An easy slow cooker dinner that the whole family will love! This thick, rich Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce recipe is loaded with ground beef, Italian sausage, and plenty of tomatoes and fresh herbs. Serve it over pasta with a Caesar salad and garlic bread for the ultimate weeknight dinner!
Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
Few meals are more comforting than a bowl of pasta with homemade meat sauce! Since every busy mom knows how hard it can be to get dinner on the table at the end of a long day, I've created this Crockpot Spaghetti Meat Sauce recipe that's perfectly adapted for the slow cooker. It doesn't get watery or runny in the Crock Pot, but instead turns out thick, rich and flavorful. With hearty ground beef, zesty Italian sausage, bright fresh herbs and a touch of red wine, it's truly the best homemade spaghetti sauce. Most importantly, the delicious, family-friendly option will be ready and waiting for you when you walk in the door!
Can you put raw ground beef in spaghetti sauce?
No, for this recipe you'll need to brown the ground beef and sausage in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker. This gives you the opportunity to break up the meat and to drain off the grease so that you don't have too much fat in your finished meat sauce.
Can I put jar sauce in the slow cooker?
Jars of pasta sauce are designed to be warmed and used right away -- not necessarily slow simmered in a Crock Pot all day. If you use a jar of prepared pasta sauce for this recipe, you'll end up with a thinner, watered-down finished sauce. This is because the slow cooker traps steam, creating condensation that drips back down into the pot (adding water and thinning the sauce). Instead, this recipe is designed specifically for the Crock Pot using an appropriate ratio of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and red wine to ground meat. The combination of ingredients yields a thick, rich sauce -- even after 6-8 hours in the slow cooker!
Can I put dry pasta in the slow cooker?
No, do not add dry pasta to the slow cooker. The Crock Pot doesn't get hot enough fast enough to properly cook the noodles -- resulting in gummy, mushy pasta. Instead, boil the pasta in a separate pot on the stovetop just before serving. For best results, cook the pasta of your choice just until it's al dente, according to your package instructions.
How to Make Spaghetti Meat Sauce in the Crockpot
This is an ideal prep-ahead dinner for busy families. Set the sauce in the morning and let it go all day. Homemade spaghetti sauce just gets better and better as it simmers and the flavors and ingredients come together.
Ingredients for Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
- Ground beef
- Italian sausage
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Olive oil
- Red wine (or balsamic vinegar)
- Basil and oregano
- Brown sugar
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Crushed red pepper
Step 1: Brown Meat
Cook the beef and Italian sausage in a skillet until browned and crumbly, then drain.
Step 2: Combine Ingredients in Slow Cooker
Transfer the cooked meat to the Crock Pot and stir in the remaining ingredients. I used frozen diced onion for a shortcut here -- no chopping necessary!
How long to heat spaghetti sauce in the Crock Pot?
Cover and cook the spaghetti sauce on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Serve over your favorite cooked pasta, garnish with Parmesan and basil, and dig in!
How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce in the Crockpot
Tomato paste is the key ingredient for a thick spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker! If the sauce still seems too thin towards the end of cooking, you can remove the lid on the slow cooker during the final hour or two. This will release steam so that the sauce can reduce and thicken.
What to Serve with Easy Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce
Store leftover Crockpot spaghetti sauce in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
This is also a perfect freezer meal! The recipe yields a large batch, so store leftover sauce in airtight containers in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can use extra spaghetti meat sauce in other recipes like Stuffed Shells and Lasagna, too.
How to Reheat
Thaw frozen sauce in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat the meat sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop over low heat, just until warmed through. If it's too thick, you can thin the sauce with a splash of warm water, beef broth, or tomato sauce.
To prepare the ingredients in advance, brown the meat, drain, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. This helps cut down on the prep time if you're rushed to get out of the house in the morning, because you can just stir the cooked meat right into the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.
Since the finished sauce keeps really well in the refrigerator or freezer, you can cook the entire recipe in advance and stash it away for a later meal, too.
- Use ground chicken or ground turkey in lieu of the ground beef.
- Omit the Italian sausage and use an additional pound of ground beef.
- For a lighter option, try serving your meat sauce over zucchini noodles.
- My mom makes her spaghetti meat sauce with mushrooms, so feel free to add sliced mushrooms to your pot! I omitted them from my recipe because my kids prefer the sauce without the mushrooms.
- I like the rich flavor of the spaghetti meat sauce with red wine. Don’t worry — the alcohol cooks off! That said, if you would rather not use wine in this recipe, you can substitute with an equal amount of balsamic vinegar.
Tips for the Best Homemade Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce
- Don't omit the brown sugar. In order to achieve great tomato flavor, it’s important to balance acidity and sweetness. Too much acid or too much sugar yields a sauce that tastes one-dimensional. A little bit of sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes. I generally prefer 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in this recipe; however, if you like a less-sweet sauce, you can start with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Give the sauce a taste and add more, if necessary.
- If possible, stir the sauce a few times while it simmers in the Crock Pot. This will help it cook and blend evenly. If you're not home all day, don't worry -- the sauce will be fine if it's not stirred, too.
- Use fresh herbs when possible for the best flavor, but you can substitute with a smaller quantity of dried herbs if necessary.
- Garnish with additional fresh herbs for a bright touch that balances the rich, hearty sauce. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious!
More Pasta Sauce Recipes To Try
- Quick and Easy Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce
- Linguine with Clam Sauce
- 5-Ingredient Pomodoro Sauce (with fresh tomatoes)
- Beef Ragu (stovetop or slow cooker)
- Easy Marinara Sauce (a vegetarian option made with fresh or canned tomatoes)
Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef
- 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
- 3 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup finely-diced onion
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine (or sub with balsamic vinegar)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (or about 2 teaspoons dried basil)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or about ½ teaspoon dried oregano)
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
- For serving: 1 lb. pasta, cooked according to package instructions
- Garnish: grated Parmesan cheese; chopped fresh herbs
- In a large skillet, cook beef and sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbly, about 6-8 minutes. Drain.
- Transfer cooked meat to a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, oil, vinegar (or wine), basil, oregano, brown sugar, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper or sugar, if necessary.
- Serve sauce with cooked pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if desired.