Busy weeknights call for super easy recipes with minimal effort, and this Slow Cooker Spaghetti Meat Sauce answers that call every time! It doesn’t get much easier than this spaghetti sauce recipe that’s ready to enjoy after slowly cooking into a fantastic recipe for dinner. Easy ingredients, minimal effort, and the most delicious sauce served over your choice of pasta or is the start of another tasty recipe. Just 10 minutes to prepare, and the slow cooker does all the work for you to bring a family-favorite classic dinner recipe to the table without all the fuss!
Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce – The EASY Way!
There is no need to sacrifice a deliciously wholesome dinner when you can easily use your slow cooker to create a hearty spaghetti meat sauce. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from cooking for a family is that you don’t have to miss out on good food, even when you’re busy or short on time. You can start this recipe in the morning and fill your bellies by dinner.
Why I LOVE this Spaghetti Meat Sauce recipe
- The flavor is so satisfyingly delicious! For added dimension and richness, I use ground beef and sausage for this spaghetti sauce in the crockpot. This recipe also calls for two different canned tomatoes: fire-roasted and Italian-style. The latter is, of course, a classic pairing, but the fire-roasted tomatoes are sweet and subtly smokey.
- Super easy make-ahead recipe. Dump in the pot, add the lid, and that’s it! This is a ridiculously easy crockpot spaghetti sauce recipe that you’ll add to your busy weekday dinner repertoire.
- Perfect for freezing. If you’ve got a large enough slow cooker, I urge you to double the recipe and freeze a batch to get dinner to the table even quicker and hassle.
- Great for families, and kids love it! Making a slow-cooked spaghetti sauce with meat is an excellent way to have a hands-free dinner, and your family will surely love it. Its classic flavors are ones kids crave and are sure to please the whole crowd.
What to Serve with this Crockpot Meat Spaghetti Sauce
Since this dish has classic Italian flavors and a traditional spaghetti sauce with meat, it will pair well with many of your favorite easy side dishes. There are both classic options and some healthy options to keep it light.
Side Dish Ideas
- Light side salad with a homemade blue cheese dressing or balsamic vinaigrette
- Garlic Roasted Vegetables
- Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
- Garlic Bread
- Pasta: spaghetti, linguine, penne, or tortellini
You can choose one or add a few sides to make a wholesome, well rounded dinner.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Meat Sauce Recipe Notes
This homemade crockpot spaghetti sauce recipe is as simple as promised! Just 10 minutes of prep and at least 3 hours for a family-friendly meal.
In this section, I will go through a few tips and tricks I use when making this recipe to get the absolute most delicious results.
Make sure to scroll to the bottom for the FULL recipe card.
Ingredients + Substitutions
- Ground beef – I used 1 pound of ground beef for a hearty meat sauce to feed the whole family and also have some leftovers. I like to use an 80/20 or 90/10 ratio to reduce the amount of grease in the sauce. You can also substitute ground turkey or ground chicken if you want to lighten it up a bit.
- Italian sausage – You can use ground Italian sausage or links and bust out the meat from the casing. For a little extra bite, use spicy sausage.
- Onion – Yellow onions are great for rich sauces as they have a stronger flavor that shines through and smoothes into the sauce after hours of cooking. White onions are also a good option.
- Tomato sauce – This is the bulk of the sauce so use a good quality for best results.
- Canned diced tomatoes – I use a combination of Fire Roasted and Italian-style diced tomatoes. I love the flavor combination but you can use your favorite canned tomatoes.
- Tomato paste – This one ingredient is where that umami flavor shines. You can cook it down into a thick brown paste first to deepen and enhance the flavors even more.
Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning
I like to use a combination of classic dried Italian herbs and spice with salt to balance the flavors of this slow cooker spaghetti meat sauce to give you that traditional flavor:
- Dried herbs – Italian seasoning, oregano, thyme, and basil. If you want to swap out any of the dry herbs for fresh herbs, multiply the amount of dry by 3. So ¼ teaspoon dried thyme would amount to ¾ teaspoon fresh chopped thyme.
- Garlic powder – You could substitute 2 tablespoons fresh grated or minced garlic instead, but garlic powder is the quickest and easiest option.
- Salt – Remember that the canned tomato products already include salt, so add to taste.
- White sugar – This is the key ingredient for neutralizing the acidity in the spaghetti sauce. Wait until the end of cooking to stir it in. Add a little more if the sauce is still a little harsh. But remember it’s easier to add more later than take away so watch how much you add to begin with to preserve the flavor balance.
How to Make Spaghetti Meat Sauce in the Slow Cooker
For extra flavor, I suggest this additional but optional extra step, which is first to cook the ground beef, Italian sausage, and onions to build a rich base that enhances the flavors of the ingredients before slowly cooking in the tomato sauce.
After the meat mixture is brown and the onions softened, drain any excess fat or liquid and then carefully transfer to the crock pot. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste, and spices and stir until combined. Wait until the end to add in the sugar.
Set the slow cooker to low, add the lid, and let cook for a minimum of 3 hours. The tomatoes and sauce may seem chunky at first, but after it gradually cooks, they will soften and meld together into a beautifully rich sauce. Before serving, stir in the sugar to cut out the acidity.
