Southern Spaghetti Sauce

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Southern Spaghetti Sauce is a thick, flavorful sauce with lots of ground beef, onion, and bell pepper. It has a hint of sweetness to it which really brings out the tomato flavor. Freezes well.

Southern Spaghetti Sauce

This spaghetti sauce is one of my favorite comfort foods to make and it reminds me of the sauce my grandmother used to make. It was always a treat when we got it because my grandmother only knew how to cook two things that I’m aware of- spaghetti sauce and shrimp salad. It’s very thick and full of ground beef, onions, and bell peppers. A hefty spoonful of sugar adds some sweetness and cuts any bitterness in the tomatoes. Two whole cans of tomato paste give it an extra intense flavor.

Sothern Spaghetti Sauce

I like this sauce so much, I have been known to skip the pasta and just eat a bowl full of sauce with a spoon. With lots of Parmesan cheese on top- the kind in the green can. Usually I prefer fresh Parmesan on things, but maybe since I grew up eating spaghetti sauce like this one with grated Parmesan out of a can, it’s just what I crave.

Childhood food memories are the best aren’t they?

This sauce freezes really well and I’ll often make a double batch of it and freeze half for a second meal.

Southern Spaghetti Sauce

Watch the short video below to see how easy this sauce is to make.

Southern Spaghetti Sauce

Southern Spaghetti Sauce

Course: Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: spaghetti sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 335kcal
Thick and meaty spaghetti sauce flavored with onions, green peppers, and a little sweetness.
Print Recipe


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, the original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons, but I just add one
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water


  • Brown beef in a large heavy bottomed pot. Drain fat.
  • Add onion and green pepper and saute until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato paste, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, seasonings, and water.
  • Simmer 30 minutes.


Note: If you're nervous about the amount of sugar, start with 1/2 tablespoon and add more if desired.
This recipe freezes well.


Calories: 335kcal

Recipe Source: adapted from Paula Deen

94 thoughts on “Southern Spaghetti Sauce

  1. Your spaghetti sauce is differently southern . So far I have lived in 3 states. North Carolina where I was born moved to Maryland when I got married now in VA in each state all the woman I knew if they anything with tomatoes in it they put sugar in it . I make that way, my daughters. 3 of them , my mama,my grandma, my great grandma and my great great grandma are so I was told made their sauce that too. That’s alot of people. All of them lived in the south.
    As far as your memories of your mama enjoy ever one of them.
    My mama died back in 2009. I still miss her and I enjoy ever memory I have of her includeing the one of me when I was 8-9 maybe 10 years old standing on a chair beside my mama as she was teaching to cook and standing in that same chair doing the dishes. I’m now 71 so I’ve been cooking along time.
    Sorry about making this so long but do I do get a little upset when it comes to my southern roots.
    I have made several of dishes and have enjoyed making and eating everyone.
    Thank you , keep making those southern dishes lol

    1. I’m from Arkansas & my dad roots are Kentucky hill country.
      There’s a reason for the sugar, it helps with the acid (heartburn) on your stomach from the tomatoes & oil from the ground beef etc. after sauce is done put it on a light simmer just sprinkle very lightly the Sugar once it’s melted mostly on top then stir it into the sauce.

  2. I add a pinch (a slight dusting) of cinnamon powder to my sauce…skipping the sugar completely and think it adds a nice tinge of flavorful sweetness enhancing the tomato notes and creating a lovely smell in the kitchen.

  3. I loved this sauce. I kept everything the same except I added a few more veggies (mushrooms, zucchini and red bellpepper). Thanks for this. ❤️

  4. If a person doesn’t like the sugar part, you can add some shredded carrot, they add a touch of sweetness, flavor and nutrition. This is very similar to my recipe but I add the shredded carrot, finely chopped celery and a bay leaf. Also a little beef broth, depending on how thick or thin someone wants it. I simmer mine at least three hours or put in the crockpot on low for 6 hours. If simmering, you may need to add more broth or water. Thanks for the easy ground beef recipes, they all look very flavorful!

