Recipe: Crockpot Spaghetti Meat Sauce

Oh the convenience of a crockpot... the inventor should definitely be given sainthood.  It freed women everywhere of long hours simmering sauces, soups and a host of other foods. 

Truth be told I make my spaghetti sauces on top of the stove too.. in fact, I have a number of recipes that can come together in as little as 30 minutes... But I will be the first to tell you nothing beats a sauce that has been  simmering for hours.

As with a lot of recipes, there is a lot of leeway with this recipe.. certainly adapt it to your own tastes...

With the meat ingredient in this recipe you have a number of options...  so adjust it to what you like or what you have on hand... keep in mind some meats are blander than others and you may have to adjust the seasoning accordingly.. let your taste buds be your guide.

I use one pound hot Italian sausage and one pound sweet (or mild) sausage.  Bulk sausage is what I used, but link sausage also works... cook it and slice it.

This sauce recipes makes a lot... so one night we have it over penne pasta and the leftovers are either frozen in "dinner size" quantities...(a great timesaver for weeknight meals) or I use this sauce as a base for my lasagna.

You can sub ground beef for the Italian sausage (all or part of the 2 pounds of meat)... keep in mind it will change the flavor of this sauce... not better or worse.. just different.

I prefer Hunt's Diced Tomatoes...  I like the way the sauce comes out.. especially for when I use it for lasagna, there are no large lumps of tomato. 

The canned tomatoes come in "flavors"... at least most brands do anyway... I like to use the at least one can of the Garlic flavored one and sometimes the Basil Oregano and Garlic ones....  both are great flavor enhancers.. and in answer to your next question do I still use the quantities of seasonings in the recipe... the answer is YES! 

Will the sauce come out good with the plain canned tomatoes? ... absolutely!  In fact, the sauce in the picture was made with one can of Hunt's Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and the rest were plain Hunt's Diced Tomatoes because that's what I had on hand... it came out great.. I didn't need to adjust the seasonings at all.. not even the garlic quantity...

Fresh herbs versus dried... Fresh is great.. but most people don't have them on hand..  and for this recipe, dried herbs will be fine...

Tomato paste really is optional... if you like really thick sauce.. definitely use it... my sauce is meaty thick with a little runny tomato juice from the canned tomatoes.. I definitely add tomato paste if I will use the sauce as a base for lasagna.

I added mushrooms to this sauce.. I list them as optional.. we love mushrooms.. but if you're not a fan.. leave them out.

Tomato paste comes plain or seasoned.. again... it's not necessary to use the seasoned ones... but you certainly can.

This recipe will serve 8.

This is easy...just a few prep steps.. pop everything in the crockpot and 8 hours later... you have a great sauce!

Recipe:   Crockpot Spaghetti Meat Sauce

All you need:

1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 pound bulk sweet or mild Italian sausage
2 large onions, diced
1 pkg.  (8 oz.) fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
5 cans (14.5 oz.) Hunt's Diced Tomatoes *See TIPS
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional) * See TIPS

All you need to do:

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, brown the sausage, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.  When sausage is completely cooked (no longer pink) remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and put it into the crockpot.

Leaving about 1 tablespoon of the fat from the sausage in the pan, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Heat over medium high heat and add the onions... cook for about 3 minutes.. do not let the onions brown, reduce the heat if necessary.

Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until onions and mushrooms are soft.  Remove skillet from heat and remove vegetables with a slotted spoon, leaving as much grease in the pan as possible.  Dump them into the crockpot.

Add the remaining ingredients and set the crockpot on low.  Stir well and cook for 8 hours.

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