Slow cooking this marinara sauce caramelises the sugar in the tomatoes and creates the most incredible depth of flavour that you won’t ever get in a store bought bottled pasta sauce. It takes mere minutes to throw everything into the slow cooker, then just set and forget.
When it comes to store bought sauces, there’s a line I never cross. Store bought tomato sauce and ketchup is acceptable. Store bought chilli sauce and complicated ones like worcestershire sauce are also acceptable to buy rather than make.
But pasta sauce is a no-go. No way, no day. The thing is, there are so many pastas you can make in 15 minutes from scratch that I just can’t comprehend why anyone would buy a bottle of pasta sauce. For example, here are 8 Simple Classic Italian Pastas that I shared last month, all of which are on the table in 15 minutes.
Making a pasta with a proper authentic marinara sauce takes longer than 15 minutes because you need to let it simmer away so the flavours can develop. Making it on the stove, I cook mine for at least 30 minutes, preferably for 1 hour. Time I don’t have mid week.
That’s why having a slow cooker version of marinara sauce is so handy. It takes 5 minutes to dump the ingredients into the slow cooker, then set and forget. The slow cooking caramelises the sugar in the tomatoes and creates a depth of flavour that store bought will never be able to compare to. It will keep for a week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
I like my marinara sauce smooth because I like how evenly it coats the pasta. I also find it is easier to use as a sauce to pour over cannelloni and lasagne. So once the slow cooker is done, I use a handheld stick to whizz it until smooth which literally takes seconds. One tip: don’t forget to remove the bay leaves!! Because they’re dried, they are quite tough and stringy and when you whizz it, you end up with stringy bits throughout your sauce. I’ve made this mistake a few times and it’s irritating!
This recipe makes about 6 cups. I use 2 cups of sauce per 500g/1lb of dried pasta which serves 4 man size portions or 6 lady size servings. This amount of sauce coats the pasta as shown in the photo at the top.
This is also perfect for using for lasagne, cannelloni, Baked Spinach and Ricotta Rotolo (like cannelloni – but better because there’s brown crunchy bits!) and parmigiana (to name a few things!). Hope you enjoy! – Nagi x
- 2 cans (800g/28oz each can) crushed tomatoes (see notes)
- 1 can (170 g / 6 oz) tomato paste
- 1 medium brown onion (or white or yellow), diced
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar (or honey)
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Set for 6 to 8 hours on low.
Optional step: Remove bay leaves, then use a handheld blender to puree until smooth (or to your liking).
Cool before refrigerating or freezing.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add pasta.
Heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic and diced onion, cook until translucent then add 2 cups of Marinara Sauce per 500g/1lb of dried pasta.
Bring sauce to rapid simmer, then add pasta (cooked to just before al dente).
Add 1/4 cup of pasta water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until pasta is al dente and the sauce has thickened and coats the pasta.
Serves 4 hungry people or 6 normal servings.
1. I like my marinara sauce smooth so I whizz it up with a hand held blender once it's finished cooking. Because I whizz it up, I can use either crushed or diced tomato. But if you don't plan to puree it, I strongly recommend using crushed rather than diced tomato because otherwise the sauce will be quite chunky - in my personal opinion, it is too chunky which means it doesn't coat the pasta as evenly and also doesn't spread as well for things like lasagna and cannelloni.
2. This sauce can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 week or freezer for 3 months.