Quebec-Style Spaghetti Sauce

How to Make Comfort Food: Quebec-Style Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is a staple food in our house. We eat it with spaghetti, use it to make lasagna and baked macaroni, and also turn it into chili. We also often use spaghetti sauce as a starter for Spanish rice, stuffed peppers, homemade pizza pockets, and sloppy Joes.

Quebec-style spaghetti sauce is a thick sauce – much thicker than a marinara sauce. Although it tastes great with spaghetti, spaghettini, or vermicelli, this spaghetti sauce sticks better suited to thicker types of pasta. Think tagliatelle, pappardelle, fettuccine, or any other broad noodles.

Quebec-Style Spaghetti Sauce
Like Bolognese but can’t eat dairy? Try this Quebec style spaghetti sauce instead!


How Quebec Likes its Spaghetti Sauce

Most Québécois cooks add green peppers to their spaghetti sauce, often in fairly large chunks. I find this can sometimes give the sauce a bitter taste. Many of these sauces are also runny, perhaps because the cooking is rushed. Bell peppers have a lot of water content, which they release into the sauce as they cook. You have to allow for the extra liquid. Your sauce will also taste better if you treat the peppers more gently.

The better sauces include carrots, which add sweetness to the recipe. The peppers are cut into smaller dice, and the two vegetables are cooked slowly before the tomatoes are added. This prevents the peppers turning bitter and gives a deeper, more finished taste to the spaghetti sauce. No extra liquids are accumulated from the aromatic vegetables, and the sauce is allowed to simmer a long time. So the consistency is thick and rich, and the sauce sticks to your pasta rather than forming a puddle on your plate.

The zucchini and mushrooms in our 24 Carrot spaghetti sauce recipe are less than traditional. But we love our mushrooms, and we also like to add extra veggies to any recipe. These ingredients aren’t going to add tons of extra nutrients to your spaghetti sauce, so if you don’t like them or can’t get them fresh when you make this recipe, it’s fine to leave them out.



Carrots: The Not-So-Secret Ingredient

Carrots in a spaghetti sauce? Absolutely! You may not have encountered the combination of carrot and tomato before, but it is a classic one. Carrots are actually part of the Italian soffritto (cousin to the French mirepoix) which you will find in an authentic Bolognese sauce. What’s in a soffritto? Although you may find it described slightly different, it’s usually a simple combo of diced onions, celery, and carrots.

Soffritto” is just Italian for cooking something slowly over moderate heat. In the case of our aromatic vegetables, what we want is to dice the onion, celery, and carrot and saute them gently. We want them to caramelize slowly, rather than to brown quickly. As with the tomatoes that go into a spaghetti sauce, this kind of cooking brings out a greater depth of flavour in the aromatics, which we can be attributed to the Maillard reaction.

As the sweetest of the three aromatics used in the soffritto, the carrots mellow the acidity of the tomatoes and make the sauce sweet without the addition of sugar. Since I started adding carrots to my spaghetti sauce on a regular basis, I have rarely had to add any other sweetener. The really cool part of adding carrots instead of sugar (or even honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar) is that it’s super healthy. Carrots bump up the fibre and vitamin content of your spaghetti sauce, and supply a whole ton of health carotenoids. On the other hand, one large carrot adds only 30 calories to your sauce.

The Tomatoes

At the 24 Carrot Diet, we rarely cooked with canned vegetables. There are only a few cases where I will generally default to a canned vegetable. One is creamed corn, because corn on the cob has a very short season here in Canada and I honestly don’t even want to think about trying to turn frozen niblets into creamed corn just so I can bake a shepherd’s pie! The other time that I regularly used canned vegetables is when I need diced or crushed tomatoes for a spaghetti sauce, soup, or Jambalaya.

Why canned? It’s mostly a question of availability and price. Fresh tomatoes have a fairly short season in our valley and although you can freeze them when they’re in season, that would take more space than we have available. Canned tomatoes are also less expensive than buying fresh at the grocery store or farmer’s market. And starting with cans of diced and crushed tomatoes cuts back on the cooking time a little. That’s a good thing, because the soffritto does take a while to cook, as does the meat.



Did you know that the lycopene content of tomatoes increases when the fruit is cooked? Lycopene is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties. It helps to reduce the risk of both cancer and heart disease, and also helps to keep your brain, eyes, and bones healthy.

