There are so many delicious herbs and spices that you can add to your spaghetti sauce recipe to take it from good to great.
But with so many options, it can be hard to know which ones to choose.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of 21 of the best herbs and spices for spaghetti sauce.
So if you are looking for some inspiration on how to spice up your sauce, then this list is for you!
What Herbs and Spices Go in Spaghetti Sauce?
There are many herbs and spices you can use to flavor your spaghetti sauce. Some common ones include basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, garlic, onion, and black pepper. For a more robust flavor, you can also add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or crushed tomatoes.
You can also experiment with other herbs and spices to find the perfect combination for your sauce.
Here are 21 herbs and spices that go in spaghetti sauce:
The flavor of basil is a balance between sweet and savory, and it’s one of my personal favorite spices to add to spaghetti sauce.
I would recommend using about a teaspoon of basil per serving of sauce.
You can also add other herbs and spices like oregano, thyme, or garlic to your sauce, depending on your personal preference.
I like to add basil towards the end of cooking, so that the flavor doesn’t get lost.
Some dishes that go well with both spaghetti sauce and basil are spaghetti with meatballs (See Also: What Salad Goes with Spaghetti and Meatballs?), lasagna, or simply spaghetti with sauce.
A little tip: if you’re making your own sauce from scratch, don’t forget to simmer it for at least an hour to allow all the flavors to meld together.
This robust herb with a peppery bite and a sweet, almost minty aroma is a must in any good spaghetti sauce recipe.
A little goes a long way with oregano, so start with just a pinch or two and add more to taste.
Other complementary herbs and spices for oregano include basil, thyme, and garlic.
Add oregano early in the cooking process so that it has time to release its flavor.
You’ll find that oregano is a versatile spice that also goes well with other tomato-based dishes like pizza, chili, and marinara sauce.
Here’s a tip: if you can’t find fresh oregano, you can substitute dried oregano, but use about one-third of the amount called for in the recipe.
Parsley has a clean and peppery taste with a touch of earthiness, making it a perfect choice to add to spaghetti sauce.
Just a small amount of parsley can go a long way in brightening up the flavors of this classic dish.
Other herbs and spices that pair well with parsley include basil, oregano, and thyme.
To get the most flavor from parsley, add it towards the end of cooking.
This way, the herb will retain its bright flavor and aroma.
Spaghetti with parsley-infused sauce is a delicious and easy way to enjoy this classic combo in a new way.
And here’s a little tip: if you have trouble getting your kids to eat their veggies, try adding some chopped parsley to their spaghetti sauce.
They’ll never know it’s there, but they’ll get a nutritious boost!
Thyme dances between earthy and minty flavors and does well as a supporting herb in many dishes.
When it comes to spaghetti sauce, a little thyme can go a long way.
I recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon per pound of sauce and adjusting to taste.
Other herbs and spices that pair well with thyme are oregano, basil, rosemary, garlic, and onion.
To really let the thyme shine, add it early in the cooking process so it has time to infuse the sauce.
Garlic has a pungent, spicy, and earthy taste that can liven up any dish – especially spaghetti sauce.
I would recommend using one or two cloves of garlic, depending on how big they are and how strong you want the flavor to be.
Other herbs and spices that go well with garlic are basil, oregano, and black pepper.
You can add garlic to your spaghetti sauce by mincing it and adding it in at the beginning of the cooking process, or you can add it towards the end for a more subtle flavor.
Some dishes where you can use both spaghetti sauce and garlic are spaghetti with meatballs, lasagna, and baked ziti (See Also: What To Do With Leftover Baked Ziti).
A tip: if you ever find yourself with too much garlic, you can always roast it – it’ll taste great in just about anything.
Onions can be sweet or sour, soft or crisp, tangy or dripping with umami goodness – and they go great with spaghetti sauce.
You can add onions in a number of ways to your sauce – diced, minced, or even in whole slices.
When it comes to how much onion to add, it really depends on your personal preference.
Other herbs and spices that go great with onions include garlic, oregano, and basil.
You can add garlic and onion at the beginning of cooking to give the sauce a nice base flavor.
Oregano and basil can be added towards the end of cooking.
If you want a little extra zing, you can even add a splash of vinegar towards the end of cooking.
