Spaghetti sauce, when done right, is magic. It turns ordinary pasta into something memorable. The heart of this sauce? Well, it’s borrowed from the culinary insights of Italian-American legend and doyenne Marcella Hazan. After some kitchen adventures and a sprinkle of Steamy Kitchen ingenuity, we’ve added a robust twist with ground beef. 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

  • The Marcella Hazan Connection: Let’s chat about the OG Italian kitchen maestro, Marcella Hazan. I was lucky enough to be a guest at her home in Florida, where 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 Butter Brilliance: Canned tomatoes can sometimes act a tad… shall we say, rebellious with its puckery tartness? Marcella’s wisdom shines with a simple fix: butter. It’s not just for bread anymore. Add it to your sauce, and it elegantly balances out any acidic mischief.
  • Mastering the Slow Simmer: In the world of sauces, patience is more than a virtue, it’s the secret sauce itself. Giving it a good 45-minute simmer is akin to letting flavors get acquainted, like old friends catching up. The result? A sauce that warmly embraces each strand of your pasta, delivering a rich and harmonious taste. This is where the magic happens, far away from those instant sauce mixes.


History 101: The Pasta Sauce Chronicles

The Marinara Memo: Before we dive in, let’s clear the air: spaghetti sauce, also known as “marinara”, isn’t some modern culinary trend. This sauce has been the heart and soul of Italian kitchens long before Vespa rides became iconic. Journey back to the 16th century when tomatoes first landed in Europe, courtesy of the Americas.They looked at these juicy fruits and thought, “Decor, not dinner.” But, by the 18th century, the ingenious Neapolitans saw potential, tossed tomatoes into their recipes, and voilà, the marinara magic began!

Marinara’s Oceanic Origins: Curious about the name “marinara”? The term “marinaro” translates to “sailor-style” in Italian. A the story goes, seafaring explorers returning to Naples introduced this tomato wonder from the New World. From there, marinara started gaining momentum, captivating palates far and wide.

The Heart of Marinara: At its core, authentic Italian marinara showcases the essentials: sun-ripened tomatoes, a hint of garlic and onions, complemented by aromatic herbs like basil and oregano. Over the centuries, various Italian locales have sprinkled their distinct touches, turning marinara from just a sauce to a culinary narrative with rich, regional tales.


Behind the Curtain: Ingredients that ElevateSan Marzano Tomatoes Can

  • San Marzano, Darling: If you’re truly aiming to flaunt your sauce game, it’s time for a heart-to-heart with San Marzano tomatoes. Nestled in the sassy soils of Italy’s Campania region, these little divas know how to strike a pose with their blend of sweetness and just enough sass. Choosing them? That’s just you being a culinary icon.
  • Butter Me Up: Delving into the world of butter brings an understated opulence to your sauce. Incorporating this velvety ingredient doesn’t just enhance; it elevates, smoothing out any acidic edges and turning your creation into a luxuriously rich delight.
  • The Basil Boost: There are ingredients, and then there’s basil. More than a mere garnish, it’s the aromatic jolt your sauce quietly yearns for. With its inclusion, your sauce isn’t just great; it becomes irresistible.


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, 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 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 (link)

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
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