Family-Favorite Pasta Sauce Recipe
Family-Favorite Pasta Sauce Recipe photo by Taste of Home
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Family-Favorite Pasta Sauce Recipe

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This hearty Italian-style meat sauce has a sweetness that I really love. It’s the recipe I use for spaghetti, lasagna and gnocci, which I bake with mozzarella and Parmesan on top.—Jody L Bober, St Clairsville, Ohio
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 30 min. Cook: 1-3/4 hours
MAKES:8 servings
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 30 min. Cook: 1-3/4 hours
MAKES: 8 servings


  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (6 ounces) Italian tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • Hot cooked pasta of your choice

Nutritional Facts

3/4 cup (calculated without pasta): 169 calories, 9g fat (3g saturated fat), 23mg cholesterol, 884mg sodium, 13g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 3g fiber), 8g protein.


  1. In a large saucepan, cook the sausage, onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, parsley, brown sugar, vinegar and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 1-1/2 hours or until flavors are blended. Serve with pasta.
    Freeze option: Freeze cooled sauce in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.
    Yield: 8 servings.
Originally published as Family-Favorite Pasta Sauce in Taste of Home August/September 2011, p21

Medium-Bodied Red Wine

Enjoy this recipe with a medium-bodied red wine such as Chianti, Sangiovese, Malbec or Zinfandel.

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habenaroman User ID: 7905288 221561
Reviewed Feb. 28, 2015

"Very good, versatile. Especially liked the addition of balsamic vinegar."

vmesenbr User ID: 3690456 215917
Reviewed Dec. 25, 2014

"I love the flavor of this pasta sauce! I use it in my lasagna."

devonitz1 User ID: 5693225 174423
Reviewed Sep. 12, 2014 Edited Oct. 26, 2016

"Very good! The brown sugar and balsamic vinegar make it very flavorful. This is a great recipe as written and is a good base for variations. I make this all the time and have settled on this variation as our favorite: I use hot Italian sausage, casings removed and browned (I do not use oil since not needed for this type of sausage). The hot Italian sausage gives it a little more kick (but only use if you like spicy). I add one finely diced carrot and one finely diced celery stalk with the onions and garlic. If I have fresh mushrooms, I slice them and add with other vegetables. In place of water, I used half beef or reduced sodium chicken broth and half red wine. I put the wine and broth in before all the tomatoes and sauce and let it reduce down in the meat and veges. Then I add the tomatoes, sauce and seasoning. I like sauce, so I use one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, two 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes with seasonings, one 6oz can tomato paste, and one 8oz can of tomato sauce. I add more seasoning sometimes using packaged spaghetti sauce seasoning mix (usually two packets). I use dried parsley since I rarely have fresh on hand. I still add the basil and Italian seasonings even if I use the packaged seasoning mix. It just seems that more seasoning is needed for the quantity of sauce. Sometimes I double the brown sugar and balsamic since I essentially doubled the sauce with adding both crushed and diced tomatoes. This is the only sauce I make now - the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar really make a difference in the flavor (along with the red wine!). Using the crushed tomatoes in addition to the diced tomatoes makes it both chunky and saucy!"

dianec713 User ID: 2479405 163197
Reviewed Sep. 11, 2014

"Very good. I'm not a huge sausage lover, but this recipe is delicious. I did rinse the meat after browning and added a couple of fresh chopped tomatoes. Will make this again."

MissMarieL User ID: 7839084 173437
Reviewed Sep. 7, 2014

"Substitute for turkey Italian sausage. Company worthy."

lmmanda User ID: 1101093 114814
Reviewed Jul. 15, 2014

"This was a really good sauce. I substituted turkey Italian sausage like several other reviewers did."

joedebfry User ID: 265172 114791
Reviewed Jul. 13, 2014

"I used turkey Italian sausage but otherwise followed the recipe. I made this ahead and froze it to serve to the grandkids. All the kids loved it! Personally, I prefer an unsweetened sauce, so I gave it a 4-star rating. I'll certainly make it again for the grandkids, though."

shecooksalot User ID: 5888460 101546
Reviewed Mar. 11, 2014

"Really yummy!! Used turkey Italian sausage instead of regular and didn't use garlic (didn't have any), but I really like how chunky and hearty this was. My kids, who aren't big pasta eaters, really loved this too. We'll be making this again and again!!!"

captgeo5 User ID: 6856757 105519
Reviewed Jun. 23, 2013

"totally and awesome recipe , a must make , the flavors are great , i severed over buttered noodles"

Pings pot User ID: 6934086 174421
Reviewed Mar. 18, 2013

"My family really likes this recipe. It was a little bit oily so next time I will probably not use any oil to cook the sausage and see how that goes."

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