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Apr 16, 2005 10:25 PM

homemade spaghetti sauce

  • m


I was wondering if anybody has a favourite homemade fool-proof spaghetti sauce recipe that has been tried and successful? :) I've never made it at home before and typically use the sauces in the jars...Ragu or Prego.



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  1. It's far from rocket science. Assuming you want something tomato-based, I usually start by coring and chopping five or six Roma tomatoes, chopping a small onion fairly fine, maybe a stalk or two of celery, smashing and chopping some garlic. Cook the onion and celery gently in some olive oil until it's soft (along with whatever dried herbs you like - dried herbs should be fried, fresh ones simmered), then add the garlic and stir it for a minute or two. Then raise the heat, put in the tomatoes, stir them around for a bit until they start to melt down. Then add a small (8 oz) can of decent tomato sauce, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, let it cook until it's what you want. Of course you can add some chopped green or red pepper to the onion, insert some mushrooms somewhere in here, thin it all out with a bit of red wine, start out by frying some meat...

    Ain't no wrong way except to wind up with something that doesn't taste good, and short of burning the onion or stirring in a handful of cat hair that just is not going to happen.

    The best everyday pasta sauce recipes, I'd say, are in several books written by Jack Denton Scott and his wife (whose name I just now forgot - damn getting old anyway!). More available online (recipezaar, epicurious). My own prejudices are against using tomato paste because I don't like the pruney flavor, but YMMV.

    1. here's a really basic marinara sauce recipe:

      Peel 3-6 cloves of garlic by smashing them with the flat side of your knife blade.No need to chop them further.

      Saute the garlic in enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of a deep sauce pot.

      When they are just barely golden, add a can of good quality whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands. If it's august and you have fresh tomatoes, use them. If not, I usually find that good quality canned Italian tomatoes have more flavor.

      Let the sauce simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until it is thick and rich tasting. Season it well with salt and toss in some fresh basil or parsley. Drizzle with more olive oil and let sit a few minutes.

      Toss with pasta and enjoy!

      BTW: this sauce freezes really well. Just don't add the herbs and the extra oil before freezing.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kitnimbus

        Great recipes. What i also do is get jarred sundried tomatoes in oil and cook the garlic in the oil and then add two or three chopped sundried tomatoes. A few other things to add according to taste are a little tomato paste for depth of flavor and a litte brown sugar or honey to reduce the acid flavor of the toamtoes. After the sauce has simmered for a while pureeing it in an blender or immersion blender really solidifies the flavors and make it taste like SAUCE. But don't puree too much.

        1. re: verucaamish

          The carrots serve the purpose of cutting the acid of the tomatoes. The key is to get restaurant grade canned tomatoes! It makes a huge difference. Also, a very strong olive oil..Greek is good. the Italian is never stong enough. In Italy...Absolutely. But, when it crosses the loses that wonderful strong fruity taste IMHO.

          I don't agree with putting any paste in the sauce. And no sugar either, unless the canned tomatoes are lousy. I saute onions in the hot olive oil, then add the garlic, then the white wine, then the canned tomatoes, then the parsley, black pepper, a tiny bit of salt, and that's about it. Cook maybe 40 minutes. Like I said...It's all about those tomatoes.

      2. f

        It's very simple to make homemade marinara sauce -- and much better tasiting than any jarred sauce. It freezes very well, so you can double the recipe easily.

        I take one chopped medium sized brown or red onion and saute it in about 2T olive oil over medium to medium high heat for about 5 minutes, then add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook an additional 3 or 4 minutes, until the onions are very soft (add the garlic after the onions are already on their way so the garlic won't burn). Then add a small amount of minced carrot (maybe 1/2 of a large carrot) and about 1 T dried basil or 3 T fresh, minced (thyme is an acceptable substitute but basil is preferred). Cook an additional 5 minutes or so to soften the carrot. Then add 2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes, with their juices, and break the tomatoes up with a spoon. Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and you're done.

        1. It seems to me that all these postings are the standard ways that work. No fuss Italian cooking. A few further suggestions:
          Add about a half cup red wine.
          Brown some meat to throw in - ground beef, loose Italian sausage, sweet or hot or a combination, small pork chops, small link sausages whole or chopped up larger links.
          If you want a smoother tasting sauce with out meat, throw in a knob of butter before you puree.

          1. Is it better to use fresh or dried herbs? Or does it not make a difference?

            Also, how about using fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce? Is that a good combination or not?

            Thanks for the great ideas.


            1 Reply
            1. re: maya

              Regarding herbs: Depends on what kind of sauce I'm making and also if I happen to have fresh on hand. I typically add dried herbs in the beginning and fresh during the last few min. of cooking. Dried have a more concentrated, woodsy flavor while fresh are more grassy and bright. Since dried is added earlier, the herbs will really infuse the sauce while fresh added at the end will just perk up the flavor a bit and add a localized accent.

              For my basic marinara sauce, I usually use dried parsley and finish w/ fresh basil (if I have it). For heavier, meat-based red sauces, I like using dried thyme and fresh parsley. It's all about personal taste, so just experiment and see what combo you like.

              I believe the rule of thumb is that fresh to dried is a 3:1 ratio, meaning that if you want to sub in dried for fresh in a recipe, then you should use a third of the amount. Anyone, correct me if I'm wrong.

              I might use fresh tomatoes for a sauce during the height of tomato season, but I typically use canned crushed or diced tomatoes, which can taste much better than fresh tomatoes in the off season and are a heck of a lot easier to prep (ie, open the can).