Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

By Rachel Tiemeyer
January 28, 2021

With a few simple ingredients, this hearty Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce couldn’t be easier or tastier! Serve over pasta, zoodles, or spaghetti squash for a delicious and healthy dinner. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, and freezer-friendly.

spaghetti sauce in a slow cooker

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This is one of those dinners that makes everyone in my home happy. So, I make a double batch at least once a month, serve one that night, and freeze one for later. It’s a great use of my time in the kitchen and my future self is always thankful. 🙂

a hand with a fork twirling a bite of spaghetti and meat sauce on a plate

Here’s why I think you’re going to love this slow cooker spaghetti sauce, too…

  • Hearty, delicious, and versatile!
  • A well-rounded and healthy dinner. Serve over whole grain pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, or even quinoa. Sometimes I toss in some chopped spinach, too, and no one even knows!
  • Requires only 6 main ingredients, including a short-cut from the store (jarred marinara sauce).
  • Freezer-friendly! Just double and freeze the second batch for another meal. (See our freezing instructions below.)
  • Gluten-free and dairy-free.
  • Leftovers work great for lunches or “leftover night” dinner.

INGREDIENTS in Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a boring sauce just because the ingredients are simple. Check out the heavy-hitting line-up of complex flavors…

ingredients for meat sauce for spaghetti on a cutting board
  • Yellow Onion – You’ll start building big flavor right off the bat by sauteing diced onion in the Instant pot. The high heat brings out the sugars in the onion.
  • Fresh Garlic – What pasta sauce can go without garlic? Add this in at the end of sauteing the onion for a little pungent kick.
  • Lean Ground Beef – I use grass-fed, organic lean ground beef, but you can easily sub ground turkey or ground chicken. Here’s where Polly and I both get our grass-fed beef.
  • Ground Italian Sausage – Oh man, sausage takes this sauce to a whole new level! You can use mild or spicy Italian pork sausage, but make sure it’s ground (not pre-cooked in a link). You can also substitute ground turkey or chicken sausage here. I get my Italian sausage from ButcherBox, because it’s hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and has no icky additives.
  • Red Pepper Flakes – This is a favorite pantry seasoning for me. It easily adds a little heat to sauces, soups, and dry rubs. Feel free to add more than the recipe calls for if you like your food spicy.
  • Marinara Sauce – Woo hoo for store-bought short cuts! This is one you can feel good about if you select a sauce that’s organic or all-natural. Be sure to read the ingredients and try to avoid “natural flavors”, a lot of added sugar, and other weird ingredients you’re not familiar with. I personally love Newman’s Own Marinara Sauce. Or, try making your own with our Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce recipe. It’s cheap, budget-friendly, freezable, and amazing!

We’ll talk more about what ingredients you’ll need to serve the sauce a little later.

HOW TO MAKE SPAGHETTI SAUCE IN THE CROCKPOT

Watch this 1 minute video to see how easy it is to make meat sauce in your slow cooker…

HOW LONG DO I COOK SPAGHETTI SAUCE IN THE Slow Cooker?

spaghetti sauce being ladled out of a crockpot

This is an all-day slow cooker recipe. You’ll need to do about 20 minutes of work ahead of time to build flavor, including chopping and sautéing the aromatics (onion and garlic) and browning the meat. Then, dump all the ingredients into the crockpot and let them gently simmer away all day long–about 8 hours–on LOW. Your home will smell amazing by dinner time!

HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE INTO A FREEZER MEAL

slow cooker pasta sauce in a freezer bag

How to Freeze For Later: Saute the veggies and then brown the meat on the stovetop. Let the meat mixture cool, then transfer it to a gallon-size freezer bag or container and pour in the marinara. Seal, gently toss to combine, and freeze flat.

How to Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of our safe methods. (Never place frozen food in the slow cooker! It’s unsafe according to the USDA.) Transfer the sauce to the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Can you freeze this sauce after you fully cook it, too? Yes! Just be sure to let it fully cool first. I sometimes divide it into smaller dishes and place it in the fridge to help it cool faster. (Cooling helps prevent ice crystals from forming on your meal in the freezer, which can adversely affect the flavor and texture.) Then, freeze in an air-tight freezer bag or container. When you’re ready to use it, thaw and warm up over low heat on the stove, in the slow cooker, or in the microwave.

Freezing Tip: It’s helpful to freeze the bag of sauce on a rimmed baking sheet to prevent spills and to freeze until it’s flat. Once it’s frozen solid, remove the pan and the meal will stack easily in the freezer.

Want more freezer-friendly Crockpot meals?

We have SO many to choose from in this roundup of 20+ Crockpot Freezer Meals. Make sure to hop over and browse around.

Can you make Spaghetti Sauce in the Instant Pot?

spaghetti sauce being ladled out of the Instant Pot

Yes! In fact, you can cook the entire meal, including the sauce and spaghetti(!!), in your Instant Pot. Use the directions in our Instant Pot Spaghetti Sauce blog post.

HOW TO SERVE CROCKPOT PASTA SAUCE

This sauce works to serve over any pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, or even quinoa. It’s super versatile!

Whole wheat spaghetti with spaghetti sauce and basil on top

Here are a few ideas of side dishes to serve along with your main dish:

Autumn Chopped Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

autumn chopped salad

OVEN ROASTED Asparagus

GARLIC BREAD (DONE RIGHT!)

garlic bread

BOTTOM LINE

Whether you want a healthy, kid-friendly dinner or a freezer meal on hand for later, we think you’ll love the simplicity and the all-day flavor of this Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce!

Whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce and basil on top
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a hand with a fork twirling a bite of spaghetti on a plate

Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

With a few simple ingredients, this hearty Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce couldn’t be easier or tastier! Serve over pasta, zoodles, or spaghetti squash for a delicious and healthy dinner. Double and freeze a batch for later using our freezing instructions.


Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef (Here’s where we get our grass-fed beef.)
  • 1/2 pound mild ground Italian sausage or Italian turkey sausage (I get my Italian sausage from ButcherBox, because it’s hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and has no icky additives.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 (approx. 24-ounce) jars marinara sauce (or 6 cups of Homemade Marinara Sauce)
  • Optional, for serving: whole-grain pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, or quinoa, and Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Make It Now:

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring in the garlic the last 30 to 60 seconds of cooking. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, seasoning lightly with the red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper while it cooks. Drain the grease from the pan. (Freezing instructions begin here.)

2. Transfer the meat mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the marinara sauce. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. If the edges start to burn a little, just give it a stir.

3. Serve the sauce over whole-grain pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, or quinoa, topped with Parmesan, if desired.

Freeze For Later:

Follow step 1. Let the meat mixture cool, then transfer it to a gallon-size freezer bag or container and pour in the marinara. Seal, gently toss to combine, and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen:

(Note: You will need to have cooked whole-grain pasta, zoodles, or quinoa and (optional) Parmesan on hand to complete this meal.) Thaw. Transfer the sauce to the slow cooker and follow steps 3 and 4.


Notes

We recommend buying an organic or all-natural brand of marinara sauce to avoid additives and preservatives. One of our favorites is Newman’s Own Marinara Sauce or Newman’s Own Organic Marinara Sauce.

You can fully cook and freeze this meal, too. After slow cooking the sauce, let it cool. You can divide it into small containers and put in the fridge to cool off faster. Then, freeze the sauce. When you’re ready to use it, thaw using one of these methods and warm in the microwave, stove top or slow cooker.

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