Nick’s Authentic Italian Spaghetti recipe comes straight from Italy. Tomatoes, basil, onions, and carrots flavor the meat to make the perfect sauce!
You can never go wrong with Italian-inspired meals, especially a good, hearty pasta. We love using fresh, garden tomatoes for our spaghetti sauce and will often make homemade canned spaghetti sauce when we have an abundance of tomatoes so we can enjoy the bright, fresh flavor all year long.
Authentic Italian Spaghetti
This is an actual Italian spaghetti recipe that comes straight from Italy. In our family, we lovingly call this recipe “Nicco’s Sghetti”. My husband’s brother, Nick, spent 2 years in Italy and brought home all sorts of delicious, authentic Italian recipes, including this one! Thanks Nick for sharing this recipe! I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with any other spaghetti!
Ragu, Bolognese, Marinara, and Spaghetti Sauce
The sauce for this spaghetti is a true Italian “ragu”… so what exactly does that mean? It is easy to get confused with all the different kinds of “red” sauces for spaghetti. What’s the difference? IS there a difference? Truth is, they are all similar and some are simply variations of another but they have their differences. Allow me to explain…
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.
- 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 out 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 is 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.
Tips For Making Spaghetti
- Use Good Tomatoes. If you can’t peel and dice your own fresh garden tomatoes, whole canned San Marzano tomatoes (from the grocery store) are the best substitution.
- Let It Simmer. The best spaghetti sauces take time. The longer you can let those flavors reduce and simmer together, the better. In many Italian kitchens, the sauce will simmer all day long before being served.
- Use Ground Pork. You can use all pork or a mixture of pork and beef.
- Use Fresh Herbs. If you want to take your sauce to the next level, use FRESH herbs. It makes a difference!
- Salt your pasta water. Not just a pinch. You want to add a good amount, enough that when you taste the water you can distinctly tell there is salt there.
- Toss It All Together: In Italy (at least in the region where Nick lived), they don’t pour the sauce over the noodles. It is all tossed together and then served!
What To Serve With Spaghetti
When we were growing up, our mom would almost always serve spaghetti with peas. You can also serve your spaghetti with a side salad, or one of these tasty side dish ideas:
How To Make Authentic Italian Spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 3 carrots peeled, chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork (optional)
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (fresh peeled and diced tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes)
- 6 fresh basil leaves chopped (or 1-2 tsp. dried basil)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- beef broth (if needed, to taste)
- 1 pound spaghetti noodles
- Heat oil on medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Add onion, carrots, and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add ground beef and pork and continue to cook.
- When meat is browned and onions are soft, add tomatoes.
- When tomatoes have softened and have started to release their juices (about 4-5 min) add basil, sugar, salt and pepper (if you are whole tomatoes, mash the them with a potato masher or spatula to release all their juices).
- Simmer for at least 3 hours (and up to 6 hours), stirring occasionally. The longer you simmer, the better. Important: tomatoes burn easily so keep an eye on them and add beef broth a little at a time to thin sauce if needed.
- In a large pot, cook spaghetti in salted water to al dente, drain completely and return to pot. Add sauce to the spaghetti noodles and toss until noodles are covered.
- Serve immediately.