Grandpa Frank’s Authentic Spaghetti Sauce is a treasured family recipe. This mouthwatering pasta sauce is what I grew up on and my mom often made it for us. The aroma of the sauce simmering on the stove all day was simply irresistible. And It’s gluten-free too!
I love how versatile this easy pasta sauce is; don’t want to simmer all day on your stovetop, this can easily be made in a crockpot. Want to add more veggies, shred them and go for it. Since it is simmered all day, it becomes a rich, thick and zesty spaghetti sauce.
I enjoy giving precise details in my recipe posts to lead my readers through any questions. If you’re just here for the printable recipe, you can Jump to Recipe to head straight there!
A little history behind Italian Gravy
My best friend who is 100% Italian (and Rhode Island raised), and I disagree about the name of this sauce; she calls it gravy and I called it spaghetti sauce or easy pasta sauce.
It is based on my Grandpa Frank’s authentic Italian pasta sauce, or gravy or whatever you call the red sauce you put on pasta.
Give it some time, tomato sauce is really best the next day, simmering for hours allows the natural sweetness of the tomatoes to emerge and the acidity to diminish. BUT, don’t be shy about eating it the day you make it as well.
Why You Will Love this Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Heirloom Recipe | My mom learned to make the sauce from her dad, I learned from my mom. This is a timeless, must have recipe.
- Fix it & Forget It | Once you get it going, it is best if it simmers all day long!
- Freezer Friendly | I love making up a large pot of this homemade spaghetti sauce, cooling it and then freezing portions to use for meal prep.
- Gluten-Free Spaghetti Sauce | A delicious straight forward pasta sauce.
Simple Ingredients for Authentic Spaghetti Sauce
- Whole San Marzano Tomatoes | I love San Marzano tomatoes, they are filled with wonderful flavor, but they aren’t required to make this sauce. I do believe they are superior tomatoes, if you can find and afford them, give them a try!
- Crushed Tomatoes & Puree | Rich and thick, with a little chunkiness!
- Tomato Paste | I use organic, this gives thickness, and depth to the sauce.
- Roasted Garlic | this is optional and I show you how to make it, takes the bite out of the garlic, so worth a little time!
- Herbs & Spices | Basil, Oregano, Chile Pepper Flakes and Salt and pepper, adjust to your taste!
- Brown Sugar | Sometimes depending on the time of year tomatoes are picked they can be more acidic than other times, if you like, you may omit the brown sugar, but for the amount of sauce, it is not much!
How to Make this Easy Pasta Sauce
Step 1 – Roast Garlic if using
I love adding roasted garlic to my sauce, I believe it adds depth to the sauce, but it’s optional. You can even get your sauce simmering and roast it later on, adding to the sauce later. Preheat oven to 400° F (204°C).
Cut about ¼ inch off the top of the garlic bulb (the papery side, not the side with the roots), place it on a sheet of foil and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. This is my favorite knife!
Fold the foil into a pocket and bake for 20-40 minutes until slightly brown and squishy. Cool for 5 minutes, then gently squeeze from the bottom up with a paper towel to release the garlic cloves. Catch them in the foil to remove any skin that falls off.
While the garlic roasts, drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large, heavy pot over medium heat.
If you decide not to roast your garlic, mince between 3-5 cloves of garlic and toss into the hot olive oil, prior to the tomato paste. Carefully sauté until golden, don’t burn it as it will turn bitter. CAREFUL it will brown quickly!
Step 2 – Prep the base of the sauce
Add tomato paste to the hot oil and garlic (if you roasted it, wait until you have all of your ingredients before place it in the sauce) and stir around until it turns just slightly darker. It should start to absorb the olive oil. It’ll just take a minute or so.
Step 3 – Add tomatoes
Pour in crushed tomatoes and pureed tomatoes, as you add the whole tomatoes, pour them into the palm of your hand a few at a time and crush/squeeze them into the sauce with your hands.
Once you’ve added tomatoes, fill one can about ½ way full of water, swish around and pour into next can and repeat, until you’ve “rinsed” out all of the cans, pour your “tomato sauce” water back into the sauce.
Step 4 – Add herbs and spices
Season with dried basil and oregano, adding more if needed. You can also bloom the spices with garlic and tomato paste in olive oil. Add a few shakes of red pepper flakes for flavor, not heat. Sprinkle in a generous amount of kosher salt and stir well. Simmer over low heat, being careful not to burn the sauce. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Step 5 – Add roasted garlic and simmer
Now is the time to toss the roasted garlic cloves into the sauce, remove any “papery skin” before tossing it in the sauce.
