Quick Italian Spaghetti

Here is a quick lesson on common spaghetti sauces:

Ragu – Ragu is a meat-based sauce made with sautéed vegetables and simmered slowly for hours in tomato, broth, wine, and/or milk. There are two common variations of ragu: Ragu alla

Bolognese and Ragu alla Napoletana.

Ragu alla Bolognese (aka Bolognese) – From the Bologna (Northern) region in Italy. Uses less tomatoes and white wine. Traditionally served with wide pasta or lasagna.

Ragu alla Napoletana – From the Naples (Central/Southern) region in Italy. Uses more tomatoes and red wine. Traditionally served with thinner pasta, such as spaghetti.

Pomodoro Sauce – (also known as Sago di Pomodoro) is a simple tomato sauce that is smooth and flavorful. It is another great authentic sauce for spaghetti that we got from Italy!

Marinara – Marinara is a simple tomato sauce with common Italian seasonings. Unlike the sauces above, marinara is heavily tomato based and does not contain meat. Though the sauce is mostly tomatoes, it may or may not include onion or other vegetables. Marinara is bright, acidic, and light, as opposed to the above sauces which are more rich, hearty, and complex.

Spaghetti Sauce – Spaghetti sauce is an Americanized term for any kind of red sauce that is served over noodles. It can include any of the sauces above. Be sure to try our Homemade Canned

Spaghetti Sauce. This is our favorite way to make our fresh, garden tomatoes last all year!

What Meat Is Best For Spaghetti Meat Sauce?

Spaghetti sauce is not limited to just one kind of meat. Here in the U.S., we often think spaghetti is limited to meatballs or ground beef, but in Italy you can find ragu using braised beef, lamb, chicken, fish, veal, or pork. Depending on what region in Italy you are visiting (or using recipes from), meat can be simmered in large portions and then removed and served separately from the pasta and sauce, or the meat can be cut or broken into smaller pieces and served in the sauce. Either way, the meat is simmered in the sauce to give the sauce that deep, rich, meaty flavor.

What Tomatoes Are Best For Homemade Spaghetti Sauce?

If using fresh tomatoes, you can never go wrong with a good Roma tomato for spaghetti sauce. Romas are good, meaty tomatoes with few seeds and cook down well into a sauce after they are heated. Dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds to make removing the skins easier before cooking. If using canned tomatoes, my VERY favorite are San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes come straight from Italy and they are by far the best. I like getting the 28 oz. can of the whole, peeled tomatoes and crushing them myself with a spatula after they soften and simmer down. They are much better than using crushed tomatoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does adding sugar to spaghetti sauce make it sweet?

Adding a pinch of sugar to your pasta sauce creates a more balanced sauce by cutting the acidity of the tomatoes. It shouldn’t make your sauce sweet. The acidity of tomatoes varies depending on whether or not they are canned or fresh, the time of year it is, and the type of tomato they are. Just give your sauce a taste and stir in some sugar accordingly only if needed.

Do Italians put oil in pasta water?

While I cannot speak for all Italians, the general consensus is no, they do not. Putting oil in the water makes the pasta slippery and thus, makes it harder for the sauce to stick to the pasta when it is done cooking. Instead, they will boil the pasta in a very large pot of water (so there is plenty of room in the pot, so nothing sticks to anything else) and will sometimes salt the water.


Extra virgin olive oil
Ground beef
Ground pork – optional
Basil leaves
Kosher salt
Beef broth – if needed, to taste
Spaghetti noodles

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