Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
A rich and meaty spaghetti sauce easily made in the crockpot – it makes enough to feed an army and you can freeze the leftovers!
Spaghetti sauce always came in a jar for us. The homemade version never existed. My mom was a home cook but only when it came to Korean food, although she did make a mean baked ziti. It involved store-bought spaghetti sauce of course.
But once I started cooking, my eyes were open to the wonders of homemade spaghetti sauce. I’ve made several variations throughout the years but my new favorite spaghetti sauce has to be this crockpot version. Loaded with crumbled ground beef and spicy Italian sausage, this gets cooked in a stew of amazing flavors for 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours !
Simply crumble up your beef, throw it in your slow cooker, and come back from work to the most comforting smell of all with a giant pot of spaghetti goodness. Best of all, it makes enough to feed an army so you can either take the leftovers to work the next day or throw it in the freezer!
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes
A rich and meaty spaghetti sauce easily made in the crockpot with just 10 min prep!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef, sausage, onion and garlic. Cook until browned, about 4-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef and sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat.
- Place ground beef mixture into a slow cooker. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
- Stir well and serve immediately.
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I can only imagine how incredible this sauce smells while it’s cooking! Love the ease and convenience of the slow cooker!
I am a Senior and I use the Slow Cooker all the time,( I don’t have to look after it/nor worry about forgetting what I’m cooking) I have never made Pasta Sauce because I don’t use the stove. Guess what will be on my next menu. I can almost taste it now. M mmmmmmm
My family is Italian so you know I’ve always had homemade spaghetti sauce – but never made in the slow cooker!! It’s time for me to try, I’ve been using my crock pot a ton lately! This looks delicious 🙂
I am a huge fan of crock pot dinners and I love the addition of Italian sausage to your sauce. And cooking 10 hours, the flavour has to be terrific! Great photo. Makes me want to dig right in right now (even though it’s 8am 🙂
I bet this sauce smells amazing cooking all day! I bet it is so awesome and the perfect cozy meal to come home too!
I’ve always made our spaghetti sauce but on top of the stove. I will try your recipe. Some nights it would be nice to go out to a winter event and come home to supper simmering away…
HA! Sounds like my mom! Macedonian food made from scratch all the time… everything else came in a jar or a can! LOL! 🙂 As always, beautiful recipe, my friend!
This sauce looks so hearty and fresh and perfectly delicious!!
Spaghetti is one of my favorite things and my family always goes for the jarred sauce. This looks super easy, though! Love all your photos too. 🙂
I made bolognese sauce for my lasagna this very same way! Slow cookers are lifesavers indeed. We totally used leftover sauce for pasta. Yay for this amazing kitchen appliance!
I decided to make this the minute I saw it on Pinterest. It was super easy and the outcome was fantastic. It was even delicious just dipping some slices of french baguette in and I was able to freeze the leftovers for next time.
Ooooh I’ll definitely have to dip in a baguette next time!
Looks good! What size slow cooker did you use?
I used a 6-qt slow cooker.
Oh my, seeing this dish really put me in the mood for a big plate of spaghetti 🙂 I’ll have to use this recipe soon, it looks delicious!!
Delicious! I would add 1 pound more ground beef and deduct one can tomatoes next time. Cant wait to make this again…
I could definitely use more meat! 🙂
This looks amazing! I love the idea of cooking up a huge batch for the freezer. Do you think a double batch of this recipe would fit/cook fine in a 6 1/2 quart slow cooker?
My 4 qt slow cooker was filled about halfway so a double batch should fit just fine in your slow cooker.
Absolutely delicious! ! Only thing I was wondering is how to thinking the Sauce up a little.. ours was a little thin.. is that normal?
My sauce was a bit on the thinner side too. My only recommendation here is to make sure the cans of diced tomatoes are drained before adding to the slow cooker. Hope that helps!
I would add paste to thicken it up.
Try replacing at least one of the sauces with a can of tomato paste instead.
Hi! This looks really good! I’m trying to figure out what it’s worth budget-wise…how much sauce would you say this makes? Definitely more than what is in a regular jar of spaghetti sauce (say, Prego or Ragu) but how much more?
