Chunky Spaghetti Sauce

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I’ve decided that summer cannot officially end until I get this sauce recipe posted! But alas, the fall has already “fallen” upon us! No matter, tomatoes are still available at the produce stand and will be until the first frost so here we go…

Since I day-dream about food, I conjured up this sauce using fresh fare of the season. With chunks of vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp bell peppers and flavorful onions, garlic, rosemary and basil, my Chunky Spaghetti Sauce is a summer harvest in a pot!

For my final test, I found a new brand of crushed tomatoes by Cento. I chose it because of the ingredients which are simply t-o-m-a-t-o-e-s. That’s it. End of story. Finished. When I opened the can, what should appear but beautiful bright red crushed tomatoes? I know it’s kind of odd, but I get excited about these sort of things.

Cento uses certified San Marzano tomatoes grown and produced in the Sarnese Nocerino area of Italy for many of their products. I’ve included a link to their website here where you will find beautiful photos of the actual tomato plants used in their harvest. In fact they even have a “Find My Field” locator where you can trace their canned whole tomatoes to the actual field in Italy where they were grown. Their crushed and pureed tomatoes are usually grown  in California although because of COVID-19, they’ve been importing more from Italy recently.

Since this recipe uses fresh tomatoes, I’ve included a little bit of information in my Root Notes about the two varieties I tested. No matter which tomatoes you use, I hope you’ll enjoy a nice aromatic pot of my Chunky Spaghetti Sauce!

Chunky Spaghetti Sauce


  • 1 T olive oil
  • ½ pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar (optional)
  • 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes


  • 4 T fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Place frying pan with olive oil on stove and set to medium heat. Once warm, swirl the oil around and add ground turkey, onion, bell pepper and garlic cloves. Using a spatula, stir mixture until turkey is no longer pink and vegetables are slightly soft. I like to keep the turkey in rather large chunks for this sauce.

Set crockpot to high heat (4 hour cook time) or low heat (6 hour cook time). Place crushed tomatoes and tomato paste in crock-pot and stir to combine. Add sugar and mix. Stir in chopped fresh tomatoes and the turkey, onion, bell pepper and garlic mixture. Add all spices and stir to combine. Then put the lid on and walk away! I like to come back and stir it now and then while enjoying the wonderful smells wafting through the house. After cooking 4 hours (on high) or 6 hours (on low), enjoy this sauce with your favorite pasta, garlic bread, salad and veggies.

Root Notes

  • I like using ground turkey but you can substitute hamburger, sausage or even ground chicken. Be sure to drain off any additional fat before adding it to the sauce.
  • When cooking the ground turkey, I use extra virgin olive oil and keep the heat on medium. If you want to learn about the best oils to use in cooking, see my article here. Turkey seems to stick to the pan which is why I use the oil. Also, since it has so little fat, the onions, bell pepper and garlic also need the extra moisture.
  • I used a medium onion and bell pepper to yield 1 cup of each. 
  • In all the tests, I used a 6-ounce can of paste to thicken the sauce. Be sure not to add any water as the fresh tomatoes contain plenty of moisture, some more than others. The Celebrity variety made a more soupy sauce and the Roma made a thicker sauce. Turns out Roma tomatoes have 40% less moisture than Celebrities so choose based on availability and your preference.
  • If fresh tomatoes are not available, just use canned. My best guess would be 1 can since the fresh ones shrink so much in the cooking process anyway. But if you like more tomatoes, add two cans. I would drain them for a thicker sauce.
  • We always put sugar in our spaghetti sauce to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and oregano. This is totally optional depending on your personal preference. For this recipe, I found that ¼ cup was hardly noticeable and ½ cup was good. Your sauce, your choice!
  • If fresh basil or rosemary are not available, just substitute dry. Typically the exchange is 1 tsp dry for 1 T fresh. Since that would be 6 tablespoons of dry basil (including the 2 tablespoons already called for), I would just add 3-4 teaspoons of dry basil total. For the rosemary, I would do 1 teaspoon of dry. Feel free to add more to taste.
  • As for the oregano, I often just use an Italian Herb mixture or herbs de Provence. Whatever you have on hand is good. Feel free to kick up the garlic granules or onion powder to taste.
  • I like using fennel in spaghetti sauce, but if it’s not your thing, then just omit it.
  • Since my canned tomato paste and crushed tomatoes had no salt, I found that 2 teaspoons of salt worked best. If your paste and crushed tomatoes have salt, I would start with ½ teaspoon of salt and then adjust as the sauce cooks. Canned tomato products are usually rather salty so check your labels.
  • If you are in a hurry and want to whip this sauce up quickly, follow all of the directions and put it in a pot on the stove. You’ll need to stir frequently to avoid sticking. I would cook it for about 1-2 hours or until it tastes the way you like it.
  • I always adjust my spices after the sauce has cooked for a bit. Feel free to add more of whatever you like!
  • Serve over your favorite pasta whether white, whole wheat or gluten free. Zucchini zoodles are a good low carbohydrate option.

Veggie Nutrients

  • Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.
  • Bell peppers are very high in vitamin C, with a single one providing up to 169% of the RDI. Other vitamins and minerals in bell peppers include vitamin K1, vitamin E, vitamin A, folate, and potassium.
  • Onions are low in calories yet high in nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins and potassium. Research shows that eating onions may help reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels and inflammation.
    Source: Healthline


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