What Makes the Best Spaghetti Sauce?

What Makes the Best Spaghetti Sauce?

Well do your research and you’ll find there are about a million different recipes for spaghetti sauce ranging from the savory comfort of “just like mom made” to totally decadent gourmet approaches for the most pervasive of American Italian favorites. In this blog post you’ll find both Mom’s version and a wonderfully luscious recipe for Bolognaise Sauce from Chef Thomas Santamaria of The Plaza Hotel in New York.

When making the perfect spaghetti sauce there are basically three things to consider: the acidity/sweetness of the tomatoes, the umami or savory heartiness of the meat or protein, and the texture of the sauce. Then add to that considerations of spice, salt and, of course, the backdrop of bitable spaghetti noodles and you’ve got your basic template.

For an easy sauce that tastes like home, consider using a mix of tomato paste, tomato sauce and either fresh tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes. The tomato paste and tomato sauce work together to give a nice, concentrated tomato flavor while the diced or fresh tomatoes provide a greener-acidic profile and wetter texture. Combining the wet or fresh with the condensed enables cooks to achieve a nice depth of tomato flavor. When it comes to spice, the consensus is that fresh garlic, browned onions, bell peppers and dried oregano and basil (not “Italian Spice” mixtures) yield the best old-fashioned flavor. If you opt for fresh basil then go fresh all the way and get fresh oregano too. Fresh basil and dried oregano or vice-versa do not work well together so stick for dried or fresh. Plan on using much more of the fresh stuff since you’ll need it to get the kind of punch you want. Another easy option is to make a basil-infused olive oil which you can drizzle on top of the spaghetti sauce once it’s plated. Don’t overdo it with classic spaghetti. This is one dish where more is sometimes less.

Mom’s Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

  • 1 pound ground beef (15-20% fat or more)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes or 4 medium sized Roma tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 16 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or fresh 4 sprigs)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil (or fresh 20 leaves)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste


  1. Add 1 tablespoon canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil to large saucepan. Heat pan to medium high. Brown onions, for 1 minute then add garlic stirring to keep garlic from burning, approx. 1 minute, then add green bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add ground beef and stir until meat just turns brown and vegetables are tender. Drain off excess grease.
  2. Into the same saucepan, stir in the diced (or fresh) tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Season with oregano, basil, pepper and salt to taste. Simmer spaghetti sauce for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

For noodles, use high-quality dried semolina spaghetti noodle. Prepare just before sauce is finished. Cook according to box instructions, drain in strainer under cool water to stop cooking process. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, moving noodles to ensure each strand has a thin topping of olive oil.

Plate and enjoy.


Bolognese Sauce by Chef Thomas Santamaria

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup ham, diced small
  • ½ large onion, diced small
  • ½ large carrot, diced small
  • ½ celery stalk, diced small
  • ¼ lb. Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ lb. ground beef
  • ¼ lb. ground veal
  • ¼ lb. ground pork
  • ½ cup red wine, Chianti
  • 1 cup brown veal stock
  • 1 ½ cup classic tomato sauce
  • 1 bouquet garni (Thyme, Bay leaf)


  1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the ham, onion, carrot and celery.  Sauté until caramelized and remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the remaining fat and sauté until lightly browned.
  4. Add the meats (beef, veal and pork) and sauté until browned.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté until fragrant.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until dry.
  6. Add the stock, tomato sauce and bouquet garni.  Stir well and add the previously sautéed vegetables (ham, onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms).
  7. Simmer the mixture, covered, until desired thickness.  (45 min. – 1 hour)
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


For noodles, see above recipe. Happy Cooking!

*Updated February 2018*

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