post your family spaghetti sauce recipe!

Most families seem to have a traditional pasta sauce recipe, handed down through the generation (from me when I was younger to me, now) or even further along than that. For many family members, this sauce may define just what spaghetti sauce is for them. For others, it may define what they want to make sure their sauce isn’t.

So please join me in posting your most cherished sauce recipes!

Dadgops’ spaghetti sauce recipe


1 large onion
Olive oil, like 2 tbsp
1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 or so lb of ground/minced summer sausage or other alternate ground/chopped meat (if desired. Can just use beef)
Tomato Sauce, 29 oz can
Tomato paste, 12 oz can
Beef Consomme, Campbell’s, one can
Water, about a half a cup
Lemon juice, 2 tbsp
Oregano 1/4 tsp
marjoram 1/4 tsp
basil 1/4 tsp
Parsley 2 tbsp
Bay leaf, one
Garlic, 2-4 cloves, minced
Vegemite/marmite 1 or so tbsp
ground pepper zero to 4 tsp

Brown one large onion, diced in olive oil. This takes time and requires some skill and attention. Heat the oil over medium heat, when it’s nice and warm, dump the onion bits in, stir thoroughly for about a half minute to coat with oil, then cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Stir every 2-4 minutes, scraping up what’s on the bottom. Once the water is mostly gone from the onion, start reducing the heat to low, lest they burn. But don’t stir too much or they won’t caramelize properly.

The browning process will take about a half hour, if done right.

Once the onions are nicely golden brown with most non-oil liquid gone, and they’ve been stirred up good, turn the heat to medium again, and in about a minute add 1/2 lb of ground beef, and about 1/4 lb or so of chopped up summer sausage, preferably jalapeno or or hungarian varieties but any will do. Stir briefly, then let brown for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir, and repeat, etc until most of the non-oil liquid has evaporated. Again, we want things to caramelize but not burn.

Once this state has been achieved, add a 29 oz can of tomato sauce, a 12 oz can of tomato paste, a can of Campbell’s beef consomme, a half to 2/3 can of water, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp of vegemite or marmite, 1/4 tsp of basil, 1/4 tsp of marjoram, 1/4 tsp of oregano, and 2 tbsp of dried parsley. If you’re not using a spicy sausage in the recipe, add pepper to taste (I like a tsp or four). Add a teaspoon or two of minced garlic, or 3 or so minced or crushed garlic cloves. (Don’t sautee the garlic with the onion, it makes it bitter. If you’re daring, try adding the garlic towards the end of the meat browning, to enhance the flavor without bitterness).

Stir the hell out of it with a whisk, as the marmite/vegemite needs encouragement to dissolve. Once everything is nicely stirred together, stick in a bay leaf, bring to a simmer, reduce to low, cover, and stir every once in a while to ensure it’s not burning on the bottom. Let simmer at least an hour. Add liquid as needed, either water or low salt chicken broth. Remember, adding the summer sausage and vegemite and consomme already added a ton of salt to the recipe.

Optional alternative ingredients: Bits of sun dried tomatoes can enhance flavor. Or if you’ve got some nice yummy fresh tomatoes, consider adding a few of them, skinned, seeded, and chopped. Some folks like a dash of sugar, say a teaspoon or two, in the whole recipe, to counteract the acid from tomato and lemon. Greek olives and/or capers can be nice,too.

Consider adding other meats in place of summer sausage (but with the ground beef). Good choices can be ground pork, chopped bacon, minced ham, ground turkey, etc. One may also substitute ground turkey or ground or chunked chicken in the recipe for the beef. If doing so, use chicken broth to equal two cups instead of the consomme/water combo.

A teaspoon or so of MSG might be considered if not using consomme or summer sausage or vegemite.

Beyond that, go crazy, and see what you might like to adjust on your own.


I don’t want this one to die as badly as my ill-conceived “Breakfast Lunch Fish” thread did.

My family likes the shit out of a jar.

Something I make for myself is a simple dish of slivered onions, red pepper strips, olive oil and whatever white wine and herbs/spices happen to be handy, cooked and reduced down and served over linguine.

