Spaghetti sauce (or tomato gravy to my Italian friends) is a staple in most households. Rather than watching over the pot for a long, slow-cooked version on the stove, it’s just as easy to toss it all in the crockpot. You won’t need to worry about stirring or boilovers, and you’ll still get that slow-cooked flavor.
Using the crockpot is a time-saver as well as an energy-saver. Prep the sauce and brown the meat the night before, then refrigerate them separately. This way you can quickly toss the sauce over the meat in the morning, plug it in, and go.
This is a true meat-lovers version, using inexpensive beef and pork ribs. I normally use boneless. Using all beef or all pork works just as well, if you prefer not to mix the meats. You may substitute your favorite meatballs or ground beef, of course. If you just want a marinara sauce, skip the meat altogether.
Many folks add sugar or baking soda to homemade spaghetti sauce to combat the acidity level, but I have a secret ingredient that is even better. I use fine-grated carrot, and I mean fine-grated. You’ll need a microplane for this task. It’s fast and does a fabulous job. The carrots will completely melt into the sauce, lending a slight sweetness without any carrot flavor whatsoever. Speaking of melting in, the onions and garlic will also disintegrate into the sauce.
Tomatoes are the star of the sauce, so if possible, choose San Marzano canned tomatoes. They are a meatier variety of Roma tomatoes with less acidity and fewer seeds. These tomatoes may be a little more expensive, but highly recommended by professional chefs and home cooks alike. Luckily they are readily available in most markets these days.
This is a very rich, thick sauce. If you prefer it thinner, add more water.
Unless you are cooking for a crowd, you’ll have sauce left over. Refrigerate it for up to 1 week. Better yet, freeze it in airtight containers up to 6 months. Frozen sauce should be thawed in the refrigerator.
Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
2 cans (6 ounces each or one 12-ounce can) tomato paste
1-1/2 cups water
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed peeled tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
2 medium onion, fine-diced
1 large carrot, fine-grated with a microplane
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 Tablespoon dried oregano, crushed between the palms
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 large bay leaf, broken in half
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1-1/2 pounds beef short ribs, bone-in or boneless
1-1/2 pounds country-style pork ribs, bone-in or boneless
1/2 cup red wine, optional (see Notes)
Salt and pepper
Whisk together the tomato paste and water until smooth.
Place the tomato paste mixture, crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, grated carrot, garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves, and optional red pepper flakes in the base of a 6-quart crockpot. Stir until fully combined.
Cut the short ribs and country-style ribs into individual ribs and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place a heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, coat the bottom with olive oil. Sear each of the ribs on both sides in batches until nicely browned. Set aside.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, until the wine has reduced by half. Stir the wine reduction into the sauce. Add the ribs, along with any accumulated juices, pressing the meat into the sauce so they are completely covered. (You can do all this prep work the night before. Refrigerate the sauce and browned meat separately, then start it in the morning.) The crockpot will be full nearly to the brim, so make sure you have it set in place to plug it in and go so you don’t have to move it.
Cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. The meat should be falling off the bones, if any, or tender enough to break apart easily. At this point, I remove the bones and discard them. Leave the meat in strips, chunks, or shred it. This makes it easier to store, but the choice is yours.
Cooled spaghetti sauce may be frozen in air-tight containers for up to 6 months.
Yield: 5 to 6 quarts
• If you cannot use wine, skip the deglazing step.