  5. Great Sauce! I was skeptical at first about adding sugar, but who would have known the robust flavor it adds! My hubbie & son agreed too!

  6. I made this spaghetti tonight for the first time and all I can say is WOW WOW WOW. Such flavor and so easy to make. The only thing I did was add a little more water because we don’t like our sauce so thick, and to give it a little kick a little bit of pepper flakes. Oh I hate to spoil it with adding the noodles to it…lol…. Will keep making this time after time… I have found my recipe to pass down for many years.

  7. OMG this sauce is amazing. It’s so good. Not watery like some sauces can be. I have made a lot of sauce recipes, and this is the best. I did a few things different. I used two pounds ground Italian sausage instead of ground beef. I added a jar of basil garlic spaghetti sauce since I used more meat. I used the one T. sugar. It is plenty sweet, but not too sweet. I added a little more water. I probably didn’t have to. Thank you so much for the recipe. It’s a keeper!

  8. Very very very similar to how my southern mother and grandmother make it. I grew up in the north and am Facebook friends with some of my old babysitters and they’ve asked for some for her recipes like this one. One of them said they’d come over and eat her thick spaghetti by the bowl or on a slice of bread . My grandmother doesn’t follow recipes well but will sometimes add sugar and vinegar to hers. I use more Worcestershire and soy sauce in place of some of the salt.

  9. This sauce reminds me a lot of my mother’s sauce. I have been trying to find the recipe forever since my grandma passed. They used to put bacon in it though, and it was a little less thick. Have you ever heard of it before, any left over sauce was then used to mix with white rice and make a Spanish rice bake with tons of cheddar cheese on the top and served with tortillas.

  10. Delicious! I added about 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms and sauteed along with the onions and green pepper. I like the idea of substituting chicken broth instead of water. I will definitely make this delicious recipe again….truly southern!

  11. I have been using this recipe for years and I love it! Thanks Christin! Ps. My name is spelled Christin also!

  12. I have just read the reviews I have been cooking for my family for 50 years and this is the same recipe as mine. Well close enough. I don’t understand all the fuss about adding sugar. I always add a small amount in tomto dishes to counter the acid I also add teaspoon of vinegar. This is a good recipe and thank you for sharing.
    My mother always told me that one thing we all have is an opinion, but not everyone wants to hear yours. If you don’t like the recipe have consideration for the time and effort someone has put into it and try another one. There are hundreds
    Well done with this post

  13. Made this recipe minus Canned Tomatos since my daughter despises tomatoes and added an extra cup of water. The best ever. Thank You

  14. I got a kick out of the statement that the author made about eating the sauce by the bowlful without any pasta :-D. I do that, too, my own sauce recipe being nearly the same as this–only difference, I think, is that I add pure maple syrup (it’s from my 65 years of being a native of northern lower Michigan, and using maple syrup in many things–but is also my preference over sugar). I, too, eat my pasta sauce by the bowlful, and I often add in a spicy kick of cayenne pepper. My friends love my sauce, too, and one man said “…it should be illegal because it just makes me want to eat and eat and eat!”

    I love it when my cooking does that.

  15. This is how my mother and grandmother made spaghetti sauce and all of us are from Texas. However, I went to see my sister who lives in Indiana and we went to Ohio and had their ‘diner’ spaghetti. Oh boy do they put sugar in it and they have it over spaghetti and pile on the cheddar cheese! Never had it so sweet and never with cheddar cheese.

  16. Hola Christin from Mexico… really SOUTHERN! I had never seen a spaghetti sauce recipe with a bit of sugar in it although I like to toss one or two Mini Milky Ways into my sauce as it is cooking just for interest! Hasta la huego!