As the recipe indicates, this should serve at least 6, so I’m thinking about 2-3 jars? Hope that helps!
I spent 2$ on two cans of tomatos, 10$ on ground beef, and I think like 3? On a thing of tomato sauce (equivalent to two cans)
so in all about 15$, but without the ground beef like 5$
$10.00 for Ground beef, I buy Bison for $7.99 a pound and 97% ground beef for $6.99. I buy steak for less than that. You must live where these products are hard to get.
Left out 1-lb. of ground and subbed 1-lb. sliced baby Bella’s. Also added 1/4 cup chianti and 1tsp. Red pepper flakes. Grated one carrot added to counter balance the acid in tomato. Yummy!
For those that thought this was thinner then they would like try swapping out 8oz of tomato sauce for 6oz tomato paste. So instead of 2 15oz can tomato sauce use 1 15oz can tomato sauce (I opted for Contadina tomato sauce with Italian herbs), 1 8oz can tomato sauce (plain), and 1 6oz can tomato paste. I actually ended up with a very thick sauce and opted to add some more tomato sauce later in cooking. This was my first attempt at homemade sauce and my family raved so I’ll definitely be making it again! Thanks for really great recipies Chung-Ah!!
I would like to make this tonight but am getting a late start for 10 hours in the crock pot. It’ll be in 6 hours most likely. Should I set it to high, or leave it on low since we are really just letting flavors develop?
I would recommend leaving it on low for about 6 hours, although 10-12 hours is ideal.
Hello, do you have to cook the meat before putting into the croc pot? Wont 10 hours cook it ?
Joel, as indicated in the recipe, yes, the meat needs to be cooked before placing in the slow cooker. The 10 hours in the slow cooker will provide an amazing blend of flavors for a rich spaghetti sauce.
thanks a ton, I use the croc pot weekly here in Helena, Montana to get through the winter, great website, thanks!
You do not have to cook it before you plop it in so long as you’re giving it the full 8ish hours.
HOWEVER! Beef needs to be seared at a very high heat to brown. Browning creates new flavors that add something tot he sauce. And maybe even more importantly, there will be a brown-black coating on your pan then (don’t use non stick for this, you’ll destroy them with super high heat)that the French cal fond. Fond can be “deglazed” from the pan by adding a halfish cup of some dry red wine to it and gently rubbing it up with a wooden spoon until it dissolves. This should then be added to the crock pot with the rest of the stuff, being careful to adjust for moisture. Might need a little extra tomato paste or an additional cooking time at the end with the lid off to let it reduce. Either will work.
This will amp this recipe up to 11.
Thank you for your input Matt!
I have been using the crock-pot for my spaghetti sauce for a long time. I normally cook enough to feed about 20 ppl…even though its just me :). I just freeze most of it, and leave a container out for my lunches or dinners.
Can I make this on the stove top?
Nicole, this recipe is catered using the slow cooker method. For a stovetop recipe, I recommend trying a different spaghetti sauce recipe.
Yes, however, stove top sauce has a tendency to burn and it’s labor intensive. You will need to at least double the recipe so that there’s a higher volume of food to absorb the heat, meaning you can cook it longer without it burning. You will want to use the lowest heat you can to just barely get the sauce to bubble. And, the part that’s the hardest, you will need to stir. THE. WHOLE. TIME.
You may also need to thin it out with some beef stock, water, or wine to allow it to cook long enough to get the flavors to blend correctly. This recipe is a good base for it, but the crock pot is a million times easier and produces a reasonable facsimile to Grandma’s homecooked gravy.
I love this recipe!! I have made several times and my family loves it as well. And everyone is right it smells great when it’s cooking.
Made this Saturday for Sunday dinner but, of course, had to taste test it once it finished. Excellent! I adjusted the seasoning, added more garlic, mushrooms and a bit of brown sugar to balance the acid from the tomatoes. I think this is my new way of making sauce because I’ll have to do it less frequently since I’ll have a mess of it in the freezer. Yay!
