Doctored Up Spaghetti Sauce
Yield: 5½ - 6 cups (without the extras mentioned in the notes)
Comfort food at its best, this meaty sauce starts with a jar of your favorite marinara and can be customized in a variety of ways. Easy to make a big batch and freezes well!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or a generous swirl around the pan)
  • ½ a medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef (or Italian sausage, removed from its casings, or a combination)
  • 10-12 slices of pepperoni, quartered (optional but adds exceptional flavor)
  • 1 (24-28 ounce) jar your favorite marinara sauce
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • Optional ingredients: an additional 1-2 cups of canned tomato sauce, pureed or crushed tomatoes to adjust consistency to your liking or to stretch the recipe; ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes; a glug (or 2-3 tablespoon) of red wine or a ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar; a pinch of sugar; a leftover Parmesan rind


  1. In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, another 30-60 seconds. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up at you go, until just a hint of pink remains.

    Stir in the pepperoni, and then add the spaghetti sauce, oregano, and any of the optional ingredients. Tip: if using red wine, you can pour it into the sauce jar and swish around to get everything out. Otherwise, you can do this with a few tablespoons of water.

    Stir well. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low and cook for at least 10 minutes, but the longer if desired. Remember to stir occasionally to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Also, if cooking for an extended period of time, I cover and keep the heat very low to make sure the sauce doesn’t become too thick.

    Serve over cooked spaghetti.


Feel free to omit the garlic and/or onion if you are not a fan. If you enjoy the onion flavor but not the pieces, allow half an onion (not chopped) to simmer along with the sauce, and then remove prior to serving.

You may omit the pepperoni, but this small amount adds something extra special to this sauce. For a meat lovers version, you can also sauté some sliced, fully cooked sausage before adding the sauce to the pot. If you go heavy on the meat, you may wish to have extra tomato sauce or puree on hand (basic canned is fine at this point) to achieve the best ratio of meat to sauce. I find that one pound of meat is a good amount for every 4 cups of sauce, but you can absolutely adjust to preference with more or less sauce. After the first jar of quality marinara, I tend to wing it sometimes and even used a 16-ounce jar of pizza sauce I had on hand recently. This sauce is the perfect vehicle for raiding your pantry and freezer for tomato and meat ingredients.

Sliced or diced mushrooms could be added with the onions.

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