Make the most of the flavor of summer produce with a batch of Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce from fresh tomatoes. This method is super easy and delivers on the classic Italian flavor your family craves all year long.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
If you have a pile of fresh tomatoes to use up, but you don’t have time to spend a day canning, you will love this recipe. And if your kiddos love pasta, you will double love it! It took me a few years to figure out this method, but it’s by far the easiest way that I’ve found to quickly turn a pile of tomatoes into delicious spaghetti sauce.
Using Fresh Tomatoes to Make Spaghetti Sauce
We’re fortunate to almost always have an excess of fresh tomatoes late in the summer since our neighbor happens to be a farmer. She, like many farmers, typically have “seconds” which are tomatoes that are perfectly fine but may have a blemish or two that prevents them from being sold at market.
You can often get these for much less cost per pound that perfect tomatoes, but they have the same fresh tomato flavor. And it’s easy to turn them into sauce using the crock pot.
How to Make Spaghetti Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes Step-by-Step
Previously, the idea of making sauce in the slow cooker made no sense to me because with the lid on, there’s no chance for the liquid to evaporate. And trust me, fresh tomatoes have a ton of liquid that needs to cook off.
But then I realized: Instead of cooking the liquid down, I could just separate it out. Here’s how the process of making Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce works.
- Fill the slow cooker with chopped fresh tomatoes, stems discarded, and the garlic. You do not need to peel the tomatoes. Cover and cook on low.
- Remove the lid and let cool.
- Use a large slotted spoon to scoop out the tomato solids and garlic into a blender, leaving the liquid in the slow cooker. Transfer the liquid to storage containers.
- Add oregano, salt, olive oil, and basil to the tomatoes in the blender and blend into a smooth sauce. (You may need to do two batches.)
Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce
This is a great basic marinara sauce for pasta since it’s packed with tomato flavor and really doesn’t need much else. It’s a nice vegetarian pasta sauce for weeknight family dinners. And it packs a huge dose of Vitamins A and C!
How long can I store this sauce?
Once cooled, you can pour the sauce into freezer containers or storage bags and freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature. (Don’t worry if it looks a little separated—it will come back together when it’s warmed up.) To use, heat a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
What do I do with the leftover liquid?
The liquid the tomatoes leave behind, which I call “tomato water” is a flavorful substitution for stock or broth. It’s particularly great in lentil or bean soups and in chili. I love making my spaghetti sauce this way because instead of having all of that flavorful liquid evaporate, you get to keep it for another use. I let it cool and freeze it in containers the same way as the sauce.
Tips for Making the Best Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
- You do not need to peel the tomatoes.
- Let the tomatoes cool enough that you can safely blend them. If they are too hot, the steam may cause the top of the blender to come off (and trust me, you don’t want that!). Blend the sauce in two batches to help eliminate the possibility of this even more.
- Blend the sauce on high to fully blend in the tomato skins.
- Let cool before storing the containers in the fridge or freezer.
- Thaw in the fridge or at room temperature.
- Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper before you toss it with the pasta.
So without ever turning on the stove or heating up the kitchen, you can make use of those garden fresh tomatoes while you sleep. (Okay, you have a little work to do in the morning and you still need to chop the tomatoes, but it’s so much less intense than the traditional methods of tomato preserving.)
LET ME KNOW IF YOU MAKE THE RECIPE—I’D LOVE TO HEAR WHAT YOUR FAMILY THOUGHT OF IT!Print
Scale up or down for a smaller or larger slow cooker. You don’t have to be precise! And the chopped tomatoes can be very roughly chopped.
- 4 quarts fresh tomatoes, very roughly chopped with stems discarded
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Fill the slow cooker with chopped fresh tomatoes, stems discarded, and the garlic. Cover and cook on low overnight, or for about 8-10 hours.
- Remove the lid and let cool for 30-60 minutes. (This makes it possible to blend them without the risk of the steam making your blender explode. Which is key.)
- Use a large slotted spoon or small mesh spoon to scoop out the tomato solids and garlic into a blender, leaving the liquid in the slow cooker. Add oregano, salt, olive oil, and basil and blend into a smooth sauce. (You may need to do two batches.)
- Pour into freezer containers or storage bags and freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge. (Don’t worry if it looks a little separated—it will come back together when it’s warmed up.)
- To use, heat a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Meat sauce: Brown 1 pound of ground beef, turkey, or even sausage before Step 5. Add the sauce and simmer, to make a simple meat sauce.
Ratatouille sauce: Add a chopped yellow squash, eggplant, and onion to the tomato mixture in the slow cooker. Proceed as directed.
Stovetop: You can do this method on the stovetop if you prefer, ladling off spoonfuls of liquid as it separates out. Or simply let it bubble away all day!