I made this tonight with very few changes and it was delicious. I am sure it is perfect as written, I just happen to read the comments and followed some of them. I used mild chicken Italian sausage to cut down on the fat and calories. and added 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Next time I will add more heat. I added 22 ounces of tomato sauce, 8 oz tomato paste, 2 drained diced tomato cans & 1 undrained. The consistency was perfect! Lastly I added 1 shredded carrot for sweetness, will add two next time. My husband couldn’t tell it was chicken sausage or that it had carrots. It’s a keeper. Thanks!
I came across this and it looks amazing so I am going to try, but was wondering if anyone things this will work with Lasagna?
I don’t like diced tomatoes, is there anything else I can use? Is it the extra liquid that’s needed? Will they cook down really small?
Yes, the extra liquid is crucial in this dish. You can always crush them a little bit more before adding to the slow cooker.
How could I crush the diced tomatoes?
Ariel, you can crush them with a spoon or with a potato masher until the desired consistency is reached.
Thanks so much !! I made it last week and omitted the diced tomatoes it was still delicious but not enough liquid. So thanks once again
There are lots of options for adding liquid to this recipe! You can try either chicken or beef stock. A healthy glug of some dry red wine will marry the water soluble flavors of the tomato to the fat soluble flavors of the beef in a way you cannot achieve without alcohol. Even just a splash of water will work, though this brings no flavor to the table. Just make sure you be aware of seasoning. Broth often has plenty of salt in it already. Always remember to salt at the END of cooking for just this reason. You can always add more. It’s very difficult to remove without altering your dish.
Just made this spaghetti sauce last week and my family absolutely loved it. Use to buy it in the jar and flavor it to our likings.. But now I’m going to make it this way everytime. Thanks!!
I am making the slow cooker spaghetti sauce. The recipe says to cook for 8 hours, but in the comments its 10 hours.
Brenda, please follow the recipe.
Hi again, will this taste as good without the sausage and just use 2 lbs ground beef!!
You can certainly try substituting ground beef but without further recipe testing, I cannot speak for how much this will change the overall taste/texture of the dish. It is always best to use the ingredients listed in the recipe to obtain the best results possible.
What Is the best way to freeze this…container, freezer bag, space, no space?
I recommend freezing in single serving Ziplocs without any space.
This recipe was great, flavor was good but it was really runny and didn’t stick to my noodles. How do I thicken up?
Caitlyn, you can try substituting crushed tomatoes for the tomato sauce to produce a thicker consistency.
This meat sauce has changed my life. 🙂 It was good the first day, but even more amazing the next. Thank you for the fabulous recipe! I love your blog and look forward to trying your other recipes.
I’m trying this out right now. In addition to the onions, I added red and green peppers , and instead of sausage, I added two boneless pork chops. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Well I definately have to tweak this for next time. It came out extremely watery. It looks more like cacciatore and less of a sauce. Highly recommend using tomato paste for this recipe!
Janet, I’m so glad you tried this recipe! As for the “watery” aspect, I know some prefer to have more runny or more thick sauces than others so please feel free to make the appropriate adjustments to fit your preferences.
This sauce is awesome. Takes about 20 minutes to throw together. My family doesn’t care for chunks of tomatoes so I blend them down to smaller chunks. Cook it and save half for dinner, freeze the other for leftovers another night! I have a picky family but they really like the blend of ingredients in this receipe!
Now what size slow cooker/crock pot did you use?
I used a 6-qt slow cooker.
My family’s heritage is full Italian so I’ve made spaghetti sauce before. My question is, why brown the meat and cook the onions (I understand why you may have to pre-cook mushrooms) before adding them to the crock. Just throw them in the sauce raw. And while you’re at it, add some nice big stock bones with the marrow in them. Great flavor adder.
Gloria, you don’t necessarily have to brown the meat prior to adding it to the slow cooker, but there are some advantages. If you crumble it first with a little bit of oil in a hot skillet, the meat develops more complex flavors. Also, by adding it raw to the slow cooker, the meat will clump together and add lots of grease to the finished dish.
Yes, you are right about the grease. You have to skim it off the top. And I like the clumps. I just think it’s easier to throw it all in together and saves cleaning the frying pan.