We doctor up the jarred sauce. The brand and variety of jarred stuff doesn’t matter… it all ends up tasting the same.

Dice one onion. Sautee it in a T of oil with one pound of ground beef and a pinch of salt, until beef has lost pink color and onions are starting to go clear. Dump in one jar spaghetti sauce, then add a little less than a cup of water to the jar, shake it to get the remnants of sauce off the sides, and add that to the skillet. Add a liberal sprinkling of dried oregano… at least a teaspoon, probably more. Turn heat to medium/medium-lo, cover, and let simmer while your pasta cooks.

I like to double this amount of sauce to go with one pound of pasta, but since boxes of pasta are rarely a pound anymore, I haven’t the last couple times.

I’ll never disclose the secret sauce recipe. Never!

Or whatever. There’s not a written recipe per se, more like an oral tradition. (Note to self–start writing down recipes…)

You need extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato, tomato sauce, thyme, oregano, salt and sugar.

First put enough oil to thickly cover the bottom of a skillet (steel, not cast iron, and definitely not aluminum) and set it to low heat. Skin and roughly dice about a third of a garlic bulb, put in skillet and turn up heat to medium. Skin and rough dice about half of an onion bulb, put in skillet and turn heat up to high. Garlic should be nicely brown by that point. Wash and rough dice two tomatoes, put in skillet. Add small can of unsalted tomato sauce. Add generous amounts of thyme and oregano, more than a teaspoon, less than a tablespoon, each. Add a scant teaspoon of salt and sugar. Stir well, cover with lid, turn down to medium heat.

Check on it after five minutes or so, add water if too thick, or leave off lid if too watery. Total time is about 15 minutes, and makes enough for generous portions for two or small portions for four.

For extra fun, add sliced mushrooms or diced squash.

My very simple, light & quick vegetarian sauce goes something like this:

Finely chop a big bunch of flat-leaf parsley, a small onion & two smallish carrots. Heat oil in a pan, add everything and some salt (or don’t add salt and add some chopped bacon instead if you like), stir on medium heat until the onion is soft. Add a can of chopped tomatoes. Heat through and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve on spaghetti with some fresh chopped parsley or oregano, a little good olive oil and possibly some grated Parmesan.

I make mine from scratch and prefer it to the jarred version.

Protein - ground turkey (browned as appropriate), turkey meatballs, also good with fake crab

Red onion, diced
Garlic (heaps)

Sweat onions, add garlic, brown meat (as appropriate)

In a food processor, I combine 3 cans of tomatoes, 1 bag sun dried tomato, small can tomato paste, fresh basil - pulse until thoroughly combined (husband does not like tomato lumps). Add to pot.

I add a splash of red wine, a little oregano and red pepper flakes. I don’t really measure anything, but it usually turns out great! Super easy and quick to make.

Not every family does. When we moved to a heavily Italian neighborhood and my sister was becoming acquainted with the girl who would become one of her closest friends Mary Angela asked her, “How does your mother make sauce?” My sister was perplexed. Our mother made sauce by opening the Ragu jar.

My other family sauce story really belongs to a friend. Her grandmother was the holder of the sauce recipe. When she was feeling like she might be ready to stop making the sauce she gave the recipe to all of her daughters and daughters-in-law. They commenced taking turns making it for family Christmases after Nonna had gone to the big kitchen in the shy. Every woman in the next generation made sauce that was good but wasn’t, they all agreed, quite right. One year the one who’d cooked mentioned having trouble finding the anchovy paste or some other obscure ingredient (I’m not related so I’m not allowed to really know what’s in the sauce). One of the sisters said “what anchovy paste? There’s no anchovy paste.” A lot of yammering followed. Nonna had left out one ingredient when she shared the recipe, but a different ingredient one was ommitted for each relative. By comparing all six copies they figured out the right ingredients and true proportions. Or at least that’s what they say.

Ours was handed down from Uncle Paul.

His Sockarooni sauce is the bomb.

MY/our recipe was stolen about 1967 from the NYTimes cookbook by Craig Claiborne.

