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Southern Spaghetti Sauce

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

Thick and meaty spaghetti sauce flavored with onions, green peppers, and a little sweetness.
PREP: 10 minutes
COOK: 45 minutes


  • 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
Course: Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: spaghetti sauce

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Recipe Source: adapted from Paula Deen

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104 thoughts on “Southern Spaghetti Sauce”

  1. Dave Cearley

    Your pics of this are hilarious. I ALWAYS demand more sauce in my pasta, and my wife frequently teases me about it. I do the same thing with my cornbread dressing. I add four more cups of chicken stock not listed in the recipe, and it comes out perfect every time. I guess people in the south will do whatever it takes to stay hydrated. 🙂

  2. I made this recipe with herbs out of my garden, and tomatoes I canned?
    I am going to have a lot to freeze.
    This is now my go to pasta it’s wonderful!
    ( no sugar)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. Sunny Roberts

    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.

  9. Dianna Rombke

    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!

  10. 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.

  11. Candace Sturges

    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.

  12. Carol Walston

    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!

  13. Christin Gerold

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

  14. Ann pollard

    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

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