I agree with Gloria, just throw it all in. Give a good stir if you don’t want clumps!
I “cheated” and used premade uncooked storebought meatballs since I already had them on hand. I made the recipe for a party woth the option to make it into spaghetti or meatball subs. It was a hit! I will make some today, but am out of meatballs of sausage so I am hoping it still tastes good with plain old ground beef.
Hi! This look amazing! Would this recipe work if I cooked it on high for 4 hours? Thanks!
I also forgot to ask, would this work with ground turkey?
Yes, 4 hours on high using ground turkey should work just fine.
I tried this recipe for the first time tonight and followed the recipe exactly. Unfortunately it was really bland, but smelled incredible all day long. :-/ Any thoughts?
I’m sorry that this recipe did not turn out the way you had imagined. I only post recipes that have been successfully tested in my own kitchen, and as you can see from the comments here, many of these readers have had great outcomes in the final dish as well. That being said, did you season with salt and pepper, to taste? It’s amazing how a little bit of seasoning goes a long way. You can also add more herbs, to taste, to suit your preferences.
Looks great. QUESTION. …Do you stir everything together before you cook it and just pile it in as in the picture and stir at the end?
It is best to stir everything together.
Hi! I stumbled upon this recipe and it looks yummy! Just wanted to know if this could all be mixed together the night before and then crock pot turned on in the morning? Thanks 🙂
I made this. I added a tablespoon Italian Seasoning and 1/4 cup brown sugar (to cut the acidity of the tomatoes). This was awesome!
I also added a small can of tomato paste.
This was the best sauce ever. I did add a couple tablespoons of brown sugar to cut down on the acidity of the tomatoes. I even caught my family eating it heated up in bowls without the spaghetti noodles, just enjoying with toast. They also thought I could add beans to it for chili. This one is a keeper. Thank you.
I am making this wonderful sauce for the second time now. I keep pretty much to recipe except I only put in 2 tins of tomatoes instead of 3 and I cook in my crock pot on low for 10 hours. It’s only been in the crock pot an hour and already the house smells damn delicious!
Thank you for this recipe! My boyfriend and I made this as part of our weekly meal prep and it was the best homemade sauce recipe I have ever used! We followed the recipe exactly as posted besides substituting fire roasted diced tomatoes instead of regular diced tomatoes (bought these cans at Trader Joe’s) and everything turned out delicious without further adjustments. Using a slow cooker made prep so easy that this recipe will now be a staple of ours. Thanks again!
This recipe looks delicious but I have 40 pounds of tomatoes from our garden this year is there a way to substitute fresh tomatoes for canned diced.
This looks fantastic and it’s getting great reviews, which makes me hopeful. But I really don’t care for diced tomatoes (the texture… I just can’t). Could I sub more tomato sauce, or would something else work better? Thanks!
Yes, you can substitute tomato sauce.
I am always looking for new sauce recipes. I have to say this was a major disappointment. The sauce is way to tangy or acidity. If I had to give it a 1 – 10, I’m going with a solid 2.
Tangy? Hmmmmm, there’s nothing here that would result in that kind of taste – did you follow the recipe exactly as written without any substitutions?
This is delicious but comes out a little soupy, is there a way to thicken it up?
Here is a great forum worth checking out. Hope that helps!
I’m the only onw who did not find the sauce watery enough 🙁 I think I will keep the juice of the diced tomatoes next time!
Had to make my own italian sausage using sausagemeat and herbs but came out great. My only alterations were 2 x cans of diced tomato rather than 3 and 1 x 400g (14oz) carton of pasata instead of the 2 cans of tomato sauce as some said it could be a little thin. It looked thick at first but with the moisture from cooking it’s now a perfect thickness for me. Also put in 1tbsp of brown sugar. YUM. That’s 3 out of 3 hits from your slow cooker recipes getting me through a busy week. I could live off just this website! If you ever want to adopt a Brit, I’m there.
My sweetie declared this the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever made for him — nice and thick — just like he likes it. I made two changes to the basic recipe. I added two small cans of tomato paste and I cooked the batch in the crock pot overnight for 10 hours. The next morning I put the crock in the fridge. I reheated the batch in a large pot on the stove at dinner time and added my cooked pasta when it was ready.
