Use the power of your slow cooker to make an incredible Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef. This recipe makes a large batch, so you can serve it over noodles one night, then repurpose it in casseroles or Italian Nachos the next!
This post is sponsored by the Ohio Beef Council. As always, all opinions are my own.
Cook Once, Eat Three Times: Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef
We started our Cook Once, Eat Three Times series a few years ago as a way of jump-starting the busy back to school season with a big batch recipe you can use for at least three meals.
This year, we’re bringing you this Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef. It’s a set it and forget it recipe that makes a LARGE batch of spaghetti sauce, which you can then serve over pasta or add to other recipes. The leftovers make an incredible Spaghetti Grilled Cheese.
We adapted our favorite Sauce for Spaghetti and Meatballs to make this an easy slow cooker recipe. We hope it’ll become one you turn to again and again when you’re looking for a satisfying meal (or three).
Reasons to Love Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce
- Easy– After browning the ground beef, everything gets tossed in the slow cooker. Set it and walk away. By dinner time, your house will smell amazing and everything will be ready to go!
- Big batch and budget friendly– This crock pot spaghetti sauce is great for making multiple meals (a family of 4 can get three meals out of this!), or for sharing with friends or family who could use a meal.
- Freezes beautifully– This spaghetti sauce is easily frozen and taken out on busy weeknights.
- A short cut for other recipes Once you’ve made this sauce, it can easily be used in other Italian favorites, like Cottage Cheese Lasagna, cutting your prep time in half!
Ingredients in Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Crushed tomatoes– You’ll need 3 large jars. I really like Cento brand, and find they thread the needle well between price and quality.
- Tomato paste– You’ll only need one tablespoon for this recipe, which is far less than what comes in a standard can. If you can find a tomato paste tube, it’s super convenient to use and the leftovers store well in the fridge. Use it to add rich flavor to this Ground Beef and Potatoes Skillet or Crock Pot Hamburger Soup.
- Sugar– We prefer a mildly sweet spaghetti sauce. Feel free to lower or increase the sugar to your tastes.
- Fresh basil and parsley– We love using fresh herbs in the summer when they’re readily available, but you can substitute half the amount of dried herbs if you prefer.
- Other seasonings– We add oregano and red pepper flakes for a little heat.
- Ground beef– Purchase ground beef with a bright, red color that is firm to the touch and doesn’t have excessive liquid in the package. Ground beef can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months. This recipe can use 80/20 or leaner ground beef, based on your preference.
- Onions and garlic– Two flavor champs we use in almost every red sauce or soup recipe.
How to Make Spaghetti Sauce in the Crock Pot
- Brown the beef and onions. In a large heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and onions, spreading them out over the bottom of the skillet. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for several minutes until the bottom is browned. Stir, and continue cooking until the beef is browned on all sides and no pink remains. Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute, or until fragrant. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Make the sauce. Meanwhile, in a large slow cooker, combine the crusted tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, parsley, sugar, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt.
- Combine and cook. Add the beef mixture to the slow cooker, leaving behind any excess oil and fat. Stir well. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
FAQS and Tips
Can you freeze spaghetti sauce?
Absolutely! This big batch of Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce is perfect for freezing. I normally divide it into quart sized bags, with 3-3.5 cups of sauce in each. This amount is similar to what is found in a 24-28 oz jar of spaghetti sauce, and perfect for adding to casseroles like Company Casserole or Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Casserole. Thaw spaghetti sauce overnight in the fridge, then reheat on the stove top or slow cooker.
Can you keep spaghetti sauce warm in a slow cooker?
For sure! After the spaghetti sauce is cooked, it can be kept on the warm setting for a few hours. You can also reheat leftover spaghetti sauce on the low setting for 1-2 hours.
Can you put jar sauce in a slow cooker?
Yes. If you need a short cut, just saute your ground beef, onion, and garlic, transfer to the slow cooker, and add 3 28 ounce jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce. Cook as usual!
Can you add spaghetti noodles to the crock pot?
I don’t recommend this. The noodles don’t cook properly in the sauce, resulting in gummy spaghetti.
Variations on Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce
- Feel free to substitute half of the ground beef with Italian sausage if you prefer.
- The sauce can be made without meat and served with meatballs. We love these Italian meatballs or these Gluten Free Meatballs without Breadcrumbs.
- Experiment with the flavor by adding roasted garlic or a swirl of cream to the sauce.
More Budget Friendly Ground Beef Recipes
Ground beef is one of our go-tos for affordable and accessible nutrition. Just a 3 ounce serving provides 20 grams of protein, plus nutrients like iron and zinc. We’ve found buying a side of beef to be an extremely economical way to purchase beef, but there are plenty more ways to save at the grocery store as well.
Here are more budget friendly recipes to stretch ground beef:
- Cheesy Ground Beef Quesadillas
- Taco Tater Tot Casserole
- One Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni
- Ground Beef Gyro Bowls
- Hamburger Potato Casserole
- Creamy Taco Soup
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 3 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 Tablespoons (a heaping 1/3 cup) fresh chopped basil
- 6 Tablespoons (a heaping 1/3 cup) fresh chopped parsley
- 2-4 Tablespoons sugar, to taste
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef and onions, spreading them evenly over the skillet, and cook undisturbed for several minutes. Stir, breaking up the beef, and continue to cook until beef is browned and onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- In a slow cooker, combine the crushed tomatoes, paste, basil, parsley, 2 Tablespoons sugar, oregano, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir in the ground beef mixture and taste. Add salt, pepper, and additional sugar, to taste.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.
Freeze leftover sauce in 3-3.5 cup portions in a freezer safe ziplock bag.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 157mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 17g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.