the wine with vegetable or chicken broth or use water. The wine adds depth, but the sauce will still be flavorful without it.

How Can I Make A Vegan Version Of This Sauce?

Omit the Italian sausage or any meat to make the sauce vegan. Also, ensure that any added wine is vegan-friendly, as some wines use animal-derived fining agents.

The Sauce Seems Too Acidic. How Can I Balance It Out?

A pinch of sugar, a splash of milk, or a small baking soda can help neutralize excessive acidity in the sauce. Always add in small increments and taste as you adjust.

Chunky Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Healthy & Homemade)

5 from 4 votes
Course: Hot Sauces

4 – 6

Prep time


Cooking time




Ferment/Rest Time



A rich and flavorful spaghetti sauce made from simmered tomatoes, sautéed onions, and fragrant garlic, enhanced with herbs like basil and oregano. Olive oil adds richness, while optional additions like wine or Italian sausage elevate the depth of flavor.


  • 1 1 Onion (chopped)

  • 3 3 Garlic cloves(minced)

  • 2 tablespoons 2 Olive oil

  • 28 ounce 28 Whole peeled tomatoes (canned)

  • 6 ounce 6 Tomato paste cans

  • 2 tablespoons 2 Dried basil

  • 1 tablespoon 1 Dried oregano

  • 2 2 Bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon 1 White sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 Crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 Red wine

  • 1 pound 1 Italian sausage (optional)

Step-By-Step Directions

  • Preparation: Begin by prepping all your ingredients. Finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, and measure your herbs and spices.
  • Sauté the Base: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Once warm, add the chopped onions. Sauté until they turn translucent, which will take about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add Garlic: Stir in the minced garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant, ensuring it doesn’t brown or burn.
  • Tomatoes Time: Pour in the can of whole peeled tomatoes. You can crush these tomatoes by hand or use an immersion blender for a smoother sauce. Add the tomato paste to thicken the sauce and intensify the tomato flavor.
  • Herbs and Spices: Add the dried basil, oregano, and bay leaves. If you prefer a hint of spice, sprinkle in the crushed red pepper flakes. Stir everything together until well combined.
  • Season: At this point, you can add the white sugar if you’re using it. It can help balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Optional Wine: If you’re including red wine, pour it in now. It adds depth to the sauce and a richer flavor.
  • Simmer: Reduce the heat to low, allowing the sauce to simmer. This slow cooking melds the flavors together. Let it cook for at least 30 minutes, but the longer, the better. Up to 2 hours is ideal, with occasional stirring.
  • Sausage Addition: If you’re using Italian sausage, about 30 minutes before you finish, brown the sausages in a separate skillet. Add them to the sauce once browned on all sides to continue cooking.
  • Final Touches: About 10 minutes before serving, taste the sauce. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, herbs, or sugar as required.
  • Serve: Once done, remove the bay leaves. Pour the sauce over your choice of cooked pasta, and if you’ve included sausages, serve them on the side or sliced atop the pasta.

Recipe Video


  • Tomatoes: If you have access to fresh tomatoes, you can use them instead of canned. About 4-5 cups of fresh, chopped tomatoes can replace the 28-ounce can. Blanch and peel them before using.
  • Fresh Herbs: If you’re using fresh herbs instead of dried ones, remember to roughly triple the amount, as dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor.
  • Wine Alternatives: If you don’t wish to use wine, substitute it with vegetable or chicken broth or simply water.
  • Spiciness: Adjust the amount of crushed red pepper flakes based on your heat preference.
  • Meat Variations: Ground beef, turkey, or chicken can be used as alternatives to Italian sausage.
  • Vegan/Vegetarian: Omit the sausage for a vegan version. Ensure wine (if used) is vegan-friendly.
  • Storage: Leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for 4-6 months.
  • Reheating: It’s best to do so on the stove over low heat, adding a splash of water if the sauce seems too thick.

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