Some dishes where you can use both spaghetti sauce and onions include spaghetti with meatballs, lasagna, and baked ziti.
A tip: if you find that your sauce is too acidic, you can add a pinch of sugar to balance it out.
7. Black Pepper
Pungent, earthy, hot, woody, brash.
These are all words that have been used to describe black pepper.
It’s no wonder that black pepper is one of the most popular spices in the world.
A little bit of black pepper can go a long way in adding depth and dimension to a dish.
When it comes to spaghetti sauce, I like to add a healthy pinch of black pepper.
I find that black pepper really enhances the flavor of the tomatoes.
Other herbs and spices that go well with black pepper include oregano, basil, and thyme.
To get the most flavor out of black pepper, it’s best to add it towards the end of the cooking process.
This way, the heat can release the essential oils in the pepper and infuse the dish with its flavor.
Some dishes where you can use both spaghetti sauce and black pepper include spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and baked ziti.
8. Red Pepper Flakes
Slightly sharp and a little earthy with a decent dose of spicy heat, red pepper flakes are a great addition to any spaghetti sauce – and they’re one of my personal favorite herbs and spices.
Just a pinch or two will do the trick, and you can always add more to taste.
Other great complementary flavors for red pepper flakes include garlic, oregano, and basil.
You can add the flakes right at the beginning when you’re cooking the sauce, or sprinkle them on top just before serving.
Either way, they’ll add a nice little zing to your dish.
One of my all-time favorite ways to enjoy red pepper flakes is on top of a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs – it’s the perfect comfort food.
So if you’re looking for a new way to spice up your sauce, give red pepper flakes a try.
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
9. Cayenne Pepper
With a hot, fiery taste, cayenne pepper is a great addition to any spaghetti sauce – but be careful not to add too much!
A little goes a long way with this spice.
Cayenne pepper also goes well with other herbs and spices like garlic, onion, and oregano.
You can add it early on in the cooking process, or sprinkle some on top of the sauce just before serving.
It’s great with traditional Italian dishes like lasagna and chicken parmesan, but also adds a little something extra to more simple dishes like spaghetti and meatballs.
Here’s a tip: if your sauce is too spicy, add a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream to balance it out.
10. Crushed Tomatoes
What can be easier than opening a can of diced tomatoes and crushing them with your hands?
You don’t need to add any other spices, herbs or seasonings.
Just open the can, pour it into a bowl and start crushing.
The result is a delicious, fresh-tasting tomato sauce that is perfect for pasta, pizzas or anything else you can think of.
This woodsy aromatic herb has notes of evergreen, citrus, lavender and pine.
It’s an assertive flavor, so a little goes a long way.
I like to use it sparingly, especially when it’s one of several herbs in a dish.
Try it with other Italian herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil.
You can add rosemary to spaghetti sauce near the end of cooking, or use it to top finished dishes like baked pasta.
Sage has a pronounced herbal flavor that is earthy, slightly peppery, and a little bit woodsy.
It’s a strong flavor, so you don’t need much of it.
A little goes a long way.
Sage pairs well with other strong flavors like garlic, oregano, and thyme.
It’s also good with mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes.
You can add sage to your spaghetti sauce when you’re cooking the other ingredients, or you can sprinkle it on top of the sauce when you’re serving it.
Spaghetti with sage-infused tomato sauce is a classic dish, but you can also use sage in lasagna, chicken parmesan, or any other dish where you would normally use oregano or thyme.
Here’s a tip: if you’re using dried sage, crush it between your fingers before adding it to the dish to release the flavor.
Nutmeg is known for its warm, nutty flavor and goes great in sweet and savory dishes alike.
A little goes a long way with this spice, so start with a pinch and add more to taste.
Other complementary spices for spaghetti sauce include basil, oregano, and thyme.
Add nutmeg towards the end of cooking, or sprinkle it on top of the finished dish.
Nutmeg is delicious in creamy pasta sauces, on roasted vegetables, or in homemade bread.
For an extra touch, grate fresh nutmeg on top of your dish before serving.
This intensely aromatic spice has a subtly sweet flavor that pairs well with rich tomato-based sauces.
A little goes a long way with cloves, so start with just a pinch or two and add more to taste.
Other complementary herbs and spices for spaghetti sauce include oregano, basil, and thyme.
