The Only Spaghetti Sauce I’ll Eat

Pretty much everyone loves spaghetti, right? It doesn’t contain any controversial or offensive ingredients and, well, it’s pasta. This classic dish is a crowd-pleaser, one that most of us have grown up with. Our mothers made it for us, and our mother’s mothers made it for them. So, besides being delicious, spaghetti is comforting. But I’ve got to be honest.

I’m not a huge spaghetti fan.

It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I’d choose a million other foods over it. I like cheesy or creamy sauces. I can even get behind blush sauces. But straight up marinara just doesn’t thrill me. However, there is one exception (there’s always an exception, isn’t there?): My Mother’s Spaghetti. I grew up on this stuff. And I’ve got to tell you something, I love it. It’s one of those old favorites that I never get sick of. Nowadays, I skip on my mother’s meatballs (man, were those good!), but I still enjoy a heaping helping of pasta and smooth, zesty marinara sauce. It’s sweet but not too sweet, and you can control all of the flavors. It can’t be beat.

So what’s so special about this sauce that actually makes me enjoy it? Well, it was passed down from my grandmother on my father’s side. I never got to meet her; she passed away before I was born. It’s really cool though to have a little piece of her with this recipe. I love that about cooking. It brings generations together.

This sauce is not over-complicated. It’s got just the right amount of every ingredient and a modest number of components. Using fresh herbs provides supreme flavor, and letting the sauce simmer low & slow intensifies that. Three different kinds of tomatoes provides the absolute perfect texture. I’ve never seen another sauce in my 18 years with such an ideal consistency. It’s thick and sturdy, but not too thick. It’s still smooth enough to perfectly coat every pasta noodle. The best part is that it’s simple enough to make so that you always get it right. Once you have this spaghetti sauce, you’ll never need any other.

Now, spaghetti sauce has a well-known partner in crime: the meatball. Don’t think that just because I’m a vegetarian, I’m going to leave him out. No, I understand that, for some of you, spaghetti just isn’t spaghetti without meatballs. Well, you folks are very lucky because my mom makes a mean meatball. Sure, it’s been years since I’ve had one, but I don’t forget something that good. They aren’t overpowering or overdone; they’re simple and absolutely perfect. Juicy with an ideal balance of flavors, these are the epitome of classic meatballs done right.

Vegetarians, whip up this sauce with some spaghetti and enjoy a hearty, comforting dinner beyond your most delicious expectations. Meat-eaters, make this easy, sublime spaghetti and top it with a couple perfect meatballs. Everyone’s happy.

 A few tips before you get cooking:

  1. Chop up your herbs, onion, and garlic before you start cooking so you don’t get behind or have a melt-down trying to multitask.
  2. There’s a lot of can-opening to do! Take care of it before you get going.
  3. You can adjust the sugar/seasoning to your tastes.
  4. Multigrain pasta adds so many health benefits to this dish, including protein for vegetarians. Plus, I love it’s heartiness.
  5. Note: You may need more herbs than listed. It’s to taste. So have a little extra you can toss in if you want more flavor.

The Best Spaghetti (and Meatballs)

Recipe by Carol-Ann & Bonnie Bierstine

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. 85% lean burger meat
  • 1 envelope of onion soup mix
  • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. Heinz 57 Sauce
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • One onion, chopped
  • 2 8oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 6oz. can of tomato paste
  • 1 29oz. can of tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or less, if you don’t like your sauce sweet)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • optional: parmesan cheese, for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees.
  2. To make the meatballs: Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix it together with your hands until everything is well incorporated.
  3. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil & sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until juices run clear. Turn off oven and set meatballs aside.
  5. To make the sauce: Melt butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent, 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato sauce, paste, and puree. Fill the tomato paste can with water. Add to sauce. Repeat once more.
  7. Add the parsley, oregano, basil, and salt. Stir until well-combined.
  8. Turn the heat down to low. Cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Test the sauce along the way, adding more sugar/spices as needed.
  9. If using meatballs, add them. Re-cover and cook for at least another 30 minutes.
  10. When ready to serve, cook spaghetti according to box directions (make sure you salt the water!). Drain pasta. Serve a heaping portion of pasta with lots of delicious sauce and a couple meatballs for meat-eaters! Top with parmesan, if desired.

I know everyone probably has their go-to spaghetti recipe, but give this one a try. It won’t let you down. It’s so easy and SO GOOD. It’s a big bowl of comfort (and pasta, hello!).

Posted in Dinner, Italian, Pasta, The Smart Cookie Cook, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Colleen Bierstine


  1. I’m actually a huge spaghetti fan, but I’m always getting tired of my sauces. Looking forward to having a new recipe to try- thanks for sharing this!!

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  3. Interesting way to make a meatball, adding onion soup mix. Everyone has their own family recipe for meatballs and sauce, sounds good. :)

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  7. I just made this today- it was absolutely delicious! I was getting sick of making spaghetti either from Raghu/Prego or sauces that take many hours – thank you!!

  8. On an eternal quest to try different basic pasta sauces. This one was tops. I’ll use this when I am feeding folks who hate chunks in their gravy. What’s wrong with those people?

  9. Wanted something different than jarred Ragu so I gave this a try. This spaghetti sauce is fantastic. I added a little more brown sugar than the recipe suggested but it’s the best sauce I’ve tasted. Looks lIke I’ll be making a bunch and freezing it for future dinners!

  10. This is the sauce I’ve been searching for! It tastes like the sauce from one of our favorite Italian restaurants. I’ll never buy jarred spaghetti sauce again!

  11. Sauce is easy and addictive! I freeze small bags of it for single use anytime.

    Thanks Cookie!

  12. Question. I do not see any onion pieces in your sauce. It is perfectly smooth which is what I want. Do you puree it at some point to get this consistency? Thanks!

    • Nope, I don’t puree it. The onions are just finely chopped. The sauce IS very smooth; you don’t notice onion chunks. But you can always use an immersion blender at the end for extra smoothness.

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