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Crockpot Marinara Sauce Recipe | An Italian Classic

This is a version of my Healthy Homemade Marinara Sauce Recipe adapted for the crockpot.  You don’t have to be home all day to have a homemade meal ready for dinner!  This flavorful sauce is a family favorite.  Try it and you will see why!

homemade red sauce over angel hair with parmesan cheese and a fork

Oh pasta with red sauce, how we love thee!  It’s the perfect weeknight dinner, easy and full of flavor, this slow cooker marinara recipe will be a family favorite if you give it a try.  A traditional marinara sauce that’s completely homemade from scratch and you don’t have to babysit it on the stove.

How to Make Crockpot Marinara Sauce

I start by almost pureeing the onions and carrots in a food processor. I chop them into teeny, tiny pieces.  I like to do this because it’s easier than chopping and once the sauce simmers for a while it breaks up into the sauce and becomes part of the flavor without anyone even knowing it’s there. But it is there, adding TONS of flavor.  The onion adds to the savory flavors in this sauce and the carrot adds a subtle sweetness and reduces the acidic nature that marinara sauce can sometimes have.

Sautee the Veggies

Then I add the carrots and onions to a large pot with the olive oil (use the good tasting stuff if you can) and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the veggies are nice and soft. After that, a whole can of tomato paste gets added to the pot. Cooking the tomato paste for a minute or two this way deepens the flavor, and let’s it carmelize, it’s a worthwhile step…don’t skip it!

 Ever wonder how to make spaghetti sauce less acidicCarrots are the key! They add a sweetness to the sauce that balances out the acidity of the tomatoes without having to add sugar.  After it cooks, if the sauce isn’t to your liking you can add a little sugar, but I never have to, the carrots usually do what’s needed. 

sauteed carrots, onions, and tomato paste

Add the Wine

Now on to the next layer of flavor, add some red wine. I know some don’t care to use wine in your cooking and you could leave it out, but the depth of flavor can’t be recreated any other way in my humble opinion.  All the alcohol will cook out and you will be left with a luscious flavor and texture…mmmm.
What kind of wine goes with pasta and red sauce? A red wine of course! We love to buy Tuscan wines like a Chinati or Montepulciano for this recipe but choose your favorite inexpensive bottle because there will be some leftovers for the chef. If you like the way it tastes to drink, you’ll enjoy the flavor it gives the sauce.
add one cup to deglaze the pan and get all of the caramelized tomato paste and vegetable bits off of the bottom.  It adds the best flavor and really give the sauce an authentic taste.

Next comes the garlic. I usually use 5 cloves. Don’t be scared of using too much garlic. You can even use more than 5 cloves if you want!  I don’t think that it is possible to use too much garlic when cooking a marinara sauce. Mince it, chop it, thinly slice it, it doesn’t matter.  It will all cook down, get soft, and mellow out so use as much as you’d like!

Why use San Marzano Tomatoes?

When making this recipe I like to use canned whole San Marzano tomatoes with basil if I can find them. The flavor is so much better than regular canned tomatoes in my opinion. But I have made this marinara plenty of times with regular canned diced tomatoes and it is still absolutely delicious!   If they don’t carry them at your local grocery store, you can get them on Amazon.  I’ve also seen them at Costco.  Add your tomatoes to the pot, and then add the seasonings and a little sugar if you like a sweeter sauce.

Cooking the Marinara

Add the red wine and veggie mixture to your crock pot.  Then stir in the rest of the ingredients and cook it in the crockpot on low for about 4 hours.  Sometimes I will make the sauce up to this step the night before I want to serve it.  I’ll stick the crockpot liner in the fridge with the lid and in the morning before I go to work I’ll just set up the crock pot and turn it on.  Once it cooks for 4 hours, I let it sit on the warm setting until I get home.  Works like a charm!  Then all I have to do is cook some pasta and make a salad.  Easy Peasy!

