Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce Recipe

My recipe for homemade meat sauce for spaghetti, all of the flavor, a fraction of the calories. Made in the slow cooker for convenience and a pantry's worth of spices for a low-fat and low-calorie healthy supper.

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce

When I was a girl, my parents hosted a party for friends, fussing over the food and the table. The theme must have been ‘Italy’ because the menu was classic Italian, at least ‘Eye-talian’ as interpreted by Canadians and Midwesterners who’d no more seen Naples than New York. [Update: Thank you to my father for his gentle reminder that Canadian and Midwestern soldiers were in Italy by the thousands in World War II and that military cemeteries in Italy hold thousands of those thousands.]

The kitchen table sagged with big platters of spaghetti topped with meat sauce, baskets of garlic bread and a festive (plastic) bowl of (iceberg) lettuce and tomato salad with – no doubt – (bottled) Italian dressing.

To widened young eyes, this party was ‘grown-up entertaining’, somehow, not just the familiar ‘company for Sunday dinner’ or ‘having people over for supper’. Oh, it looked so worldly, so chic and oh-so-grown-up. What disappointment when the babysitter corralled all the kids and took us next door for the night.

Nowadays, ha, when just-add-hamburger spaghetti sauce comes cheap in jars, there’s nothing so exotic about spaghetti with a meaty tomato sauce. It’s everyday food, inexpensive to make, easy to serve.

So many recipes for homemade spaghetti sauce take their flavor from Italian sausage – it works, every time. But Italian sausage adds much fat and many calories, more than is healthful for an everyday meal.

So when I adapted this recipe from Taste of Home, I skipped the Italian sausage itself but kept its spices. Then I let the spaghetti sauce simmer at low temperature for a loooong time, concentrating the flavors. The result is assertive flavor that’s good for you and good to eat. Let’s have a party!

ALANNA’s TIPS I have tested this recipe with both ground beef and ground elk. If using ground beef, you may want to drain off any fat that accumulates in the skillet during cooking. The list of spices is long, for sure. Italian seasoning is a close approximation, but don’t hesitate to keep doctoring until it tastes good. To my taste, the ground fennel is essential.


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 9 hours
Makes 8 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef (see TIPS)
  • 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground fennel (see TIPS)
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Chopped parsley, optional

In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium high until shimmery. Add the onions and garlic as prepped, stirring to coat with fat. Stir in the meat, breaking it apart but still leaving in chunks. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is well-browned, in fact, don't hesitate to let a little 'burn' collect on the edges, it's flavor!

While the meat cooks, collect the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker. Add the meat. Cover and set on low for 8 hours. If possible, remove the lid for the last hour or so, cooking down the liquid.

Remove the bay leaves. To serve, toss some of the tomato-y liquid with the cooked spaghetti. Arrange spaghetti on serving plates and top with spaghetti sauce. If using, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Freezes well.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE (How many calories in Spaghetti Meat Sauce? How many Weight Watchers points in Spaghetti Meat Sauce?) Per Half Cup: 117 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 35mg Cholesterol; 705mg Sodium; 8g Carb; 2g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 13g Protein; Weight Watchers 2 points This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized'.
Adapted from Taste of Home, Feb-Mar 2009 issue

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite healthy recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Become a Kitchen Parade fan on Facebook!

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I usually make my own sauce and am always looking for new recipes to try. this will be the next one I make. Also, always use ground fennel in my sauce. can be hard to find, but can always find it in Louisiana.
That was a wonderful experience, and a great recipe!! I remember something like this when I was in Girl Scouts. My mom made burritos for "international night" in the early 1970's. I had never had anything like it before and was amazed by the flavors. It was the most wonderful thing I'd ever eaten! A couple of years later we got our first "Taco Bell", and it became standard "fast food", but to this day, my mom's burritos (however humble!) are the standard to meet. Thanks for such a wonderful post!!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna