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This easy spaghetti sauce is simple enough to mix together any night of the week for home-cooked flavor. Double the batch and freeze to keep on hand!
When I was a kid, it seemed like every family had their own special spaghetti sauce recipe.
Nowadays many of us reach for a convenient jar of premade sauce, but this easy spaghetti sauce is a quick way to get that homemade, simmered taste on the table.
And considering that I often forget to buy sauce and have a lot of “oops, what’s for dinner?” nights, this recipe is a lifesaver.
If you’re like me and keep a stock of canned crushed tomatoes (thanks Costco!) you can have this sauce simmering away in minutes. Plus, because it uses crushed tomatoes instead of whole, the prep work is minimal.
This recipe makes 4 cups of sauce — just the right amount for a box of pasta.
Add some garlic bread, and you’ve got the quintessential family meal!
Ingredients for easy spaghetti sauce
Crushed tomatoes – Look for the larger 28-ounce can. I prefer to buy plain crushed tomatoes so I can use them for any recipe, but you can also try the tomatoes that are canned with herbs.
Olive oil – For sautéing the onion and garlic.
Onion – Use a white or yellow onion. If you like a sweeter sauce, use a sweet onion. For more sharp onion flavor, use red onion.
One medium onion is equal to about 1 cup chopped onion.
Garlic – Garlic cloves vary a lot in size, and some people don’t like a lot of garlic flavor. I recommend 3 cloves and going up or down from there based on your own tastes.
Water – It might seem odd because we are simmering the sauce, but water adds the right amount of liquid for this sauce.
Salt and pepper – Fine sea salt is recommended. Add more to taste as needed.
Paprika – Sweet paprika is perfect for this recipe. For a smoky flavor with depth, use smoked paprika. If you want the sauce a little bit spicier, add hot paprika.
Crushed red chile flakes – A pinch of red pepper flakes adds a balanced heat to the sauce.
How to make this recipe
In a high-sided skillet or sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and a pinch of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
Add the garlic and cook just 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and the water, then add the spices. Stir well to mix.
Bring the sauce to a light boil, then reduce heat.
Cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often. If you’re eating the sauce tonight, now’s the perfect time to start cooking your pasta!
Taste the spaghetti sauce and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
Keep at a low simmer until ready to serve, or remove from heat and transfer to a jar or other airtight container for storage.
You can easily tweak this recipe based on your own preferences.
For a punch of tomato flavor, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste. I buy tomato paste in a tube rather than a can so I can use just what I need.
You can add other veggies to this as well, like chopped bell pepper or mushrooms. Sometimes I add grated zucchini.
Like your pasta sauce spicy? Add more crushed pepper flakes, or sauté a chopped hot pepper with the onion.
Want to use fresh herbs? Go for it! You’ll need about half a tablespoon of chopped fresh basil and thyme, and a whole tablespoon of oregano.
Note: If you plan to freeze the sauce, I recommend using dried herbs.
If you have leftover sauce or are making this in advance, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Let cool before transferring to the fridge. Use the sauce within 5 days.
To freeze: Make sure the sauce is cooled before freezing. Divide sauce into freezer-safe containers.
Freezer bags are great for this because they can lay flat in the freezer and save space. You can also use ice cube trays and pop out the frozen chunks into bags.
Freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Freezer bags can be simmered in a pot of water until thawed.
Frozen sauce cubes can go directly in a saucepan and heated over low until thawed and warmed through.
Can I use fresh tomatoes to make this spaghetti sauce?
Yep! If you have fresh tomatoes on hand, they are great for this sauce. This recipe uses about 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes.
You will want to remove the peel first, then core the tomatoes and remove excess juices and seeds.
Paste tomatoes like Roma or San Marzano work best, as they are mostly flesh instead of seeds.
Can I add meat to this sauce?
To turn this into a meat sauce, first sauté 8 ounces of crumbled Italian sausage, ground turkey, or ground beef. You can use the same saucepan that you plan to make the sauce in.
Cook the sausage until browned on the outside and no pink remains. Drain onto a paper-towel lined plate or shallow bowl.
If there is a lot of oil left in the pan, wipe it out before proceeding with the recipe. Otherwise, you can sauté the onion directly in the rendered sausage fat without adding olive oil.
Add the cooked sausage back into the pot along with the spices and let simmer.
How can I make my sauce thicker?
For a thick sauce, you can simply use less added water.
Simmering the sauce for longer, with the lid off, will also help the sauce reduce and become thicker.
Can I store this sauce in the pantry?
Due to the olive oil and optional inclusion of meat, this spaghetti sauce should not be canned and stored in the pantry.
Freezer storage is safest for pasta sauce.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star review below! It means so much when you enjoy my recipes, so let me know how it goes and leave a comment if you have any questions.
Easy Spaghetti Sauce
- Set a sauté pan over medium heat and warm olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onion and cook 5-8 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more, until fragrant.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, water, herbs, and spices and stir well.
- Bring to a light boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. For a thicker sauce, simmer with the lid off for the last 5 minutes.
- Use immediately or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Makes about 4 cups/1 quart, enough for 16 ounces of pasta.
- Swap the crushed tomatoes for 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and crushed by hand.
Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate based on online calculators. Any nutritional information found on Stetted should be used as a general guideline only.
I focus on fresh ingredients and easy methods, with spins that keep meals interesting. Dinnertime shouldn’t be stressful or complicated, and I’m here to help you enjoy the time spent in the kitchen. Read more…