| | | | | | | |

Authentic Italian Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Gluten-Free)

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure policy.

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.

Easy Authentic Italian Spaghetti Sauce on a plate, topped with shaved parmesan and a piece of sausage.

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, feel free to click “Jump to Recipe” right under the title of this post, and you’ll 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.

Gravy for me is what you spoon over mashed potatoes, but regardless of what you call it; gather the ingredients and make it; East or West Coast!

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.

Hand dipping buttered Italian bread in rich, thick pasta sauce.
The “Pot” my mom’s original, she passed it down to me!

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.

I highly recommend investing in a dutch oven; like this Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven! Or try the Staub Dutch Oven or Le Creuset they have lifetime warranties so it might be worth it in the long run.

If you love a great authentic recipe, you might try these other family favorite recipes: Best Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, Authentic Italian Tiramisu or these traditional German Pretzels.

Simple Ingredients for Authentic Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients, directions and nutritional information in the printable recipe card at the end of the post.

Labeled ingredients for Italian 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!
Bowl of thick authentic spaghetti sauce with pasta and sliced Italian bread.

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 1/4 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

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I save burned tomato sauce?

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!

Does Spaghetti Sauce or Tomato Sauce Freeze well?

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.

How long does homemade tomato sauce last?

About 3-5 days in the refrigerator, freeze if you aren’t going to use it by then!

Can I make dairy free spaghetti sauce?

Yes, the basics of this sauce are dairy-free and gluten-free, don’t add the parmesan rind and you are golden!

Bowl of rich, thick, Italian spaghetti sauce.

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.
Plate of spaghetti swirled with rich Italian spaghetti sauce and topped with shaved parmesan and a sausage.

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!
Bowl of spaghetti sauce with garlic toast and fresh toast.

More Italian Sauces to try

You will love these other Italian sauces and find out the difference between Marinara vs. Pasta sauce.

Alfredo sauce over fettuccine sprinkled with fresh shaved parmesan and parsley.

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.

square image of spinach basil pesto that is nut free in pretty glass jar with spoonful removed..

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 Appetizer with bacon, dates and honey.

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! 

Beautiful plate with burrata pesto and roasted tomato appetizer with toasted crostini.

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:

Italian spaghetti sauce on a plate and bowl filled with rich, thick, homemade spaghetti sauce.

I hope you loved this Authentic Spaghetti Sauce Recipe — if you did, would you share your creation on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest? And be sure to comment below!

Like this recipe?
Don’t forget to give it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star rating and comment below the recipe!

Authentic spaghetti sauce swirled into spaghetti and topped with sauce and shaved parm.

Grandpa Frank’s Authentic Spaghetti Sauce

Author: Kathleen Pope
4.40 from 71 votes
Our secret family recipe passed down from my Italian Grandpa Frank. This easy pasta sauce is thick, rich, zesty and so delicious! It will become your favorite as well!
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Cooling Time 1 hour
Total Time 9 hours 25 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, American
Servings 10 -12 cups
Calories 37 kcal


Roasted Garlic

  • 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

Optional Ingredients

  • 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)


Roasted Garlic

  • 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.


  • 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.


✱ Kathleen’s Tips

How to Save Your Sauce if the Bottom Burns

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!
*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.


Serving: 1 serving Calories: 37 kcal Carbohydrates: 5 g Protein: 1 g Fat: 2 g Saturated Fat: 0.3 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2 g Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g Sodium: 707 mg Potassium: 110 mg Fiber: 1 g Sugar: 4 g Vitamin A: 1077 IU Vitamin C: 4 mg Calcium: 36 mg Iron: 1 mg

Nutrition Disclaimer

The Fresh Cooky is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Kathleen Pope, The Fresh Cooky.

About Kathleen Pope

Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer

Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 5 stars
    This was the best gravy I have ever made. Thank You for sharing this recipe. BTW did your Grandpa Frank happen to have a meatball recipe as well?

    1. YAY! Always love hearing that Lori, thank you so much for your kind words. And about the meatballs, I am so sad that he never gave me a recipe and I am still on a hunt to find the best, recipe for flavorful, tender meatballs!