Toss in a couple of handfuls of fresh basil if available and if you have a Parmesan rind place in sauce as well – keep any leftover rinds and bits in the freezer for sauces and soups, adds wonderful flavor.
Ways to use Spaghetti Tomato Sauce
- Serve on pasta (any pasta), it’s how I use it most often.
- As a calzone dipping sauce
- When making lasagna, stuffed shells, chicken parmesan, meatball subs, pizza sauce, or drizzled on zoodles.
- Use in place of the sauce in this Spaghetti Pie
- Delicious when you dunk Italian Sausages or simmer them in the sauce.
- Serve as a side with this Pizza Rustica
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! If your sauce does burn, or you suspect a burn, DO NOT scrape the bottom of the pot, carefully pour your hot sauce into a new pot leaving the burnt sauce on the bottom of the other pan. Let your husband clean that pot later. That was for those of you who are still reading…tee-hee!
Yes, my #1 tip is to cool the sauce completely before freezing. I scoop the sauce in two cup portions into a freezer container or baggies (be sure to mark it). When ready to use, thaw overnight in fridge or on counter. Heat and use as planned. Lasts up to 4 months frozen.
About 3-5 days in the refrigerator, freeze if you aren’t going to use it by then!
Yes, the basics of this sauce are dairy-free and gluten-free, don’t add the parmesan rind and you are golden!
How to Make Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce
I get it, sometimes you want to just walk away and not worry about the easy pasta sauce, so get all of your initial prep done on the stove.
Then when it comes time to start simmering, transfer to a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Or place in oven safe pot at 250 degrees for 6-8 hours, allow both versions to cool over night, then bring to low simmer again the net day.
Variations & Substitutions
- Grate a zucchini or two and toss it into the sauce, or try grated carrots or other veggies to hide in the sauce! Maybe even riced cauliflower! Don’t worry it will cook into the sauce, giving it even more depth, thickness, and nutrients. Optional of course!
- Prefer a roasted tomato taste? Substitute the crushed tomatoes for equal amounts of roasted tomatoes.
- Onions | Some people like caramelized onions in their tomato sauce, go ahead, add some when you are heating that olive oil, before the tomato paste.
- Spicy Pasta sauce | add more red pepper flakes!
- Sugar-Free Spaghetti Sauce | The brown sugar neutralizes the acidity of the tomatoes, enhancing the natural sweetness. Feel free to reduce or omit it.
- Simmer covered on low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Alternatively, cook in a covered crock pot or oven at 250°F for desired hours, adding water to reach desired consistency.
- Allow the sauce to cool overnight on the stove top with the lid on. The following day, reheat slowly over low heat until simmering. The sauce will deepen in color, acidity will be reduced, and the natural sweetness of the tomatoes will enhance the flavor.
*If you are making this in a warm climate or are not comfortable with leaving it out overnight without refrigeration, by all means plop it in the refrigerator, then slowly reheat the following day.
Pro Tips for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Remove all the lids on cans at once and measure your spices into a small pinch pot or bowl.
- Simmer!! The longer the better!
- Adjust the spices after the second day if you were able to wait that long!
- BURNING BOTTOM | My stovetop has some hot spots and my sauce can burn, quickly, if I am not careful. See FAQ’s for how to rescue burnt sauce.
- Quality Ingredients | this makes A LOT of sauce. Think of the savings on a jar of spaghetti sauce you spent $4-6 on and splurge on some higher end tomatoes.
- Reserve a large tomato can, use to place wooden spoon when not using it, plus, it’s handy to fill with water if you need to add a little during the simmering process.
- Add cooked meatballs or Italian sausage and simmer for about an hour before serving, the meat will add even more flavor to this robust sauce.
Smooth or Chunky Homemade Tomato Sauce
- I typically blend the sauce since my family likes it smooth. I love my immersion blender or if desired, place in small batches in a blender. Blend until desired texture.
- If you like it chunky, either only partially blend or don’t blend at all! It’s a texture thing!
More Italian Sauces to try
You will love these other Italian sauces and find out the difference between Marinara vs. Pasta sauce.
Easy Homemade Alfredo Sauce Recipe
How to make homemade Alfredo sauce without cream cheese! Simple ingredients, like freshly grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic cloves, and a dash of nutmeg.