- Cook the meats and onions first. This step is optional, but I prefer to take it because the results are well worth it. Browning the beef and sausage first adds more texture and offers a richer flavor and texture. Caramelizing the onions will add a sweetness that occurs from this cooking process. If you’re short on time, you can skip this step and still have a delicious spaghetti sauce recipe.
- Use one or two meats. I love the combination of beef and sausage, but you can choose to use just one or the other if you prefer. Try switching them for ground turkey for a light meat sauce with tomatoes.
- Add in more vegetables. Clear out your vegetable drawer by adding extra chopped vegetables to your sauce, such as bell peppers, carrots, or mushrooms.
- Reduce the tomato paste. It deepens the flavor and offers a robust umami taste. Plus, it’s another way to reduce the acidity of tomatoes.
- Cook longer for more depth and less acidity. For this crockpot spaghetti meat sauce, you should cook it for at least 3 hours at a low temperature. But, if you have the time and start it in the morning, you can let it continue to cook for up to 8-10 hours. The longer spaghetti sauce cooks, the more flavor you will create by allowing the tomatoes to break down into a sauce-like consistency and reducing their acidity. The taste will intensify as the water content is reduced, making a velvety rich tomato sauce with chunks of savory meats.
Recipe Short Cuts
While this slow cooker recipe for spaghetti sauce is already super quick to prepare and pretty much hands-off, if you need to make this recipe but are extra short on time, here are a few ideas that can help make this recipe even faster!
- Skip cooking the meat and onions first – While this is a great way to build flavor, you can crumble the meat into the slow cooker with the other ingredients when you’re short on time. Towards the end, use a spatula to help break down the pieces even more before serving.
- Make ahead of time – If you have time earlier in the week to put this homemade spaghetti sauce in the crockpot, you can just heat it when ready to serve. Just cook up the pasta fresh for the best results.
- Use pre-cut onions – This is the only hands-on prep step for this recipe; you can skip it altogether by buying store-bought chopped onions.
If you love this crockpot spaghetti and meat sauce recipe as much as we do and want some quick ways to change it up for variety, these little tips will do the trick!
- Ground Turkey Spaghetti Sauce in the slow cooker – Switch up the ground beef and Italian sausage for ground turkey. You can follow the same recipe steps and use the same tips to make this a light spaghetti sauce.
- Creamy Spaghetti Meat Sauce – Before serving, stir in about ¾ cups heavy cream and ½ cup of Parmesan until heated.
- Slow Cook Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs – Follow our recipe for the best meatballs in marina made right in the slow cooker.
Freezer Meal Instructions
Making this easy weeknight spaghetti with meat sauce recipe into a freezer meal is simple! Follow the steps below, and you can store this recipe in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Allow the sauce to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container: gallon ziptop bags, mason jars, or containers with lids. Then, spoon the sauce into the container.
- If freezing in a zip-top bag, place the bag flat on a baking sheet and in the freezer. Once frozen, you can stack them more easily. Be sure to label the sauce with a name and date.
Meat Spaghetti Sauce Leftovers
If you have leftovers after making crockpot spaghetti with meat sauce, then it is your lucky day! They save and reheat well and can make the start of another delicious dish.
To save leftovers, separate into meal sized portions and then place in an airtight container and store:
- in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- in the freezer up 3 months.
Spaghetti Sauce Leftover Recipes
Here are a few ways to repurpose those leftovers and give them a delicious makeover! The sauce is already ready to go, simply move on to the next step of the recipe.
- Million Dollar Baked Spaghetti – Toss spaghetti meat sauce in with the remaining ingredients and bake into a cheesy dinner baked to perfection.
- Tomato Basil Pasta – Use this meat sauce to make a heartier version of this simple creamy tomato basil sauce tossed with penne.
- Skillet Lasagne – Layer this sauce in a skillet with ricotta and cheese and bake until melty. Serve over pasta, rice, or potatoes.
- Meatball Sliders – Toss in meatballs and serve on slider rolls for a quick lunch or dinner using leftover spaghetti sauce.
- Tortellini – Heat up leftover slow-cooked spaghetti sauce with tortellini, spinach, and Parmesan for an easy dinner. It’s a quick way to reuse the leftovers and create a new meal.
- Stuffed peppers – Fill the peppers with the meat mixture, spoon the sauce, and bake with cheese until golden brown and bubbly.
More Slow Cooker Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe, I really hope you will take a moment to grab a few more easy recipes for another busy night!
You can check out all of my Crock Pot recipes here, or see a few of our readers favorite recipes below.
- Slow Cooker Barbacoa Street Tacos
- Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie
- Crock Pot Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
- Easy Crock Pot Chili
Hungry for more family-friendly recipes? Sign up for my free recipe club to get new family-friendly recipes in your inbox each week! Find me sharing daily meal-time inspiration on Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok.
Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 can tomato sauce (15 ounce)
- 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
- 1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
- 1 can tomato paste (6 ounce)
Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef, Italian sausage and onion and cook until browned. Once done, drain any excess fat or liquid.
- Carefully transfer the meat mixture to the crock pot. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the sugar to the pot and mix to combine.
- Cook on low for 3-8 hours. Before serving, stir in the sugar, then serve over spaghetti or other pasta.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)