    1. Made this delicious Spagetti sauce in the crockpot yesterday. I added a little bit of chicken broth and instead of adding stewed tomatoes( don’t care for stewed tomatoes ) I used diced tomatoes. I then transferred everything to the the crockpot nd added a stick of butter. It was delicious. One of the best spaghetti sauces that I’ve made. Cooking is my passion nd I feel happiest when I’m in the kitchen. I try to make recipes that I’ve nvr tried. I have a few signature dishes that my friends have tried and and have been told that I have a talent for cooking.

  17. This recipe needs a little more clarity in that there is no mention of when to add the Worcestershire sauce and if the juice from the stewed tomatoes is incorporated in the recipe or drained.

    That being said, I have this simmering on the stove as I type. Have been looking for a recipe that I thought would come close to the spaghetti I had at an Oklahoma dinner, many decades ago. The list of ingredients sounded right, but found the taste a little lacking in the cooking process. Added a few more spices and am letting simmer longer, so the flavors are enhanced. I will try this recipe again and kick it up as I go along. Thanks for posting!

  18. Just wanted to know, what makes this Southern? It’s a general pasta sauce recipe that has been around for years and is used throughout North America(Canada & USA). How do I know? My grandmothers made sauce that way and there’s nothing Southern in us. So, just because it’s adapted from Paula Dean, that makes a general sauce recipe Southern? Just sayin’

      1. I have always put sugar in mine and I’m a northern girl. Born in Green Bay Wisconsin lived in Fairbank Alaska and Washington state and now living in Eau Claire Wisconsin.

        1. It’s okay for someone in the south to post their Fav dish with the word Southern in it. I’m sure you’re not claiming the invention of the sauce. Don’t stress, everyone is a critic on the Internet. I think this dish looks/sounds AMAZING and I don’t care which region it’s from. 🙂

          1. THE WAY PEOPLE MOVE AROUND. They say on the average of every seven years we’ve pretty mixed up by now, North/South what does it matter. Its a good Sauce,

    1. Christin: Old post and normally I do not post or reply to posts (I will rate the article after I try it, but that’s about it), but I canNOT restrain myself from commenting! HOW is a random visitor to YOUR blog going to have the gall / nerve to judge and criticize your blog post? Look woman (Olivia), if YOU do not like the recipe or disagree with anything here, MOVE ON to the next dang blog! There’s only a zillion out there in cyberspace! The blog host clearly has very fond and precious memories of her grandmother and her grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti; Her grandmother was from the SOUTH and served an amazing spaghetti dish with LOVE, so add the two and THAT makes this recipe SOUTHERN! (people these days … O.o ) Now, onto important questions and comments: is this served best with thin or regular spaghetti noodles – or some other kind of pasta? I mean, when you eat it with pasta …LOL! I can totally see myself eating it straight (no noodles). Sounds like a lovely dish and I have sent my hubs a message to pick up what I need to make it this afternoon. I am going to use some canned tomatoes that we made at home, though: Nothing in the world like Slocomb, Alabama tomatoes, y’all (and, that would also make this recipe SOUTHERN!) I’ll let you know how mine turns out, though.

        1. I think your Southern Recipe is great. I’ve been all over and this is the best recipe I’ve found nothing up North compares.LOL

      1. Phyllis, you took the words right out of my mouth!! So being a Southern girl , born in Ky (only there long enough to be born) and who’s Mom, Grandma and Great Grandma were born and raised in a town called Hoo Doo Tn (just down the road from Manchester Tn) I grew up in Tn but from age 10 till today have lived in Ga so my southern roots run deep. All I’m going to add (while shaking my head) to all who’ve complained about it being called “Southern Spaghetti Sauce” is “Bless their hearts”. I think us Southerners add the word because we’re proud of our Southern Heritage!! It’s a great recipe. I’ve made it as written and I’ve doctored it up to suit me, which I seem to have to do to all recipes…lol. But sugar is my secret ingredient to several soups, sauces, goulash, peas etc.
        Christin, thanks for the great recipes!!

        1. Why is it people who make spaghetti sauce always have to ruin it by putting in sugar? Seems to me that these days sugar is going into everything and in my opinion sugar covers up the taste of the sauce I like to taste all the spices and savor the rich flavor of a good sauce. Not sugar.