You can add cloves to the sauce while it’s simmering, or sprinkle them on top just before serving.
Dishes that go well with spaghetti sauce and cloves include lasagna, baked ziti, and meaty stews.
Here’s a pro tip: for an extra depth of flavor, try lightly crushing the cloves before adding them to the sauce.
Allspice tastes like a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
It’s a warming spice that’s perfect for adding to spaghetti sauce.
I like to start with a teaspoon and then adjust according to my taste.
Other herbs and spices that go well with allspice are oregano, basil, and thyme.
You can add allspice to your sauce at the beginning of cooking, or towards the end if you want a more subtle flavor.
Allspice goes particularly well with beef and lamb dishes.
And here’s a little tip: if you’re using allspice in a sweet dish, add a pinch of salt to balance out the flavors.
A sweet and woody flavor, cinnamon has a slight citrusy note that can really brighten up a dish.
It’s the perfect addition to a classic spaghetti sauce.
I would recommend using about a teaspoon of cinnamon for a big batch of sauce.
You could also add a pinch of nutmeg, allspice, and cloves for a more complex flavor.
Cinnamon is best added towards the end of cooking, so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.
Give it a try in a pasta dish, or even on top of some roasted vegetables.
And here’s a little tip: if you’re using ground cinnamon, be sure to give it a sniff before using it. If it smells too strong, it’s probably past its prime and won’t do much for your dish.
A pleasing combination of flavors reminiscent of parsley and citrus, coriander is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes – making it a great choice to enhance the flavor of your spaghetti sauce.
When using coriander, a little goes a long way – so start with a small amount and add more to taste.
This herb also pairs well with other spices commonly used in spaghetti sauce, such as basil, oregano, and thyme.
To get the most flavor from coriander, add it near the end of cooking or sprinkle it on just before serving.
This herb is also a great way to add a little extra flavor to dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, or pizzas.
Cardamom has a complex aroma with a piney, fruity, and almost menthol-like flavor.
A little goes a long way with this one – start with just a pinch and add more to taste.
Other complementary herbs and spices include cloves, ginger, and black pepper.
To bring out the flavor of cardamom, add it towards the end of cooking.
It’s delicious in both sweet and savory dishes – try it in your next batch of spaghetti sauce or in a fragrant rice pudding.
Here’s a little tip: before adding cardamom to a dish, lightly crush the seeds to release their flavor.
Rich and hearty, earthy and warm, with an edge of citrus – cumin is the perfect spice to round out your spaghetti sauce recipe.
Just a teaspoon of this Middle Eastern staple is all you need to add a new dimension of flavor to your dish.
Cumin pairs especially well with oregano, basil, and garlic – all classic ingredients in spaghetti sauce.
Add cumin when you add the other herbs, near the beginning of cooking.
This will give the spice time to bloom and permeate the sauce.
Try cumin in your spaghetti sauce the next time you make lasagna, baked ziti, or simply spaghetti and meatballs.
It’s also delicious in minestrone soup.
For an extra special touch, sprinkle a little cumin on top of your dish when you serve it.
20. Fennel Seed
These seeds have a light, sweet, anise-like taste and a potent aroma.
They go well with other spices like oregano, basil, and thyme.
You only need to use a little bit of this spice, otherwise it can overpower the other flavors in your dish.
Add fennel seed to your spaghetti sauce towards the end of cooking, or use it as a garnish.
It’s also great in minestrone soup or with roasted vegetables.
Here’s a tip: if you don’t have any fennel seed on hand, you can substitute anise seed.
21. Anise Seed
Known for its natural sweetness and unmistakable licorice flavor, anise seed is a wonderful addition to your spaghetti sauce recipe.
Just a pinch or two of anise seed is all you need to enhance the flavor of your sauce.
Other complementary herbs and spices for your sauce include basil, oregano, and thyme.
To really bring out the anise flavor, add it towards the end of cooking.
Anise seed is also delicious in spaghetti squash dishes, as well as in meatballs and other Italian-inspired dishes.
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What Herbs and Spices Go in Spaghetti Sauce? (21 Options)
- Black Pepper
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Cayenne Pepper
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Fennel Seed
- Anise Seed
- Pick your favorite herbs and spices from this list to put in your spaghetti sauce.
- Prepare the rest of your delicious dish.
- Enjoy in no time!