Some recipes for Quebec-style spaghetti sauce incorporate tomato paste, and you can surely add that if you like. Some also use commercially prepared tomato sauce and even canned tomato soup. While we do have a few recipes that include these ingredients, we prefer to leave them out of our spaghetti sauce. For my American friends, the 796-millilitre cans of tomatoes are the same as a 28-ounce can.


Spaghetti waiting to be cooked
Spaghetti ready for the pasta pot
(Image: congerdesign/Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

Quebec-Style Spaghetti Sauce: The Recipe

Quebec-Style Spaghetti Sauce

Quebec-style spaghetti sauce is thick and meaty with a mellow taste. It is similar in some respects to a Bolognese sauce. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine Quebecois
Keyword pasta, spaghetti sauce
Cook Time 6 hours
Servings 6 people
Author Kyla Matton Osborne



  • olive oil and butter, optional for cooking
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 small celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • a little white wine or balsamic vinegar (optional – water works fine too)
  • 1-1/2 lb lean ground beef OR Italian sausage, casings removed (or a mix of both)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1-2 cups fresh white mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (optional)
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped coarsely (optional)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced (adjust according to personal tastes)
  • 3 whole bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • 2 tsp each dried basil and oregano
  • 1 tsp each dried rosemary and fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can (796 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (796 ml) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup beef broth OR 1/2 cup cold water and 1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon beef concentrate (optional)



  1. Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven on high. Once a drop of water will dance across the bottom of the pot, add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add a teaspoon of butter (optional.) Heat and stir until the butter is completely melted.
  2. Add the onions to the hot oil, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir well to ensure all the onions are coated with the fat. Cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the carrot to the pot and stir. Continue to cook and let the vegetables caramelize, stirring only occasionally. This will take a good bit of time, so be patient. Don’t try to rush this step. (Note: If you’re in a hurry, dice the soffritto more finely to speed up the process. This is preferable to cooking over higher heat. You can also finish the sauce in your pressure cooker if desired. We find allowing the sauce to simmer slowly on the slow or cooking it in the crockpot produces a richer, more mellow flavour. But pressure cooking is preferable to overcooking the soffritto!)
  4. Add the celery to the pot, again stirring to coat all the vegetables in fat. Continue to cook and stir about another ten minutes, until the aromatic vegetables are tender but not mushy. Towards the end of cooking, use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits that are sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stir these in with the rest of the vegetables.
  5. Remove the cooked vegetables and set aside. Deglaze the pot with a little white wine, balsamic vinegar, or beef broth. Add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it up into small pieces with the spoon.
  6. Brown the meat, stirring often to break up clumps. Watch the heat: if the meat cooks too fast it will shrink and dry out. This is another part of the process you don’t want to rush. If you have too much meat to fit in the bottom of your pot, cook it in batches.
  7. Once the meat is browned, add the rest of the vegetables and seasonings to the pot. Stir in the tomatoes and add the cooked soffritto back to the sauce. Stir well and bring the sauce to a low boil, stirring once or twice.
  8. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce, partially covered, for about 2 hours. Watch for the colour to deepen and for the sauce to thicken as it cooks. Stir the sauce occasionally, as the denser ingredients will tend to settle to the bottom of the pot.


To cook this spaghetti sauce in a pressure cooker:
If you get good enough control on your “Brown” setting to cook the soffritto, go ahead and prepare it in your pressure cooker. Otherwise, prepare ahead of time and add it to the pressure cooker once the meat is browned and all the other ingredients have been added to the sauce.

Once the lid is locked, set the pressure cooker to “Cook” for 20 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for about 10 minutes before using the quick release valve very carefully. If the sauce is too thin after stirring, you can return the pressure cooker to “Brown” and cook for about 10 minutes to reduce the liquid. Stir often so nothing sticks to the bottom of the insert.

To adapt this spaghetti sauce for slow cooking:
Saute the soffritto and brown the meat in a skillet on the stovetop. Assemble the rest of the ingredients in your crockpot and stir. Cover and cook on low for at least 8 hours.



Large batch cooking:
This spaghetti sauce is extremely versatile. You can easily double this recipe – or even triple or quadruple the sauce. When we lived near a warehouse grocery store and had a reliable supply of oversized canned goods, we used to make one big batch of spaghetti sauce at the beginning of each month. We used two restaurant-sized cans each of diced and crushed tomatoes, multiple pounds of ground beef, and a whole lot of diced vegetables!

If you want to make a large batch for once-a-month cooking (OAMC,) feel free to multiply the ingredients in the recipe as much as you like. This spaghetti sauce freezes beautifully. For batch cooking, we prepared it with just the soffritto and meat. We’d then remove enough of the cooked sauce to make our chili, baked lasagna, Swiss steak, and other tomato-based recipes. Afterwards, we’d add the rest of the vegetables and allow the sauce to cook down a bit more.