Easy Nut Free Basil Pesto Sauce Recipe
Today you will learn how to make pesto sauce without nuts! This easy nut free basil pesto sauce recipe doesn’t include pine nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds! And it’s a 100% deliciously versatile sauce that couldn't be any easier to make.
Best Appetizers to go with authentic spaghetti sauce
Make this a great dinner, serving with your favorite appetizer, the best appetizers to serve with pasta spaghetti sauce and be sure to check out all of my appetizers.
Whipped Goat Cheese with Bacon & Dates
With tangy whipped goat cheese, savory bacon, and sweet dates, this is one goat cheese appetizer that absolutely can’t be beat. And with so much room to customize, you can make it entirely your own. Dip into this tantalizing first course with warm toasted bread and say hello to your go-to holiday appetizer from here on out!
Easy Pesto Appetizer Recipe with Burrata and Roasted Tomatoes
This Easy Pesto Appetizer Recipe with Burrata and Roasted Tomatoes is gorgeous, versatile and delicious! This recipe includes fresh roasted cherry tomatoes, delicate burrata cheese, and warm and crispy baguette crostini topped with a pop of green with fresh basil pesto.
More Delicious Italian Recipes to try:
- Creamy Bow Tie Pasta Recipe
- Penne Alla Vodka
- Delicious Antipasto Pasta Salad
- Best Italian Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Slow-Roasted Veggie Pasta
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Best Bacon Minestrone Soup
- Zuppa Toscana
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Grandpa Frank’s Authentic Spaghetti Sauce
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- 1 bulb roasted garlic top sliced off to reveal cloves
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3-5 cloves garlic minced (if not using roasted garlic above)
- 2 6 ounce cans tomato paste
- 1 28 ounce can tomato puree or sub another can whole tomatoes
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1-2 28 ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes whole tomatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons dried basil
- 1-2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 bulb roasted garlic cloves
- ⅛ – ¼ cup brown sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes
- 1 zucchini washed and grated (optional)
- 1-2 parmesan rinds
- 1-2 Carrots shredded or zucchini or other veggies
- Toss in a handful of fresh basil oregano or thyme if available (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 °. Slice off the top of the bulb of garlic. Place on square of foil on baking sheet and drizzle the olive oil over the tops of the garlic cloves. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt, fold the foil up and around the garlic, making a pocket.
- Roast for 20-25 minutes until golden and soft. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then using a paper towel, hold the garlic bulb upside down over the foil and squeeze the bulb from the bottom up, pushing the garlic cloves out. Most will pop out, some might need to be encouraged or pulled out. Remove any of the papery garlic skin and set aside.
MAKING THE SAUCE
- Drizzle oil into large, heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium heat. If not using roasted garlic, toss in minced garlic and stir until golden, careful not to burn. Scoop the tomato paste into the hot oil (garlic) and stir around until you see the color darken slightly, don't allow to burn.
- Pour in the pureed and crushed tomatoes, next, pour one or two whole tomatoes at a time in your hand, squeezing and crushing them into the sauce. Pick one of the empty 28 oz cans and fill ½ way with water, swirling around to remove leftover tomato juice, then pour into the next can and the next until you've cleaned out all of the cans. Don't throw out. Pour tomato "water" with collected juices into the sauce, stir to combine.
- Toss in basil, oregano and sea salt and a few shakes of red pepper flakes (more for more heat, less if none desired). Toss in roasted garlic, if made. Place in brown sugar and stir to combine (optional). If desired, grate 1-2 zucchini's and stir into sauce (optional) and add parmesan rind(s), optional.
- Simmer, covered on lowest possible setting for 4-6 hours (or longer), stirring occasionally. Add water as needed if getting too thick, simmer longer if too thin. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more of each if needed. Or if preferred make Crockpot spaghetti sauce, once initial prep is done, transfer sauce to crockpot and simmer for 8-10 hours on low.
- Cool on stovetop overnight, covered. Before serving, bring up to simmer once again for an hour or so. Optional: Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Place browned and drained meatballs or Italian sausage into sauce and simmer for an hour before serving, if desired.
- May be frozen (cool completely before freezing), mock "canned" by placing hot sauce into clean canning jars, sealing tightly with canning tops, allowing to cool on counter, once cooled, store in refrigerator, note that these are not shelf stable.