Classic Slow-Cooker Spaghetti Sauce


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Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 6 hrs
Total: 6 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
266 Calories
12g Fat
17g Carbs
25g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 266
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 69mg 23%
Sodium 554mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Protein 25g
Calcium 75mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This meaty sauce simmers in the slow cooker while you go about your day. Just brown the ground beef first, then let your handy kitchen assistant do the rest of the work.

A 5-quart slow cooker can accommodate this recipe, but you can also cut the ingredients in half. Leftovers do freeze well, though. Spoon the cooled sauce into zip-top freezer bags or airtight containers and store it in the freezer for up to six months. When you're ready to use it again, let the sauce thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.

Feel free to scatter some torn fresh basil or crushed red pepper flakes onto the sauce just before you serve. Use the sauce to top spaghetti, in lasagna, or for a casserole. You can also make Italian-style sloppy Joes or stuffed cabbage rolls, or smother some french fries or a baked potato in it.


  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground chuck or ground round
  • 1 1/2 cups onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 ribs celery (diced)
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) tomatoes (broken up)
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried leaf oregano (crumbled)
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf basil (crumbled)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • Optional: hot cooked spaghetti, linguine, or another variety of pasta
  • Garnish: Parmesan cheese

Steps to Make It

  1. Brown the ground beef with the chopped onion over medium-high heat in a large skillet; use a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to break up any large chunks. Drain off the excess fat and discard.

  2. Transfer the ground beef and onions to the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients through the bay leaf.

  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours, or on HIGH for about 3 hours.

  4. Serve this sauce with spaghetti or another variety of pasta, and pass the Parmesan cheese.

Expert Notes

Canned San Marzano tomatoes have a reputation as the best choice for sauce because of their pronounced sweetness, low acidity, and minimal seeds, but if you cannot find them or want a more budget-friendly option, any Italian-style plum tomatoes work fine. You can always add a bit of sugar or incorporate shredded carrots or finely diced red bell peppers at the beginning to increase the sweetness. Go for the whole peeled variety of tomatoes and crush them by hand before you add them to your slow cooker.

You can simply spoon the sauce on top of a mound of pasta, but for best results, toss the spaghetti and sauce in a large skillet over medium heat, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water as needed to thin the sauce so it can coat every noodle.