Use your slow cooker to make a traditional Italian American Meat Sauce. This spaghetti sauce is so full of flavor with ground beef and pork.
Don't worry if you didn't grow up in an Italian household where Sunday gravy was simmering on the stove all day. You can make your own meat sauce right in your crock pot!
We love pasta around here and this one is always at the top of our list! Nothing beats a classic spaghetti sauce.
This recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich, so you know it's good! I've been making it for years and it really is so special and loaded with flavor.
- Canned tomatoes - preferably San Marzano. If you're curious about why San Marzano tomatoes are usually recommended, this article "What is so Special about San Marzano Tomatoes" will shed some light on it.
- Onions and garlic.
- Pork neck bones - not pictured because I couldn't find any that day. I have made this both with and without and with definitely has a deeper, meatier flavor as you would imagine. But even if I can't find them, I never let it stop me from making this sauce, it's so good either way!
- Ground pork and ground beef - another secret to the complex flavor of this sauce.
- Tomato paste, white wine, bay leaves and dried oregano.
Step by step instructions.
The first step of this process might be new to you (it was for me!). But Lidia has you pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with a fine blade.
I admit as I was doing it, I was thinking, is this extra effort worth it? It is. It is the creamiest, smoothest tomato sauce ever! Now, you could just puree them in your food processor or cut them up with scissors while still in the can and you'll still have a good sauce. But I really recommend you try the food mill, just so you can see how amazing it comes out!
Add the sauce to the slow cooker.
Over medium heat, sauté the onions until they are golden (about 8 minutes.) Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant about a minute.
If you had the pork bones, you would add them in now and cook turning them until they are lightly browned on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes.
Add the ground beef and ground pork to the skillet and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Cook the meat, breaking up the clumps until all of the liquid that comes out of it is boiled away. Continue to cook after that for about 5 minutes to brown the meat.
Add the bay leaves and oregano to the meat mixture and then pour in the wine. Bring it to a boil, scraping up all those browned bits on the skillet - so much flavor in those browned bits! Cook until the wine is completely evaporated.
At this point in time, I changed Lidia's original recipe to finish it off in the slow cooker.
Add the pork/beef mixture to the cooker with the tomato sauce. Add the tomato paste and stir it in.
Cook on low for 8 hours. Her original recipe calls for 3-4 cups of hot water, but since there isn't much if any evaporation in the slow cooker, I didn't use any.
This recipe makes enough to sauce 2 pounds of pasta. So I took half of it and froze it and then made the pasta and added it to the sauce left in the slow cooker.
There's a lot to take away from this classic meat sauce recipe.
Neck bones - if you can find them, use them, they add such a meaty flavor.
Food mill - if you can take the extra time to run your tomatoes through a food mill, you will be rewarded with the smoothest sauce.
Pork and beef - while I make plenty of spaghetti sauces just using ground beef, including pork in the mixture really makes it special.
More classic pasta recipes.
**As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Slow Cooker Italian American Meat Sauce
- 70 ounces San Marzano tomatoes (2 35 ounce cans)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 onions diced (about 2 cups)
- 8 cloves garlic peeled and chopped fine
- 6 meaty pork neck bones (about ¾ pound) (omitted because I couldn’t find any)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano preferably the type dried on the branch, crumbled
- 4 cups hot water I didn’t need any
- Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with a fine blade and place in slow cooker. (Don’t skip this step, it’s a little extra work, but so worth it).
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden about 8 minutes. Make room in the center of the pot and add the garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add the pork bones and cook, turning them, until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork and season lightly with salt. Cook them, breaking up the chunks, until the liquid they give off has boiled away – about 10 minutes. Continue until it is nicely browned about another 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and the oregano and then the wine. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits and cook until the wine has completely evaporated.
- At this point I spooned this into the slow cooker. I added the tomato paste and seasoned again lightly with salt. Covered and cooked on low for about 8 hours.
- If you are doing it on the stove, add the tomatoes, paste and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, and then adjust the heat to keep it at a lively simmer. Cook uncovered for 2-3 hours, adding hot water about ½ cup at a time to maintain the level of liquid. Skim off any fat from the top, remove the bones, adjust the seasoning and spoon over pasta.