Holy Shite. I just pulled out the volume, and those pages are covered with tomato blots from the sauce bubbling and exploding onto the pages!

Pretty much what you said, Qadgop. Except–

In place of your “29 0z. can of Tomato Sauce” please substitute a can of Italian Plum Tomatoes, undrained. I chop them up a bit before adding.

The rest of your ingredients dovetail with mine.*

*[sub]except for the Marmite. That’s just crazy.[/sub]

The presence of significant amounts of actual measurements invalidates the OP’s recipe as a true traditional recipe. When I make spaghetti I just know how much to put in and measure nothing except that which comes pre-measured (cans of tomatoes, packages of ground beef), after having watched my mother make it numerous times. I know for certain she didn’t learn it from her mother (because her mother is an awful cook, and makes spaghetti completely differently), and quite possibly developed it herself. It’s not always the same and this is a good thing - part of the reason for making spaghetti yourself instead buying it in the store. It’s not complicated, but it’s tasty, and after making it for the rest of the house I lived in during college, I was asked for the recipe - which of course required cooking it again since I couldn’t give any exact figures.

Ground Beef
Tomatoes - some in paste form, some with significant liquid still
Red Wine
Bay Leaves
Parmesan Cheese

Brown the meat, drain. Chop up the onions and garlic, then stir everything together. Bake on low for a few hours. Edible immediately, but tends to taste better after being refrigerated overnight.

Original recipe had mushrooms, which I don’t like and thus got dropped as soon as my input became meaningful.

1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
about 1 1/2 pound of roma tomatoes

Mince the garlic and onion, cook it until tender in olive oil, cut the tomatoes in half, let them simmer on low heat for an hour, use a hand blender to mix it until it’s smooth, simmer it for another hour, add a pound of ground beef.

Since that can limit last minute dinner options, I try to keep some batches in the freezer. We don’t buy the jarred stuff anymore. I’ve never really liked it, so I don’t mind that this takes a bit extra time.

1 jar of sauce
1 pound of ground beef
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 container of fresh sliced mushrooms
jarlic, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste
Red wine
Milk or cream

Brown the meat and spices together. Remove it and drain it, leaving a bit of fat for the veggies to cook in. Cook the veggies. Put the meat back in, add the sauce (put about 1/4 cup of red wine in the jar after pouring the sauce in, shake it up, and then pour out the wine and sauce remnants into the pan), and simmer on the stove until you feel like eating it. Right before you take it off the heat, pour in a little bit of milk or cream. This “recipe” is only limited by the size of your pan. I use ground beef because it’s what we generally have (we buy quarter cows and have a lot of freezer beef), but it’s also good with ground Italian sausage or a blend, although I’d skip the fennel seeds if you did that.

I’ve done it in the pressure cooker too–follow the recipe as normal, only instead of simmering for a long time, cook it on High for 15 minutes and let pressure release naturally. Once pressure releases, add the milk and serve.

I like simple:

Sauté onions, garlic, mushrooms and whatever tickles you in olive oil and butter.

Add 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can crushed tomatoes, and one can tomato paste.

Add basil, oregano, bay leaves and Parmesan cheese.
Simmer until youre bored.

If I want meat, I make meatballs with am equally ambiguous recipe. Thrn pour the sauce over the meatballs as the great FSM intended.

Any spaghetti sauce is fine, but the kicker is to drizzle italian dressing on the completed plate.

This is part mine and part a recipe I found on line. I’ve posted it before. It is outstandingly Italian and wonderfully flavorful, as has been relayed to me by other Dopers.

Time: 3 hours
This is an amazing spaghetti sauce, and any leftover meatballs and sauce can also be used for meatball subs. There’s lots of room for experimentation with meats in this dish, and it makes a lot of servings. Note that the meatball recipe only makes 16 or so. That’s because Italian meatballs (unlike Swedish meatballs) are very large. The important key to good meatballs (or anything made with ground meat, for that matter) is not to overwork the meat mixture. Use a light touch when mixing, and a very light touch when forming the balls, or you’ll end up with dry, dense product.

Salt and pepper
1 pound pork spareribs, neck bones or pork chops
1 pound beef chuck roast, blade steak or brisket
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably Italian
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
4 small or 2 large pickled peperoncini
Cooked meatballs (see recipe)
1 pound dried spaghetti for serving
Grated Parmesan for serving.

  1. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over pork and beef. Place large pot over medium-high heat; when hot, add olive oil and brown meat. (Or cook meat in same pot used for meatballs, browning in the leftover fat.) Remove meat to a platter. Turning heat under pot to medium, add onions, and cook 3 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add tomato paste, and stir: cook until it absorbs fat in pan. Add oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and bay leaf, stirring to combine.
  2. Add cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce, then 4 1/2 cups water. Stir in sugar, parsley and peperoncini. Return meats to pot with their juices. Bring sauce to a gentle boil. Turn heat down to a simmer, partly cover and leave sauce to simmer 21/2 hours or more, stirring regularly.
  3. About 20 minutes before serving, add meatballs to pot. Boil spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, return spaghetti to pan and add 3 cups sauce. Toss pasta in pan for a minute to coat with sauce, and place on a large platter. Pour 2 more cups sauce over pasta. Place meat and meatballs on pasta, slicing large pieces. Serve with bowls of remaining sauce and Parmesan.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Italian Meatballs
Time: 20 minutes
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil.

  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except olive oil by hand, using a light touch. Take a portion of meat in hand, and roll between palms to form a ball that is firmly packed but not compressed. Repeat, making each meatball about 2 inches in diameter.
  2. In a large, heavy pot heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add meatballs in batches. Do not crowd. Brown well on bottoms before turning, or meatballs will break apart. Continue cooking until browned all over. Remove meatballs to a plate as each batch is finished. Let meatballs cool slightly; cover and refrigerate until needed.
    Yield: About 16 meatballs.

Lightly brown as much garlic as you can handle in a nice olive oil. Mix in spaghetti and squeeze in as much lemon as possible without it getting too watery. Voila! The addition of some red pepper and some nice sweet whole cheery tomatoes thrown in with the garlic, and some fresh basil at the end is optional. Of course salt to taste.

The jarred sauces have gotten so good - or I’ve gotten so good at doctoring them - that I rarely make from scratch anymore.

One big honkin’ onion, chopped small
Some ground beef
Some **ground pork **(Around a pound of meat all together)

Brown the meats and onions. When the meat is mostly browned, add:
A bit of red pepper flakes
A bunch of fennel seed
Some oregano

add A Mess O’ Garlic, peeled, smashed and minced, when the onions are mostly done. Add:

2 jars cheap ass pasta sauce (I like using one “Meat Flavored” and one “Mushroom” from Aldi.)
1 can tomato paste
**Water **enough to rinse the tomatoey goodness out of the jars, into the pot.

Stir well and add:
Some more oregano
Some basil
Maybe some marjoram

Simmer on low until it’s good ‘n’ hot, then taste and adjust seasonings. (Oregano can’t be tasted fully until it’s hot, so don’t futz with it before it’s hot or you’ll end up over-oreganoing yourself.) Simmer about 30 minutes if it’s a school night, an hour on weekends.

This usually feeds my family of four with a jar to a jar and a half of sauce left over. Luckily, I have two clean jars to put it back into! I love pasta with red sauce for leftovers during the week, but it also freezes well in freezer bags.

Wow, I’ve seen folks just assume that everyone else on the Internet is white, but to assume everyone else is Italian…? That’s a new one by me! :smiley:

I believe that the majority of Americans do eat some sort of pasta and sauce combination, whether they are of Italian ancestry or not. I mean, I eat a lot of Mexican food, and I’m not Mexican. I eat a lot of Chinese food, too.

I brown some ground beef, diced onions, green bell pepper, and mushrooms. I add garlic when everything is almost cooked. I drain the mess, then add some Ragu brand spaghetti sauce. Sometimes it’s marinara, sometimes it’s chunky garden. But it HAS to be Ragu brand, because that’s the brand that my husband and daughter like. And then I serve it over some sort of pasta. The proportions vary according to what I feel like at the time.

Oh, and I usually make garlic bread, too.