Right before you serve the crock pot marinara sauce, you could stir in some fresh herbs like basil or parsley if you’d like to add a little freshness.  Serve with any kind of pasta you like, a fresh salad, and some delicious crusty bread to soak up that tasty sauce!

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce FAQs

How Long Does Pasta Sauce Last in the Fridge?

Pasta sauce lasts about 3-4 days in the fridge. If you aren’t going to eat it before then you can freeze it in quart-sized Ziploc bags.

Can you freeze this Slow cooker Marinara Sauce Recipe?

Absolutely! I often freeze extras for another day, and when I pull it out of the freezer, I’m always glad that I did.  To freeze let the sauce cool and scoop it with a measuring cup into a labeled, freezer-safe, Ziploc bag. Squeeze any extra air out (carefully!) and close tightly. Freeze the bag on a flat surface. Once it’s frozen flat and solid you can line several bags of sauce up in your freezer for an easy and fast meal!

Can I make this recipe in the Instant pot?

Yes!  The crockpot tastes a little better, but in a pinch, it can be done!  It can be cooked on low pressure for 12 minutes and either slow (naturally) released or quick released if you’re really in a rush.

Dinner Ideas with Crockpot Marinara Sauce

  • Roast Green beans or spaghetti squash in the oven and top with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese for a lower-carb or gluten-free option.  Meatballs are a nice addition here too!
  • Put some marinara in a saucepan and add some red pepper flakes. Once it’s simmering crack a couple of eggs gently into the sauce and top the eggs with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny. Serve the eggs and sauce in a bowl with crusty bread for a delicious breakfast or brunch treat!
  • Add your favorite meatballs to the sauce until they are cooked through. Serve over pasta or as an appetizer topped with mozzarella cheese.
  • Use it as the base for your favorite lasagne
  • Top grilled chicken thighs with leftover marinara and fresh basil for an easy summertime meal.
  • Add to cooked ground beef or turkey and serve on rolls as an Italian Sloppy Joe sandwich.
  • Add it to leftover spaghetti and make a pasta frittata.
  • Make French bread pizzas and use the leftover marinara as the pizza sauce
  • Use this tasty marinara sauce as a dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks or garlic bread sticks…yum!
  • Brown some ground beef or turkey, toss with leftover marinara and serve on burger buns for Italian Sloppy Joes.  These are great with a little melted provolone on the top too.
  • Make baked spaghetti or ziti or penne and top with lots of cheese!
  • Spoon a few tablespoons of marinara over grilled zucchini and top with a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese for an easy summer side dish.
spaghetti sauce over angel hair in a bowl


Tomato sauce over angel hair pasta with parmesan cheese
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5 from 3 votes

Crockpot Marinara Sauce Recipe | An Italian Classic

Our Family's Favorite Marinara Sauce Recipe
Keyword dinner, marinara, pasta, spaghetti, tomato sauce
Prep Time 12 minutes
Servings 6


  • Crockpot or Slow Cooker


  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 clove of garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrot
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz can San Marzano peeled tomatoes crushed or mashed
  • 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dry seasoning of your choice (basil, Italian seasoning)
  • 1 tsp sugar only if you like a sweeter sauce. If not, leave this out
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or saucepan.
    2. Chop the onion and the carrot in a food processor or grate on a cheese grater.
    3. Add the onion and carrot to the oil. Cook until the veggies are soft and just start to turn brown. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
    4. Spoon in the can of tomato paste. Stir frequently until the tomato paste begins to caramelize a bit on the bottom of the pan. About 2-3 minutes
    5. Lower the heat to simmer and add the wine to the pan and scrape up any brown bits that may have formed on the pan.
    6. Add the veggie and wine mixture to a large crockpot or slowcooker.
    7. Add the garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar (if using), dry seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
    8. Cook on low heat for 4-5 hours. Can be set to the warm setting after cooking. Add more salt if needed for your taste.
    Serve with your favorite pasta and crusty bread.

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