Freeze your Quebec-style spaghetti sauce in gallon freezer bags for larger meals. Or ladle the sauce into muffin tins and flash freeze these smaller portions. Store the portions in freezer bags or rigid containers so you can better control how much sauce you are defrosting for a quick meal of sloppy Joes or small portions of pasta.

Want to save the recipe for later? Feel free to use this graphic to pin it!


Quebec-style spaghetti sauce is thick and meaty with a mellow taste. Serve with pasta or use it as a starter for another recipe.
The secret ingredient in this thick, meaty spaghetti sauce recipe makes the flavour rich and sweet with no added sugar
PLEASE PIN THIS ARTICLE – remember sharing is caring!
Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user RitaE


Did you enjoy this article? Check out some related content below!


What Does Science Say About Storing Fresh Tomatoes? (Graphic made in Canva using a public domain image by Pixabay user magdus])



Do bags of carrots languish forgotten in your vegetable drawer until you have to throw them away? Learn to get the most from fresh carrots now! (Graphic made in Canva using a public domain photo by Pixabay user jackmac34)



Have you ever been told a carrot has ‘negative’ calories? (Graphic made in Canva using a public domain photo by Pixabay user congerdesign)


Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

recipe image
Recipe Name
Quebec Style Spaghetti Sauce
Kyla Matton Osborne
Published On

19 thoughts on “How to Make Comfort Food: Quebec-Style Spaghetti Sauce”

    1. I’m so glad to hear you liked it! It’s great to hear that it turned out well for you 🙂

      I have a friend in the UK who tried the recipe but couldn’t find the crushed tomatoes. She ended up using stewed tomatoes instead of both the diced and crushed, which left her with a runny sauce. It was still tasty; the recipe just needed a tiny bit of tweaking for use in the UK. Who knew they didn’t have crushed tomatoes there? That surprised me!

      1. I just used chopped tomato and the sauce was fine. Ya I just thought it meant you crushed the tomatoes yourself lol, I used the potato masher . I had to google zucchini as I know it as courgette but we have a few differences with vegetables. Will definitely be trying it again as it felt lighter than usual Bolognase sauce I make 👍

        1. I should have realized you were in the the UK from your spelling of “mum” 🙂

          Yes, zucchini is courgette. As for the crushed tomatoes, we can buy them in a tin here in Canada. I would imagine mashing them with a potato masher would probably give roughly the same consistency. If you’re familiar with diced tomatoes, crushed are a less solid version of those. It’s as if they’ve been cooked down and maybe mashed just a titch. There isn’t much liquid in the can. When I use crushed tomatoes, I have to scrape the can with a spoon.

          I’m glad you mention this sauce being lighter than the Bolognese. It is definitely that, although it’s so satisfying that I never feel deprived 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you have someone in your life who will enjoy the recipe! Let me know what he thinks 🙂

    1. You can use pretty much any ground meat or meat substitute for this recipe. Just take the time to saute it, and get a feel for whether the sauce needs a little bit of extra fat. A spoonful of olive or coconut oil might be necessary if the Quorn is a bit on the dry side.

  1. This recipe brings back so many memories! Growing up parents used to make this all the time and I haven’t had this in years. Thanks for sharing 😊

    1. That’s awesome, Bee! I hope you’ll make up a batch and really intensify those warm, fuzzy feelings 🙂

    1. How cool! A lot of folks think carrot in a tomato-based sauce just seems weird. But we love it. I have one child who doesn’t care for a lot of vegetables, and she really dislikes cooked carrots. But when I put them in this sauce, she’ll eat them 🙂

  2. This spaghetti sauce recipe sounds absolutely delicious… and very versatile with many uses. One question ~ when you brown the meat, don’t you have to drain the grease before continuing with the directions? Or are you assuming all cooks would know that part? 🙂 Just curious.

    1. If you choose very lean ground beef or pork, you’ll find there really isn’t much to drain off. Cook the soffritto in just enough fat to keep it from sticking and then deglaze the pan. If you use just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan and then cook lean meat in that same liquid, you’ll find there isn’t much to worry about.

      Of course, if you’re using a fattier meat or adding fat to the pan before cooking the meat, you may find there is a lot of grease that accumulates. If so, pour it off before you add the other ingredients. You can also spoon it off the top of the simmering sauce if you notice it later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.