Best Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce

You know how there are those dishes that take you straight back to being a child? It’s spaghetti for me.

My mom made the best homemade spaghetti sauce. I would refuse to eat any other sauce but her’s.

I remember when I would come home on Sunday afternoons after spending the weekend at my dad’s house and as soon as I stepped out of the car, the delicious smell would bring me running into the house.

She always made huge batches of spaghetti sauce and chili. The kitchen would be a disaster. Cans everywhere, sink full of dishes, sauce splattered all of the stove.

Everything she made in the kitchen created chaos. And I loved it.

I would usually make a “spaghetti sandwich” with two pieces of buttered bread and a heaping scoop of noodles and sauce in the middle. I loved to eat for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.

I was that kid that brought a thermos to school with cold spaghetti to eat for lunch.

When we became vegetarian, I gave up on my mom’s sauce because I didn’t think it could ever be the same without ground beef.

After my mom passed away, I decided to pick up her recipe book and explore vegetarian options for her sauce. Below is how I make her sauce now and it’s almost as good as the way she used to make it!

In place of the ground beef, I use mushrooms and lentils to give it a “meaty” feel and to add protein. Its delicious and filling! The recipe below is enough to use for multiple meals or to freeze (which is what I usually do).

Whatever you do to make the sauce your own, do NOT skip the simmering! I know it makes the recipe an all day affair, but I promise this is what makes it so good!

Oh, and also, we had a tradition in my family: whoever gets the first bay leaf does the dishes. I hated this rule as a kid! You get a bay leaf in your mouth AND have do the dishes! Not cool. So if you don’t want this to happen to you, pull out the bay leafs before serving.

Best Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce

Yields about 8 cups of sauce


2 c chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz can of whole tomatoes

18 oz tomato paste

4 bay leaves

3 tsp oregano

3 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

16 oz sliced mushrooms (if you don’t love mushrooms, omit)

water, if needed


1.5 c cooked Lentils

2 lbs ground beef/turkey


  1. In a large sauce pot over medium heat, cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes. (If using meat, brown with onions and drain off fat)
  2. Add mushrooms and garlic, cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, oregano, Lawry’s, Parmesan cheese. Stir until mixed well.
  4. Add water 1/4 cup at a time if sauce is too thick.
  5. Simmer for 2-3 hours (THIS is the key!!).
  6. Serve with your favorite dishes!

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