How to make Spaghetti Sauce from Tomato Sauce

by Sam

How to make spaghetti sauce from tomato sauce, step by step instructions, pictures and variations. No more boring, plain tomato sauce for your spaghetti with these recipes ;-)

Cook spaghetti, heat up bought tomato sauce in microwave, pour over pasta and eat. That is how many people go about when it comes to preparing 'Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce', but there is a better way! I show you how to make a superb spaghetti sauce from tomato sauce in a way that is easy, versatile and will make your meals so much more enjoyable - oh, and also healthier ;-)

Spice Up Your Plain Tomato Sauce

Spice Up Your Plain Tomato Sauce

... also called 'Marinara Sauce' this is the basic recipe which can be varied nearly endlessly ;-)

Prep time 30 min  -  Total time 999 min
Ingredients for 4 servings
Tomato Sauce (bought or made from scratch)  • Olive Oil (Extra Virgin preferably)  • Garlic  • Onion  • Red Wine  • Herbs (fresh or dried, oregano or basil work best)  • Salt  • Pepper  • Sugar

Before you Start - Ingredients and Cooking Time

I have not included any measurements here in this base recipe, as this varies depending how much 'plain' tomato sauce you want to convert into a rich spaghetti sauce - feel free to experiment ;-)
Cooking time is also a difficult thing, you can be done in 30 min easily, all included, or you can let the sauce simmer for hours on end, making the flavor grow richer as time passes. Just taste it from time to time and see what you think. Now lets get started!

Chopping Finely is the Key!

Chop all ingredients you want to add as finely as possible, but keep them separated for the moment!

Sauteing Garlic and Onions

Sauteing means to fry something quickly until its is brown whilst preserving its flavor and texture. Pour a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, just enough that the pan bottom is covered, and heat it up without letting it 'smoke'. Add finely chopped garlic and onions and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until both are nicely brown, but not burnt. Now add a generous dash of red wine to the mixture and reduce the heat until the sauce just simmers, but doesn't boil anymore.

Adding More Flavors

Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is a bit too sour, add carefully a bit of sugar to cut the 'sourness' of the tomatoes. Now let the sauce simmer and simmer and simmer, so that all the flavors can blend nicely together. If you like, you can taste it from time to time to see what you think ;-)

Finishing Touches

When your sauce is thick, smooth and has a nice shine, add more pepper, salt and sugar to taste. Be careful with the salt and sugar, this kind of spaghetti sauce shouldn't taste nor salty neither sweet - it should just taste 'right'. So, sometimes less is more.

Eating or Storing?

You can now use this improved tomato sauce over a nice heap of freshly cooked spaghetti,together with some freshly grated Parmesan for example, or you can freeze or store it in the fridge for later use and variations (see below).

Pizza or Pasta Sauce?

This thick, rich tomato sauce makes also a great pizza sauce, just saying ...

Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (1 Votes)

My Favorite Pasta Cookbook

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100 Great Pasta Dishes

Tomato Spaghetti Sauce Variations

Fresh and Light

Keep the cooking time of the base recipe at around 30 min and add fresh herbs and, very ripe, diced tomatoes (without skin nor seeds) for the last 5 minutes. If you don't want to go through the hassle of skinning and de-seeding tomatoes, just use use quartered cherry tomatoes instead).


A light tomato sauce is a great base for a rich seafood sauce. Add shrimps, mussels and / or small pieces of fish during the last 5 minutes, you just want to heat them gently in the sauce, but not to overcook them! Chevy seafood that has been cooked too long isn't very nice ... Also consider to replace the red wine in the base recipe with some nice, dry rose or white wine.

Creamier with Cream

That is a bit of a tricky one. Yes you can refine this tomato sauce with double cream or similar, but make sure you have adjusted the acidity of the sauce first and don't let it boil, otherwise the cream might just 'curdle', that tastes still good, but doesn't look so good. And yes, forget about the diet and use double cream, less likely to curdle up ;-) Just add a dash of it at the very end, stirring quickly with your big wooden spoon.


Officially called 'Sauce Bolognese' and meriting a whole own recipe article, here the quick and easy way to 'beef up' your Spaghetti Tomato Sauce:

Dry fry some nice, lean ground meat, just like you would do it for 'Cottage Pie' and add it to the base sauce at the very beginning. This kind of pasta sauce gets better by simmering merrily fort hours, so don't be too impatient!

You see, making a richly flavored spaghetti sauce from a simple tomato sauce ain't no rocket science! Just try it out and tell me what you came up with in a comment ;-)

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Updated: 03/15/2012, Sam
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Sam on 03/28/2012

You are welcome, just remember to just heat the seafood in the sauce, not to overcook it, if not it becomes rubbery. For shrimps, mussels and small pieces of fish in the tomato spaghetti sauce a few minutes are plenty ;-)

Mladen on 03/28/2012

Love it, Sam! I am fan of seafood, and I might try this recipe. Can't wait to taste it! :)

Sam on 03/15/2012

You are welcome, Mladen! What is your favorite Spaghetti sauce recipe if I may ask? Tomato, cream or olive oil based?

Mladen on 03/15/2012

Nice recipes, Sam. I love spaghetti in every combination.

Sam on 03/15/2012

They are Digby! With a bit of experimenting you really can convert that plain, old, boring store bought tomato sauce in a mouth watering spaghetti sauce without the need to have ***** Chef at hand ;-) Also, doesn't cost an arm and a leg - just a bit of time!

Digby_Adams on 03/15/2012

Great ideas here Sam. They all sound very delicious - and easy.

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