When done right, spaghetti sauce is magical. Can you imagine ordinary pasta without it? I can’t!

And the heart of this sauce? It’s borrowed from Italian-American legend and doyenne Marcella Hazan. After some kitchen experimentation and a sprinkle of Steamy Kitchen ingenuity, we’ve added a robust twist on her recipe with ground beef. Come dive in and see what the fuss is all about!

Photo of spaghetti sauce recipe with fresh basil

Learn the secret ingredient that makes this recipe truly legendary.


The Magic Behind the Method

  • Marcella Hazan: First things first. Let’s chat about OG Italian kitchen maestro, Marcella Hazan. I was lucky enough to be a guest at her home in Florida, where we swapped recipes. I taught her how to make My Mom’s Famous Egg Rolls, and she taught me how to make her Legendary Marinara Sauce. Fair trade? Absolutely.
  • The Secret Ingredient: Canned tomatoes can sometimes be a tad… shall we say, rebelliously tart? But Marcella’s wisdom saved the day with one small ingredient: butter. It’s not just for bread anymore. Add it to your sauce, and it balances out any acidic mischief you might run into.
  • Master the Slow Simmer: When it comes to sauces, patience is a virtue, and it’s actually the secret to the sauce itself. Give your sauce a good hour simmer to let those flavors get acquainted, and your sauce will warmly embrace each strand of your pasta. This is where the magic happens, far, far away from those instant sauce mixes.


History 101: The Pasta Sauce Chronicles

Marinara’s Origins: Spaghetti sauce, or “marinara”, isn’t some recent culinary trend. It’s been the heart and soul of Italian kitchens for centuries. In fact, as far back as the 16th century when tomatoes first landed in Europe, courtesy of the Americas. At that time, they were simply looked at as decor rather than dinner. But, by the 18th century, the ingenious Neapolitans saw their potential, and started tossing tomatoes into their recipes. That’s where the marinara magic began!

Marinara’s Name: Curious about the name “marinara”? The term “marinaro” translates to “sailor-style” in Italian. And as the story goes, sailors returning from the New World returned to Naples and introduced them to tomatoes. From there, marinara started gaining momentum, and never really lost it.

The Heart of Marinara: The essentials of authentic Italian marinara generally include sun-ripened tomatoes, a hint of garlic and onions, and some aromatic herbs like basil and oregano. But over the centuries, various Italian locales began sprinkling in  their own distinct touches. 


Behind the Curtain: Ingredients that ElevateSan Marzano Tomatoes Can

  • San Marzano, Darling: If you’re trying to flaunt your sauce game, there’s nothing like San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes come from Italy’s Campania region, and have just enough sweetness for what you need.
  • Don’t Forget The Butter: Including this velvety ingredient doesn’t just enhance your dish. It elevates it entirely, and smooths out any acidic edges to make it luxuriously rich.
  • Give it a Basil Boost: There are ingredients, and then there’s basil. It’s more than just a garnish. It give your sauce the aromatic jolt it quietly yearns for, and will take it to the next level.


Hold Up, Sauce Rookie!

Listen, the most common blunder folks make with spaghetti sauce? They’re too quick on the draw. A truly rich and flavorsome sauce craves time and a chance for all those ingredients to mingle and deepen. If you rush it, you’re likely to end up with a sauce that’s just skimming the surface in terms of taste. So here’s the secret: let that sauce simmer on low heat for a solid hour. Those tomatoes will soften, the flavors will intensify, and you’ll get a sauce with the lush consistency and depth of a classic Italian masterpiece. Patience, my friends, is the real sauce MVP.


All Your Saucy Questions Answered:

  • Swap the Beef?: Thinking of switching out the ground beef? Go for it! Whether you’re eyeing ground turkey, chicken, sausage, or maybe even going green with lentils or mushrooms, this recipe’s got room for your culinary flair.
  • No San Marzano Tomatoes?: Don’t stress. While they’re the gold standard, Italian Roma tomatoes or any high-quality canned whole tomatoes will still give you some sauce swagger. Just aim for ones that don’t have too many additives. The NY Times has done the hard work with ranking the four best canned tomato brands, and so has The Food Network.
  • Can I Tweak the Butter?: Feel free! Want it light and flirty? Trim that butter. Going for full-on opulence? Add a smidge more. Though, our butter balance–it’s kind of legendary.
  • Missing that Italian Herb Mix? Don’t sweat it. Raid your spice rack for dried basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Mix and match, taste test, and find your herb harmony.
  • Got a Thing for Garlic?: Slide it in towards the end of step 1. It’s a last-minute cameo that ensures no burnt or bitter bites.
  • Marcella’s Butter Extravaganza: Yep, the goddess herself was living the buttery dream with 5 whole tablespoons. We went a tad more waistline-friendly, snipping it without losing that velvety luxury. You’re welcome. 😉


Elevate that Pantry Pasta with Reverse Meal Plan

One of the reasons this Legendary Spaghetti Sauce recipe is so fantastic is its compatibility with the Reverse Meal Plan concept.

Let’s be honest: who doesn’t have a packet of spaghetti hiding away in the back of their pantry? Most of us do! The Reverse Meal Plan method emphasizes starting with what you already have in your kitchen before making a grocery list. It encourages us to be resourceful and inventive, reducing waste and saving money in the process. And spaghetti is one of those universal pantry staples that often gets overlooked. With this recipe, you’re not just making a delicious meal, but also embracing a smarter, more sustainable approach to cooking by leveraging what’s already available to you. It’s time to shop your kitchen and transform that forgotten spaghetti into something legendary! You can learn more about Reverse Meal Plan by clicking the image below!

For the Carb-conscious Foodies Out There:

Dive into a fresh take on spaghetti with our heart of palm “pasta” – Cook Low-Carb Spaghetti

Legendary Spaghetti Sauce


Photo of spaghetti sauce recipe with fresh basil

Legendary Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Discover the Legendary Spaghetti Sauce Recipe—a divine blend of canned tomatoes, creamy butter and aromatic herbs. Taste pasta perfection!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 4 people
Calories 302 kcal


Legendary Spaghetti Sauce

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ small onion chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes San Marzano preferred
  • 1 tsp Italian herb spice mix
  • Salt to taste


  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the butter. When the butter is just beginning to bubble, add the ground beef and the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the beef is nicely browned and the onion is fragrant and soft.
  • Add in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. If using whole tomatoes, mash and break up the tomatoes with a potato masher or large ladle.
  • When bubbling, turn the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Season with salt to taste.


Calories: 302kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 24gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 425mgPotassium: 772mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 468IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 89mgIron: 5mg
Keyword pasta, spaghetti
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!