Crockpot Tomato Sauce
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This is the BEST EVER Crockpot Tomato Sauce! It’s easy to make marinara sauce in your slow cooker, the perfect homemade spaghetti sauce recipe for any dinner.
Whenever I’m craving comfort food I think about pasta sauce. It reminds me of childhood except this recipe is made in a crockpot so I don’t have to watch it; it cooks itself!
Ugh, you guys this past week has been hard. If you get my newsletter, you’ll know why. Last weekend a good friend of mine lost her husband to cancer. You can read their story here, but long story short, he fought a hard battle for 5 years and leaves behind his wife (my friend) and their two daughters (one of whom is a good friend of Jordan). I’ve been trying to be there for mom, helping her with food and everything. It’s gut-wrenching to see someone you love in so much pain. Jordan and I are flying out to Utah this weekend for his funeral, and it’s going to be horrible to see.
When things like this happen, I turn into myself and I crave comfort. For me, comfort often comes in the form of food. One of those foods I associate with the ultimate comfort is pasta sauce. There’s something about the deep richness of the sauce, and the fact it cooks all day that makes me just feel like I’m being hugged (I assume the pasta I pile it onto doesn’t hurt that either).
As a kid, my mom and dad would make spaghetti sauce a few times a year. It was an all day event that would take place on a Saturday and start early in the morning. I remember watching my mom brown sausage and cut vegetables, then pour all the ingredients into a big stock pot and simmer them all day long, stirring and tasting, until it was perfect. “I always add a bit of honey,” my dad would whisper to me, “it just adds a little something to the sauce.”
After all that work and effort, my parents would boil up a big pot of spaghetti or ravioli and serve it with a big ladle of sauce for dinner…and I wouldn’t eat it. I was a suuuuuuper picky kid and I hated sauce of any kind. In fact, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I could really appreciate pasta sauce and all the delicious flavors that came with it. I think the reason I didn’t like my mom’s sauce was because it was chunky. I don’t like chunks in really anything (hence why I blend up soup) so it was college before I realized that some pasta sauce comes without them. Enter this, my favorite marinara recipe.
I always wondered why marinara was called marinara and other sauces were called Ragu or Spaghetti Sauce. Basically all tomato sauces are just that: sauce with tomato as a base. I learned as a young cook in my mom’s kitchen that Ragu is generally made with meat whereas marinara is often smooth, without meat or chunks (although I think it can also be just how each different cook interprets it). Smooth, without chunks, no meat, that’s my kind of sauce. Tomato Sauce, Marinara, Spaghetti Sauce, it doesn’t matter; it’s all good when you pile it on pasta.
The BEST part about this crockpot recipe is just that: it’s made in the slow cooker. Gone are the days where you have to stick to your kitchen for hours to stir and taste: set this and forget it. Plus, when you come home after a day of work your house will smell incredible, like an Italian kitchen.
Crockpot Tomato Sauce is the best marinara sauce recipe, perfect for an easy spaghetti dinner any day of the week!
This recipe makes about 10 cups of sauce, which is perfect for two big batches of pasta for a large Sunday dinner, or you can portion it in jars for smaller weeknight dinners. It’s good on all the things, as I say: meatballs, ravioli, spaghetti, manicotti, baked penne…or even just warm to dip some nice crusty garlic bread in.
I start my sauce with carrots, onions, celery, and garlic. I chop them small in a food processor so the sauce is fine and not chunky. Prepare the size of the vegetables as you wish, but a food processor or blender helps you chop them quick. Once the vegetables are soft, you add them to a crockpot along with crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, and lots of herbs and spices. I also follow the advice of my dad and “add a little honey” for sweetness.
You won’t be able to help yourself, so be sure to prepare a big batch of pasta for dinner the night you make this. Then freeze the rest for later. This is also a great crockpot tomato sauce for canning, although I’ve never done that. I just add the leftover to a jar or a Tupperware and freeze it for the next time I want homemade pasta sauce.
Want a vegetarian spaghetti sauce? Use water or vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. I just like using stock because it adds a depth of flavor to the sauce that water doesn’t give. If you have a homemade stock, by all means, use that.
I’ve never made this with fresh tomatoes but you sure can. I’d peel them first, though, and crush them well, unless you want a chunky sauce.
More tips for the perfect crockpot tomato sauce:
- Use a fire roasted canned tomato for even more flavor! Regardless of what kind of crushed tomatoes you use, be sure to use a GOOD brand. I buy store brands for lots of things, but not tomato sauce. I like Contadina, Hunt’s, or San Marzano for this recipe.
- Likewise, be sure to buy a good chicken stock, not broth. Use Trader Joe’s, O Organics, or Kitchen Basics (those are my favorites).
- I use dried herbs in this sauce; the long cooking time can be rough on fresh herbs.
- Be sure to taste for salt/pepper towards the end of cooking. I don’t like adding a ton of salt so if you need to add some, go ahead.
- Don’t have honey? Use agave or maple syrup instead.
This slow cooker tomato sauce is perfect for serving with meatballs, a vegetarian spaghetti dish, or even over meatloaf or for a meatball sandwich. It’s flavorful and like a hug in a jar!
The BEST Crockpot Tomato Marinara Sauce
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled
- 1 medium carrot peeled
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken stock or water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Place celery, onion, carrot, and garlic in a food processor and chop until fine. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and place in a 5-7 quart crockpot insert.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock or water, honey, and all spices to the crockpot insert. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low heat 8-10 hours.
- Before serving, taste and add additional salt or pepper as desired.
- Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to one month.
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