Easy Meatball Sauce

This Easy Meatball Sauce is a simple meat sauce that is ideal for serving with your favorite meatball recipe with spaghetti, sprinkled with (a lot of) parmesan!

spaghetti and meatball sauce

It uses a combination of beef loin and Italian sausage for a flavorful and satisfying sauce for meatballs your family will love.

This recipe for sauce for meatballs comes together in minutes, then you basically simmer it for as long as you want – the longer the better! I don’t believe it gets any easier than that.

More Beef Recipes To Try

Ground Beef With Rice
Quick Beef and Broccoli Stirfry
Simple Beef Shanks
Barbacoa Beef
Easy Ground Beef Casserole

homemade meatball sauce

Homemade Meatball Sauce

I have to tell you, I’ve never been crazy about meatballs (until now!), and it’s all thanks to this recipe. We’ve started having it for dinner more often, especially in the colder months. It’s just so tasty, comforting, hearty, warming, and filling too!

My favorite way to use this sauce is on a meatball sub, draped with copious amounts of melted shredded cheese – mmm! My family prefers to have it over spaghetti or fettuccine, mostly for the splatter factor I’m sure. Either way, it’s a convenient go-to sauce for quick and easy Italian-inspired family dinners.

To make this meaty tomato sauce, you only need a few pantry staples. The fanciest ingredients in this recipe are beef (or other) loin and sausage meat, and that’s it.

And the most complicated part about throwing this sauce together is being patient enough to let the flavors meld while simmering for as long as you can bear.

meatball marinara

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

For the most flavorful version of this meatballs sauce, I highly recommend not omitting any of these ingredients, because they work so well together to create this beautiful red sauce. However, here are some substitutions you can make in a pinch:

Italian sausage: You can use a mild or hot variety. Ground beef or turkey with added Italian seasoning does a good job of mimicking the flavor of Italian sausage.

Beef loin chunks: Beef loin is leaner and more tender compared, and lend a ton of hearty flavor to the sauce. You can use regular ground beef (like 80/20) for a richer and juicier sauce.

Italian seasoning: Store-bought Italian seasoning is the most convenient flavoring option in this recipe. Or make your own blend combine with a combination of dried herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary individually, adjusting the quantities to your taste.

Garlic: Fresh minced or sliced garlic adds a wonderful aromatic flavor. Garlic powder can be substituted, but fresh garlic is more robust, and the smell is amazing. Note: I like a lot of garlic in my recipes – go ahead and reduce the amount if you need to. It’ll be just as good!

Tomato sauce: I’ve tried this sauce recipe with tons of variations of tomatoes, and it’s always turned out well. You can use canned crushed tomatoes if you like a chunkier sauce. For a smoother texture, you can use canned tomato sauce, puree, or passata.

Onion: Chopped onion adds sweetness and depth to the sauce. You can use shallots or leeks if you prefer a milder onion flavor.

Sugar: Sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes. Use honey or maple syrup for natural sweetening options.

pasta and meatball sauce

How to make Meatball Sauce: Step by step

Making sauce for meatballs isn’t a complicated business, since you don’t require any special cooking skills or hard-to-find ingredients. Here’s the process I use, step by step:

Step 1: Cook the Sausage and Beef
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the beef loin cubes to the pan and sear until browned.
Remove the casing from the Italian sausage and add it to the pan.
Use a wooden spoon to break the sausage into smaller pieces as it cooks.
Cook until the sausage is browned and fully cooked.

Step 2: Saute Garlic and Onions
Add the finely chopped onion to the pan.
Sauté the onion until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the minced garlic and Italian seasoning.
Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Step 3: Incorporate Tomato Sauce and Sugar
Pour in the tomato sauce.
Add the sugar to the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir everything together until well combined.

Step 4: Simmer and Relax
Reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan.
Allow the sauce to simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Simmer for longer if you have more time.

Step 5: Add Cooked Meatballs
Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce to heat them through.
Simmer them together for a few additional minutes.

Step 6: Adjust Seasoning and Serve
Taste and adjust the seasoning, sugar, spices if necessary, and garnish with fresh basil leaves, to perfect your sauce before serving.

Italian meatball sauce

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Browning the meat: Allow the sausage and beef to brown well; this will enhance the depth of flavor in the sauce and make it extra meaty.

Don’t overcook the garlic: Garlic can become bitter if it turns brown, and you definitely don’t want that in your sauce.

Adjust seasonings: You may need to add extra seasoning, salt, or sugar to the meatball sauce after simmering, depending on the spiciness of the sausage and the acidity of the tomatoes you use.

Simmer for flavor: Longer simmering times will give you a richer and more flavorful sauce. If you have the time, let it simmer for an hour or more on low heat.

Make it ahead: This sauce often tastes even better the next day as the ingredients continue to meld. Consider making it ahead of time for maximum flavor.

Storing and Reheating Meatball Sauce

Storing and reheating meatball sauce is straightforward. After preparing the sauce, let it cool completely, then transfer it to airtight containers or freezer-safe bags.

If you’re planning to use it within a few days, refrigerate the sauce, where it can stay fresh for 3-5 days. To store it for an extended period, freeze the sauce for up to 3 months.

When reheating, either thaw it in the refrigerator (if frozen) or heat it gently on the stovetop, or in the microwave.

Easy Meatball Sauce FAQs

Can I use ground turkey instead of beef loin for a lighter option?

Ground turkey is perfect in this meatball sauce. Turkey has a milder flavor, so you may want to tweak the seasonings accordingly.

How can I make the sauce smoother if I prefer a less chunky texture?

Cook the meaty sauce for longer to further break down the chunky bits, or use an immersion or regular blender to puree some of the sauce once it’s done simmering and has cooled slightly.

Easy Meatball Sauce

This Easy Meatball Sauce is a simple meat sauce that is ideal for serving with your favorite meatball recipe with spaghetti, sprinkled with (a lot of) parmesan!
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: easy meatball sauce, meatball marinara, meatballs sauce


  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage mild or hot
  • 1/2 pound beef loin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • ½-1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked meatballs


  • In a large saucepan or deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the beef loin to the sausage and cook for 5-7 minutes until browned.
  • Remove the casing from the Italian sausage and add it to the pan. Break the sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add the chopped onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
  • Stir in the minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  • Pour in the tomato sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, covered, for at least 20-30 minutes. Simmer it for longer to enhance the flavor.
  • Add the cooked meatballs allow them to heat through.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning, sugar, or spices according to your preference.

Give this sauce for meatballs recipe a try and let me know your favorite way to serve it to your family!

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