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This chunky, homemade spaghetti sauce is the perfect blend of fresh vegetables and meat. It’s easy to make, freezes well in bulk, and tastes great on any type of pasta. It is made with a simple blend of ground beef, sweet carrots, fresh celery, earthy onions, and bright tomatoes. Plus, it tastes 10x better than store-bought sauce.
Spaghetti is, without a doubt, one of the easiest fall-back meals. It’s simple, filling, and everyone seems to like it. But let’s be honest, store-bought spaghetti sauce is not the best. It’s often watery, bland, and tastes more like tomato paste than anything else. This homemade chunky spaghetti sauce is the perfect solution to those problems. The ground beef adds a depth of flavor, the carrots add sweetness, the celery adds freshness, and the onions add earthiness. The canned tomatoes provide a bright acidity that ties everything together. It takes no time to create a big batch and freeze for weeks to come!
why you’ll love this spaghetti meat sauce
- Slow cooked flavor in low cook time. The sun-dried tomatoes used here are not essential to this recipe, but they give a lovely slow-cooked flavor to this relatively quick cooking sauce!
- Great way to use up leftover vegetables. The obvious ones included here are onions, carrots, and celery. But you can also make use of extra fresh tomatoes here, along with zucchini, peppers, or mushrooms.
- Perfect for backup. On nights when you just don’t know what to cook or don’t feel like doing more than the bare minimum, this sauce is your friend. Simply boil some pasta, heat up the sauce, and dinner is served!
- Universally liked. Even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy this chunky spaghetti sauce.
Ingredients to make chunky spaghetti sauce
- Ground beef: For spaghetti sauce, you want to use lean ground beef. I typically use 85% lean ground beef, but you can go up to 93% lean if you want.
- Vegetables: Onion, celery, and carrots diced into small, uniform pieces.
- Tomatoes: I like to use a combination of canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and sun-dried tomatoes. The sun-dried tomatoes add a tart sweetness and the canned diced tomatoes provide body and acidity.
- Herbs & seasonings: I typically use a combination of Italian seasoning, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Vegetable broth: Is great for deglazing the pan after cooking your ground beef. It also adds its own flavor to the sauce. Homemade or store-bought will work fine in this recipe.
How to make spaghetti sauce from scratch
- In a large dutch oven, add olive oil and heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have begun to soften. Add Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cook until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally to break up any large chunks of meat and until the meat has been cooked through and no pink remains.
- Add tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.
- Then deglaze the pan with vegetable broth, stirring to scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth is reduced.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes and stir well to combine.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
Tips for making homemade spaghetti sauce
- Season as you go. Just like making soups, making this spaghetti sauce is all about the layers of flavors that build on top of each other. Don’t be tempted to through everything in a pot and simmer. Instead, take the time to add the ingredients in the order they appear and taste, and adjust the seasoning as you go.
- Chop everything finely. This is a chunky spaghetti sauce, but we want to chunks to be diced so that they are not overly powerful in each bite, but more mellow and incorporated. Plus, picky eaters won’t be tempted to pick out the big chunks of celery, then.
- Use good quality canned tomatoes. This is the base of your sauce, so you want to make sure you are using a good quality product.
- Make sure your dry seasonings aren’t stale. While it’s true, that dried herbs last a long time, they do start to lose their flavor, especially the closer they get to the best buy date. If you are using old spices, this will be reflected in the flavor of your sauce.
popular substitutions & additions
- Add Parmigiano-reggiano rind for more flavor. This simple but impactful tip adds a ton of flavor to soups, stews, and braises. I like to stockpile these rinds in my freezer to grab whenever I’m making a hearty dish like this.
- Omit or change the meat. You can, of course, choose not to add meat to this sauce or use ground meat other than beef. Turkey, lamb, and ground chicken all work great in this recipe.
- Add more vegetables. As I mentioned above, this is a great way to clean out your fridge of any extra vegetables you have on hand. Zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and eggplant all work great in this recipe.
- Make it spicier. If you want a little more heat, add some more crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the sauce.
what to serve your spaghetti sauce
Pasta is the obvious choice to pair with spaghetti sauce. Grab my tips for how to cook pasta perfectly every time!). And if you’re looking for more than just pasta, here are other ways to enjoy this classic sauce:
- Stuffed Peppers
- Greek Meatballs
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Chicken Stuffed Zucchini Boats
how to freeze SPAGHETTI sauce
Spaghetti sauce is a great freezer-friendly meal since this batch makes two quarts and is enough to feed a large family two to three times! You can also easily double or triple the recipe.
However much you make, if you want to freeze some, make sure to let the sauce cool completely, then pack into freezer-safe containers, leaving about an inch at the top of each container for expansion in the freezer. Close tightly and freeze for up to 3 months.
To use from frozen, defrost the container overnight in the fridge. When ready to serve, place contents in a large pot and bring up to a boil before serving.
how to store & reheat vegetable spaghetti sauce
If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge or follow the freezer instructions above. When ready to eat, heat on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through.
how long will homemade spaghetti sauce last in the fridge?
This sauce will last in the fridge for up to five days. After that, it’s best to freeze any leftovers.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, it is cheaper to make your own sauce since you can control the quality and quantity of ingredients. Plus, this recipe makes a large batch that will last you several meals.
Yes, but you want to make sure you remove the skin and seeds from the fresh tomatoes before adding them to the sauce. I also recommend cooking the sauce a bit longer if you are using fresh tomatoes. To replace the canned tomatoes in this recipe, you’ll need about 4lbs of tomatoes ( 2lbs per 28oz can).
Sure! If you have picky eaters who don’t like chunks of vegetables in their sauce, you can always puree the sauce. I would recommend cooking the veggies longer, so they are softer and easier to blend. Also, the ground beef. You won’t want to add it to the sauce until after it’s been pureed.
This chunky spaghetti sauce is packed with flavor and perfect for a quick and easy weeknight meal. If you’re looking for a way to use up some extra vegetables, this is a great recipe to do that. And if you’re looking for a way to make a big batch of sauce to freeze for later, this recipe is perfect for that too. This sauce is also great served over spaghetti squash or zucchini boats for a low-carb option. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even unstuff some peppers with this sauce. So many possibilities! So what are you waiting for? Get cooking!
More easy sauce recipes:
- Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Yogurt Sauce
- Pesto Sauce
- Cashew Tomato Sauce
- Creamy Pumpkin Sauce
- Arrabiata Sauce
- Chicken Fajita Pasta Sauce
- Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce
- Bolognese Sauce
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 2 carrots diced
- ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning no salt added
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- ¼ cup drained and chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand into a chunky consistency
- Spaghetti for serving
- In a large dutch oven, add olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have begun to soften, 7 to 9 minutes.
- Add Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally to break up any large chunks of meat and until the meat has been cooked through and no pink remains, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then deglaze the pan with vegetable broth, stirring to scrape up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth is reduced, about 2 minutes.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes and stir well to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.