Divine Dinner Party

Italian Spaghetti Sauce Recipes:
How to Make Marinara Sauce

If you ask ten different cooks which Italian spaghetti sauce recipes are the best, you're likely to hear ten different versions of how to make marinara sauce "the right way."
What makes the perfect marinara is such a personal thing! Which means my opinions on the best spaghetti with meatballs recipes or the best marinara recipes are going to be --like my recipes themselves-- entirely subjective.

These are sauce recipes that I love best! And if what you're looking for are simple Italian recipes that combine wonderful textures with strong flavors and lots of richness, you're bound to like my version of the classic recipe for marinara sauce.

The BEST Spaghetti with Meatballs Recipe!

If you're looking for all the makings of a perfect Italian spaghetti sauce recipe with meatballs, this is the one! The meatballs are simple, flavorful, and they absolutely melt in your mouth. And the sauce is thick, potent, simple-to-make, and absolutely full of flavor.

I've been making both of these recipes for years, which I learned from my Italian step-mother. I may not have a drop of Italian blood in my body --and I don't!-- but when you taste this sauce, you'd never know it.

My Rich and Spicy Marinara Sauce Recipe

Traditional Spaghetti Sauce Recipe with Meatballs and Parmesan
This is a fabulous recipe for anybody who wants to learn how to make marinara sauce that's rich and full of flavor. It uses canned tomatoes, tons of garlic, and tomato paste to make a rich, potent sauce that is all you need to turn a big pile of plain spaghetti into a big pile of heaven.

While I like lighter fresh-tomato sauces (especially in summer) this is my favorite heavy marinara sauce, and will be one of the best Italian spaghetti sauce recipes you ever try. Because the tomatoes are smooshed by hand rather than purchased pre-chopped, it also has the best texture of any marinara sauce I've ever eaten.

Tip: The dried herbs used here give the sauce its traditional flavor. But you can also use fresh herbs if you like, for a slightly different (but still wonderful!) marinara sauce, and you'll definitely want to opt for fresh herbs if you're using fresh tomatoes in your Italian spaghetti sauce recipe. Simply use 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley and 3 tbsp. or so of chopped fresh basil.

Serves about 6-8.

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1/4 C. good extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 heads garlic, cloves separated, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. sea salt
1 C. good-quality dry red wine
2 cans (24 oz each) whole tomatoes (not chopped!)
2 cans (6 oz each) tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh, coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. granulated sugar
3-4 tsp. dried parsley flakes
2-3 tsp. dried basil

Instructions: 1. In a large, heavy-bottom sauce pan, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and salt.

2. Cook onions and garlic in oil on medium-low heat until they're nearly caramelized-- gooey, and golden. About 15 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high.

3. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Stirring often to scrape off any cooked bits from the pan (all this adds yummy-ness), let the wine boil mostly away.

4. Reduce heat to low. Using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes into the onion mixture-- they should be coarsely smooshed.

5. Stir in the tomato paste and remaining ingredients (unless you're using fresh herbs-- if so, you'll add them right before serving). Depending on the tanginess of your tomatoes, you may have to add a dash more sugar.

6. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer on low heat 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours (or longer, if you like!) Serve this Italian spaghetti sauce recipe on its own or with meatballs.

Full-of-Flavor Baked Italian Meatballs Recipe

This easy Italian meatball recipe is just so, so good. The meatballs are made with tomato and parmesan as the binding agent instead of egg, which gives them a wonderful melt-in-your texture that you won't find anybody else.

This is the best spaghetti with meatballs recipe I make... but you have to stick to the recipe. Be sure to use fresh parsley (not dried), good quality beef, and freshly grated, good-quality parmesan for the best results.

Serves 6-8.

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2 lb. ground beef (lean is best)
1/3 C. freshly shredded parmesan cheese
2/3 C. Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 C. minced fresh Italian parsley
1/3 C. spaghetti sauce (or plain tomato sauce)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of your ingredients. Mix well with your hands.

3. Form meatball mixture into about 40 meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches diameter each.

4. Spray a broiler pan with cooking spray, arrange your meatballs on the broiler pan, and cook about 15 minutes, until just cooked through. Flip once during cooking, if desired.

5. Stir the cooked meatballs into your Italian spaghetti sauce recipe before serving.

Fun Facts: A Short History of Marinara Sauce

Earlier in Italian history, pasta didn't come with red sauce. Instead people dressed it with olive oil and herbs. Why? Because even after the tomato came to Europe in the 16th century, people were very leery of eating it due to its botanical association with nightshade.

Fast forward 100 years. By the 17th century this fruit was being used in recipes, and by the 18th century pasta met red sauce and a beautiful marriage resulted. Today, many Italian cooks regard tomatoes as a "love" food, and have been known to prepare Italian spaghetti sauce recipes to help star-crossed lovers connect!

How to Make Marinara Sauce with Sausage: a Classic Recipe

Italian Marinara Sauce Recipe with Spicy Italian Sausage
Another classic among Italian spaghetti sauce recipes is one that adds an extra dimension of flavor with the addition of another beautiful Italian ingredient: sausage, baby!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can play with different types of sausage to create completely different flavors-- all of which work with any pasta of your choice. You can also play with texture. This recipe for Italian spaghetti sauce with sausage has you chop the sausage. But you can also try ground sausage, sliced sausage, or whole (or halved) sausage for a different texture.

And if you want to make the best spaghetti with meatballs recipe AND have sausage, don't be afraid to add whatever you want to the sauce. My Italian step mother used to make this recipe with large chunks of spicy Italian sausage, a few large meatballs, and even a lean pork chop or two. They'd simmer with the sauce, adding flavor and creating a unique dish of their own.

Recipe serves about 6.

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2 tsp. olive oil
2 lbs. hot Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
28 oz. diced tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
1 C. beef or chicken stock (beef is best)
3 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. red wine
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash hot sauce (optional)

Instructions: 1. Chop up the sausage into bite size chunks. Put it into your stockpot along with the olive oil and brown it over a medium flame. With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pan.

2. Using the fat from the sausage, sauté the onion and garlic. Once the onions are golden and tender (about 10-12 minutes), add the browned sausage, tomatoes, paste, and stock.

3. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, bringing everything to a boil.

4. Turn down to simmer, cover, and cook as long as you like. You want to give this at least an hour to integrate the flavors (stir regularly). The longer you simmer the more the stock will reduce and the more the flavor of this Italian spaghetti sauce recipe will intensify.

Fun Facts: Sausage was being eaten by humans very early in history, being mentioned in Chinese culinary texts late in 500 BC (goat and lamb based sausage). Homer talks about sausage in his writings, the Romans and Greeks alike couldn't seem to get enough of the stuff. Italian sausage traces its roots to the Basilicata region where Lucanian slaves introduced it to locals.

How to Make Marinara Sauce and Meatballs at Home

As you can see from the examples above, Italian spaghetti sauce recipes aren't that difficult to put together. They're also incredibly adaptable to various types of meats and herbs (or for vegetarians, use tofu, eggplant, mushrooms, or zucchini!).

A rule for any Italian spaghetti sauce recipe: Don't be afraid to tinker!

By the way, those of you using fresh tomatoes in your sauce, some cooks prefer to get rid of skins and seeds by using a sieve. This is one option that makes for smoother sauces.

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