Should I do anything different if I am not planning on putting any meat in it? Or can I just do all the other steps? Would you still cook it for the same amount of time? Thank you! Your recipes are always my favorite!
Yes, cooking time may have to be reduced as needed.
I just used this recipe as a guide for a quick lunch and it turned out pretty good!! I only had one can of tomato sauce and one tomato on hand. I also used frozen meatballs instead of sausage and cooked it all on the stove top. Despite all the modifications I had to make, it was good!
Can’t wait to try the full recipe next time with the Crock-Pot!
First recipe I tried on your site and it is great. Looking forward to trying some of the other slow cooker recipes.
This is one great recipe, i cant even tell you the amount of times ive made this. simple and yet so much flavor. i love how much it makes as there is always extra to freeze. love love love this!!
Cook on high or low? Crucial information missy
Please refer to the recipe:
Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
How much would I need to serve 8 people?
This recipe yields about 6 servings. You can double/triple the recipe as needed.
Just made it tonight. It was definitely more watery than I normally like sauces but boy was it delicious! I will definitely use this recipe again but thicken it up accordingly. Thanks for sharing!
LOVE this sauce. An Absolute family favorite. Use it for pasta one night then Lasagna another night.
Does it have to cook for 8 hours? Would it still taste as good with less time
The longer it cooks, the better it tastes!
can you please tell me the measurement of the herbs. I’m not use to using them, but want to. Thanks.
Hi Margie! The measurements of the herbs are actually listed in the recipe above. Hope that helps!
I made this tonight get. I used my own ‘homemade diced tomatoes’ but it was a thin sauce. Next time I will use tomato paste and I think even another pound of hamburger. The sauce was delish!
Any thoughts on adding mushrooms to this recipe? Not sure if it would be good or not…
Yes, that sounds amazing!
serving size says only 6. But in article says feeds a crowd??
It can serve 6-8, which I think is a crowd, no? 🙂
I tried this recipe yesterday and it turned out perfect. I followed the recipe as written. I was drawn to this recipe because it didn’t call for tomato paste. Tomato paste overpowers the flavor in most spaghetti sauces. This sauce is flavorful and delicious. It will be my new go to spaghetti sauce.
I used a little more paste and some wine. Very good
Can this dish be made without the sausage?
Yes, but I recommend substituting additional ground beef.
I have made this meat sauce recipe a few times and it is really good. So easy to make too and definately makes enough for leftovers. Thanks for all the delicious recipes you share with us!
Oh, I am so going to make this this weekend! I was actually trying to find my Mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe in my e-mail (which includes chili powder of all things…weird, but it doesn’t taste like chili). I know hers has tomato paste, so I will probably use at least one can of that to get the texture I like.
I would like to add more veggies….my Mom always uses a diced green pepper, so I will add that for sure…..what about fresh mushrooms? I have successfully subbed them for 1/2 the ground beef in her recipe (which uses 2 lbs of beef), but I don’t think I’d want to do that for this one.
Yes, the additions of bell pepper and mushrooms sound so good!
I did make this about a month or so ago and it was very good. I think I left out 8 oz of the sauce and added at least 1 can of tomato paste. I didn’t drain the diced tomatoes, because it seems wasteful as the tomatoes are so expensive (I buy organic). I am paying for those juices in there! lol
I am sure I added a green pepper, but I didn’t try the shrooms yet. I really need to make another batch for the freezer, but I am afraid the shrooms will water down in the slow cooker.
I just wanted you to know that my family and I love this recipe! I have also made it for another family and had the mom tell me she is Italian and it’s one of the best sauces she has ever had. Thank you for making this recipe.
Hi….i want to try this homemade recipie but 8hrs would it take too long… have to waut for those 8hours?
Thanks for this recipe! For over 30 years I made my spaghetti sauce from scratch but went to the canned sauce after my divorce.
This recipe is going to get me to go back making it from scratch. It looks and sounds delicious and I’ve never made it in a Crock Pot before.
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