slow-cooked meat sauce

Nesting is an odd compulsion. While I’m buying out the store of newborn diapers, wiping down the baseboards in the closet, and vaccuming every last Cheerio out of the car, I know in the back of my mind that I don’t need to be doing this. In fact, I probably should not be doing this. The baby surely doesn’t care if the corners are full of dust bunnies and I should be squirreling away my energy for the sleep deprivation to come.

Instead I squirrel away diapers and meals. The latest Ziploc to grace my freezer is full of this wonderful slow-cooked meat sauce, made in the Crock Pot in a quantity enough to feed an army. Or enough for several meals for two sleep-deprived parents and one bouncing two year-old. The flavors are rich, the sauce is thick, and it is a truly easy comfort food.

To make it, you’ll need red wine, an onion, a little sugar, basil and oregano (fresh if you have them, dried if you don’t), tomato sauce, tomato paste*, crushed tomatoes, garlic, carrots, salt, and the meat of your choice. I use ground beef but turkey, pork and sausage would all work well.

*I use store-brand tomato sauce and paste because I like a deal. Just read the ingredients carefully; they should contain little more than tomatoes. I’ve seen scary store brands that contain corn syrup.

Oh, and roasted peppers. Locally grown…in the Napa Valley. And crushed red pepper. All forms of pepper magically escaped my ingredients photo.

Brown the ground beef and drain as much fat as you can manage.

Mince (or twist!) the garlic. This is one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets.

Chop the onion, peppers and carrots.

Saute the onions, carrots and garlic in a bit of butter or olive oil until tender. Toss in the roasted peppers during the last few minutes.

Now comes Lucy’s favorite part: stirring everything together. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, switching to high and removing the lid for the last hour to thicken the sauce. If you like, finish it with a little milk or cream and parmesan cheese.

When I no longer have time to worry about the Cheerios in the car and the dust bunnies in the closet, I will be happy that this rich meat sauce is in my freezer for dinner. It’s so easy that I may even have time to whip up another batch with a newborn strapped to my chest and a toddler tugging at my leg.

Or maybe not.


Slow-Cooked Meat Sauce

This recipe makes a large batch, so plan on feeding a crowd or freeze portions of cooled sauce in airtight containers for up to 3 months.

Yield: Approximately 10 cups of sauce Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 7-8 hours

Special Equipment: Slow Cooker

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef, sausage, turkey or pork
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 c chopped roasted red peppers
  • 29 oz can tomato sauce
  • 29 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 c red wine
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. Brown meat with 1 tsp of the kosher salt. Drain of fat and spoon meat into bowl of slow cooker.

2. Mince the garlic and dice the onions and carrots. Heat butter or olive oil on medium in a large saute pan. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the carrots and onion and saute 6-7 minutes, or until carrots are tender and onion is translucent. Add the roasted peppers and saute 2 minutes more. Carefully spoon vegetables into bowl of slow cooker.

3. To the slow cooker add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, sugar, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and the remaining 1 1/2 tsp salt. Stir well, cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. During the last hour, switch heat to high and remove the lid to thicken the sauce. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. If desired, stir in 1/2 cup milk or cream and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese before serving.


  1. This was the first recipe I tried from your site, and it was amazing! I plan on trying another one this weekend. Thank you!

  2. I also tried this with a boneless pork shoulder, and it was terrific! I had it in the slow cooker for 12 hours on low while I was at work. Thanks, Rainy Day Gal. And Nural, too! 🙂

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