        2. Bless your heart:) like your reply. Like my mama taught me…..if you have nothing nice to say…….don’t say anything at all:) love the recipe

      2. I have made this dish several times and each time it gets better and better. Thank you so much for posting it. I also want to add that I do use the jar italian seasoning but I also add Italian dressing mix ! About a tablespoon & Ladies you would not believe the punch it gives this dish. 🙂

      3. You rock, girl! this is a remedy for Yankees who never had the guts to leave home for the South..I did..and the folks who shared and taught me their recipes (even if they left out a secret ingredient I knew was up to me to find) are my “favoritest” memories.. Christin, I use your recipe to the letter, to make my meat sauce for double meatball grinders..nobody steps through my door to watch the Celtics without having called first to request “hank’s big grinders “.. thank you!

    2. Well, “I’m just sayin” that if the author wants to call it “Southern” she can do it. You can call it whatever you want, just don’t be rude about it!

  19. Your receipe is almost exactly like my except the sugar and Worcestershire sauce. I’m kinds afraid to try the two because my may not like it

  20. Making this tonight. Thanks! My dad makes a shrimp spaghetti sauce with sugar. That little bit of sweetness is delish!

  21. Your recipe is much like my own. One thing that I do different is using Chicken Broth instead of water, and a dry red wine. You may have to simmer a bit longer to get it as thick as yours. Carrots are also a good addition.

  22. While reading through this recipe, I was forced to listen to an ad for Mucinex (? sp) and totally lost my appetite. I understand that blogs depend on ads but listening to someone go on about a phlemmy cough while I am looking for what to fix for supper is way too much!! YUCK.

  23. This was delish!! I made the recipe exactly how it read and once the meat was done cooking with the veggies, I threw the meat and the rest of the ingredients in the crock pot. Cooked on low for 3 hours. Super yummy!!

    1. Thank you for posting how long in the crockpot. I’m making meatballs in the oven and will throw them in around the 2 hour mark, started it off on high but will bring it down to low. Thought about putting a tsp of red pepper in it.

  24. I always toss in some diced celery and mushrooms. MMMMMM.

    It’s cold in Delaware and this looks like my dinner for tonight! 🙂


  25. I make a sauce very similar to this that was given to me by my Mom. The only major differences are that I always add Italian sausage and I usually let it simmer all day either in a crock pot or simmer on the stovetop, if I know I will be home all day! Great spaghetti sauce!!

  26. Hi Christin

    I made this for the 4th July and everybody loved it, they liked how thick it is and the flavor was spot on. I didn’t know whether to simmer the ground beef with the sauce, so I just threw it in there with the sauce. Thanks for sharing, I will be making this recipe over and over again.

  27. This sauce looks AMAZING! I’m totally with you on eating the sauce without the pasta- that’s the best part of a chunky sauce 🙂 I wish my hubby liked ground beef. I might just have to make it and eat it all myself…

  28. I just made a huge batch of spaghetti sauce after new years as there’s nothing better after ham, turkey, beef, etc. Your sauce sounds so good with all of that tomato paste and the green peppers. Looks delicious!

  29. Wow this looks so thick and chunky and awesome! Childhood food memories are the best – I have a few things that I just won’t change even though I usually prefer other things etc… just because of the sentimental value they somehow taste better! Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  30. This chunky sauce looks incredible Christin, I would totally eat a bowl full of this sauce alone too. It sounds so flavorful and tasty and I love that it reminds you of your grandmother’s version 🙂

  31. Oh boy – this chunky, meaty sauce is calling out to me! I can see why you’d be satisfied with just the sauce itself! And how nice that it reminds you of your grandmother (even if she could only cook 2 things ; ).

  32. I love how chunky this sauce is. I can see why you eat it straight without the pasta. It’s so hearty and yummy, I’d do the same thing! Pinned. Happy New Year Christin! Looking forward to see more of your delicious recipes. 🙂

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