  2. Silly question but the tomato paste ingredient amount supposed to say two 6 ounce cans or was it correct in saying two 8 oz cans of tomato paste? I only ask because I wasn’t able to find any 8oz cans, only 6 oz.

  3. Love this recipe, it is so good! Growing up in NY, my best friend always called sauce gravy (yes I read the whole blog😊) and we would fight over the name so we eventually called it Italian Gravy! I totally forgot about that until I read this!

  4. Your family recipe is one of the most generous and kind thing a person can do… I thank you so much, I am touched by this. I’m going to print this out and try it. I’ve never seen a recipe like this, ever 🙂 This is very nice of you. Thank you for sharing, I appreciate it very much. 🙂 I will never forget this.

    1. Thank you Chandra, that is lovely of you to say. My grandfather was 100% Italian and owned 3 different Italian restaurants during his lifetime. It is our favorite sauce recipe and I believe in sharing things, not holding them back. I sure hope you enjoy this recipe!

  5. This is close to the sauce(gravy) my grandfather and my mom made. I few variations here or there but basically the same. We cook it a long time also. I do add red wine and bay leaves and also I brown my tomato paste for about 10 to 15 min.

    1. Mmm, always delicious with a splash of red wine! And love the bay leaves addition as well as browning the paste longer! Thanks for sharing your ways to make it your own! That’s our motto here on The Fresh Cooky!

  6. This has been my go-to sauce since I discovered your recipe a few years ago. I love it as is and I love that I can modify it with whatever fresh herbs I have on hand. It is always 1000x better then next day, which is hard to believe considering how amazing it is on day 1! My significant other is 100% Italian and his mom died before we met, but he says this recipe is SO close to what she made that he loved but he can’t figure out what is different in this one compared to hers. In any event, your recipe makes our whole family happy and I love to keep a few jars on hand in my freezer! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  7. Were you speaking to me as it relates to burnt on spaghetti sauce? I’ve done that more times that I can count! But, this looks delicious! Love the idea of adding zucchini and carrots! Thanks, my friend.



  8. 3 stars
    I have been making this sauce for over a year and just love it! I always roast the garlic, use the high end of the spices, add red pepper flakes (we like it spicy!), also use about a teaspoon of crushed fennel and always add the shredded zucchini. It’s really good and worth the effort!

  9. I remember my Aunt Lena telling me to “fry the tomato paste.” When I asked her why I had to do that, she replied, “just do it!’ Also, she added a raw potato to the sauce and removed it when the potato was cooked. Don’t know why she did that either, but her sauce was the best.
    Great memories. Rest in peace, “Tet.”

    1. Lol!! Too funny, that’s how we always did it too, I think it adds depth to the paste?! The raw potato?! I might have to investigate that. Wonder if the starch thickened it?! Thanks for sharing!!

      1. Hi, My grandmother did this as well. It removes acidity. She would add a carrot to sweeten it if needed as well, if too bitter. I miss her sauce, your grandfathers sounds just like hers 🙂

      1. I doubled the recipe had plenty and had leftovers it was perfect I cooked it in the pot on the stove and then transferred it to a crockpot and put it on low and it was so delicious … I roasted my garlic but I added onions at the beginning with the olive oil and I also cooked my spices in the oil with the onion and again added some when I was supposed to VERY GOOD exactly what I was looking for a authentic Italian sauce recipe!!! This will be my go to now! Thank you!

          1. Hi Jess, I can get them from our grocery store in the deli/cheese section. Or I just save mine up from using parm cheese. Not necessary for the recipe tho!!

    1. Kathryn that is a great question. I spent some time living in Europe years ago and learned through experience that many things do just fine sitting longer than we think, so I personally do not have a problem with letting it sit out, probably wouldn’t do in the heat of the summer tho. Here’s my advice, if it doesn’t sit right with you to let it sit on the stove cooling overnight, then I’d say refrigerate it and reheat the next day.