Growing up, we rarely used jarred tomato sauce because we always made our own homemade spaghetti sauce. When I was young, I never thought anything of it until I had jarred pasta sauce at a friend’s house and hated it. My dad was generally the one who always made our sauce; it was one of his favorite things to do on Sunday afternoons.
This homemade spaghetti sauce recipe was passed down from my Sicilian grandma. It has been used for generations, and you can’t mess it up! It is really easy and tastes SO much better than the store-bought sauce. I love that you can make this in a crock-pot, too (my favorite crockpot is this one!); no need to spend hours babysitting the stove making sure it doesn’t burn.
In fact, it’s one of our favorite dump recipes!
Homemade sauce is not as hard as you may think! It is actually pretty simple and tastes so much better than store-bought sauce! You can either make it on the stovetop, crockpot, or pressure cooker.
Making homemade sauce makes me feel like a super mom, even though I typically make it in the crockpot 🙂
This is for the stovetop version of the sauce.
Step 1: Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a 5+ qt. pot over medium heat, and saute 1/2 chopped onion until golden brown.
Step 2: Add the chopped or minced garlic. Heat for another one to two minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic, t
Step 3: Add spices: 1 Tbsp salt, 2 tsp black pepper, 4 Tbsp basil, and 1 Tbsp sugar (optional). Stirring often, bring to a low boil.
Step 4: Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 hours stirring often. For the first half of the simmer time, do so with the pot uncovered, then cover.
Step 5: Add in 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, stir in and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or so.
Step 6: Taste and add more salt if necessary. Then stir.
Here is the Crockpot version of the sauce:
Step 1: Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 onion, and minced garlic to the bottom of the crockpot.
Step 2: Add in 3 cans of crushed tomatoes.
Step 3: Add in all the spices: 1 Tbsp salt, 2 tsp black pepper, 4 Tbsp basil, and 1 Tbsp sugar (optional)
Step 4: Stir together
Step 5: Set the crockpot to low and cook for 6 hours.
Step 6: Before serving, add in 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and stir. Return lid to crockpot and cook 10 minutes longer. Serve over spaghetti. You can also add use this to make Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs.
Step 7: Taste and add more salt if necessary. Then stir.
There are so many ways to make sure your sauce can be perfect every time. You first need to start with the best quality crushed tomatoes. When you buy your crushed tomatoes, make sure that you are buying ones that do not have any seasoning added. Often times you can buy crushed tomatoes with basil and salt already added, which can throw off the taste when you take into account the spices I add to my tomatoes.
You also want to decide if you like a chunky or smooth spaghetti sauce. We prefer a smooth sauce, so I like to buy Tuttorosso or Hunt’s crushed tomatoes. If you prefer a chunky sauce, you may want to use whole tomatoes or buy a chunky canned crushed tomato.
You can easily add ground beef or Italian sausage to this sauce. We typically brown it before adding it to the sauce. Another thing that we like to add is the big sausage links. That way, if the kids don’t like them they can pick them out without it affecting the entire pot of sauce.
When using canned tomatoes vs fresh tomatoes there are a few things to consider. If you are growing your own tomatoes at home, it is obviously going to be cheaper to make a sauce using your own tomatoes. You will need approx 15 medium-sized tomatoes to equal 3 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes.
If you plan on purchasing fresh tomatoes in the grocery store to make a homemade sauce, you are going to spend about 3 x’s the price than if you were to use crushed tomatoes.
I can find 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes on sale once a month for $0.50 per can, so this sauce should cost you no more than $2.00 per pot. If you were making this with fresh tomatoes purchased at the grocery store, out of season, you would spend about 2-3 times that.
Let’s take a look at how to make a homemade spaghetti sauce using fresh tomatoes.
If using fresh tomatoes, you would need about 12-15 medium-sized tomatoes.
There is definitely more work involved when using fresh tomatoes, but it is worth it. Especially if your tomatoes are fresh off the vine from your own garden.
Here is how:
If your spaghetti sauce seems a little runny and you want to thicken it up, there are 3 different methods to do so. Often times your sauce can see runny when you’ve made it using fresh tomatoes, so if you are using fresh tomatoes read up on this. Here are the 3 methods.
1.) Add a very small amount of starch. This can be cornstarch or flour/water roux.
2.) You can add a little bit of tomato paste to thicken things up more and improve the flavor. Add it a spoonful at a time, string after every spoonful.
3.) Increase the temperature to boiling for 5 minutes and stir your sauce. Reduce the temperature and simmer it for at least 10 minutes. This should thicken it up nicely.
One of these 3 methods should give you a very thick spaghetti sauce that will impress your guests
If you plan to can this sauce or freeze it you will want to omit the Parmesan cheese. Make a note on the freezer bag and add the cheese when you cook the sauce following the recipe.
We often add ground beef or Italian sausage to it BEFORE freezing it. This just makes it that much easier to cook!
You can make this sauce with either canned crushed tomatoes or fresh tomatoes.
When I make my Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs I put the meatballs and sauce directly in the bag before I freeze it. Then throw it in the crockpot in the morning. In 6 hours I have a delicious and healthy meal for my family!
The main difference between the 3 of these sauces is the spices used and the cooking method.
Spaghetti/Pasta sauce is a slow simmer sauce that has a few herbs like basil involved. This is usually a thicker sauce, and you usually add meats and peppers to it. This would never go over a pizza.
The marinara sauce is usually a quick-cooking sauce that only cooks for an hour or less. has a sweeter, deeper flavor. This can be used over pasta or even over pizza.
Pizza sauce is an uncooked tomato sauce. Pizza sauce is typically made with tomato pasta or thicker tomato sauce. It uses different spices from spaghetti sauce, featuring – oregano, Italian seasoning, garlic salt, onion powder, and sugar.
Other Italian Recipes
If you love this homemade spaghetti sauce recipe, you will love some of our other Italian recipes:
In fact, you can find many of these recipes in our ALDI Meal Plans, where we teach you how to make 20 meals for under $160 in under 3 hours!
Have you grabbed my freezer meal plans, yet? I might be biased but I think they are pretty amazing! They have saved our dinner hour for years now. Check them out!