This slow cooker meat spaghetti sauce is made with ground beef, fresh garlic, sliced baby portobello mushroom, and fresh herbs. I struggled to find the right title for this sauce; slow cooker beef bolognese, meat, and mushroom pasta sauce, crack pasta sauce, etc. You get the point. It's the only red meat sauce you need for your spaghetti, angel hair, or linguine pasta.
This sauce cooks for a very long time, making the ground beef almost melt in your mouth. It's an easy sauce to cook while doing other things or away at work, and when you are ready for dinner, voila! All you need to do is boil some pasta and spread some pasta sauce love on top.
Want more pasta sauces? Check out this homemade ragu sauce.
Why I Love This Pasta Sauce
There is a time and place for stovetop sauces, but sometimes it's nice to be hands-off. I really like that this slow cooker meat spaghetti sauce is cooking all day low and slow without any effort from my side. It's a great meal to have leftovers for those busy weeks, and it tastes fantastic.
Another reason I love this homemade pasta sauce is that most of the ingredients are things I already have on hand. Not to mention, it's very easy to substitute ingredients in this recipe.
The ingredients and recipe photos shown below are a double batch of this recipe, so if it feels like a large amount, that's why!
- Ground Beef: I use organic ground beef. Lean beef, ground chicken breast, and ground turkey breast are all suitable options for this sauce.
- Canned Tomatoes: You can use canned crushed tomatoes, canned tomato puree, canned diced tomatoes, or canned peeled tomatoes. I've made this sauce with half canned tomatoes and half chopped fresh tomatoes. I haven't tried making it with all fresh tomatoes.
- Tomato Paste: Any kind of tomato paste works.
- Mushrooms: I use baby portobello mushrooms. White mushrooms and brown mushrooms are a suitable option as well. Alternatively, you can omit mushrooms from this recipe if desired.
- Onion: White onion, brown onion, and sweet onion are the best option for this sauce.
- Fresh Garlic: I recommend fresh garlic for this recipe.
- Herbs: I use fresh herbs from my herb garden. This particular recipe uses fresh oregano, fresh basil, and fresh thyme. Dry herbs are an appropriate substitute. For every 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dry herbs.
- Pasta: I use angel hair pasta for this recipe because it cooks very rapidly. See the section below for other pasta options.
- Sugar: I add 1 tablespoon of sugar to this recipe. Omit if desired.
- Salt to taste: I never add salt quantities because salt preference is personal and different types of salt have different saltiness levels.
- Crock Pot (7 quart or larger), Instant Pot (8 quart or larger), or slow cooker (8 quart or larger)
- Chef's knife and cutting board
- Large stovetop pot (to boil the pasta)
How To Make Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
Prepare all of the ingredients. Slice the baby portobello mushrooms, chop the onions, chop the garlic, and chop the fresh herbs.
In a crockpot, add the ground beef, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped onions, chopped garlic, chopped herbs, sugar, 2 cups water, and salt. Mix at the 1-hour mark.
Cook on the high setting for 4 hours or the low setting for 8 hours. Mix the sauce at the halfway mark (4 hours on the low setting and 2 hours on the high setting).
What's The Best Pasta For This Sauce?
My favorite pasta for this spaghetti sauce is angel hair pasta. It's thinner and cooks quicker than regular spaghetti. Other options for pasta are:
- homemade sweet potato gnocchi
Tips and Tricks
- Use a crock pot, instant pot, or slow cooker on a slow cook function. I prefer to make this sauce low and slow. The flavors really infuse together, and the meat melts in your mouth. This recipe can be made on the stovetop but requires more effort and time to attend to it. See the notes section in the recipe card for different ways to cook this sauce.
- Use defrosted ground beef. Do not add frozen ground beef to the crock pot because it will clump.
- Stir the ground beef a minimum of 2 times (after 1 hour and at the halfway mark). You can stir this sauce as much as you want but it needs a minimum of 2 stirs for the ground beef not to clump.
- Prepare the pasta once the sauce is finished. It takes about 10 minutes total to boil the water, drop the pasta in, cook the pasta, and strain.
Making Sure The Ground Beef Doesn't Clump
This pasta sauce requires 2 intermediate stirs throughout the process of cooking in the crockpot. The ground beef will clump together if the sauce is not stirred twice (once after an hour and the second time after the halfway mark).
If you are planning to make this sauce without needing to stir it, cook the ground beef separately in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Then you can literally add all of the ingredients into the crockpot and forget about it until it's done.
Slow Cooker Meat Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 lb ground Beef or ground chicken/turkey
- ½ lb mushrooms white, brown, or baby portobello
- 30 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- 1 medium onion
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1½ tablespoon of freshly chopped herbs thyme, oregano, and basil
- salt to taste
- 2 teaspoon sugar optional
- 1 cup water
- 1 lb angel hair pasta or any other pasta noodle
- Prepare the ingredients. Slice the mushrooms, dice the onions, chop the garlic, and chop the fresh herbs.
- In a slow cooker, add the canned tomatoes, ground meat, tomato paste, mushrooms, diced onions, chopped garlic, chopped fresh herbs, salt, sugar, and water. Don't mix.
- Set the slow cooker to the high setting for 4 hours or the low setting for 8 hours.
- After 1 hour has gone by, stir the sauce. Break up the ground meat with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- At the halfway mark, stir the sauce a second time. Break up any clumps of ground beef.
- Once the spaghetti sauce is finished, boil some water in a large pot. Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the box. Drain the pasta from the hot water.
- In a bowl, add the pasta and top with homemade pasta sauce.
- Add some shaved parmesan and chopped herbs on top.
- If using an Instant Pot, use the medium function for 8 hours or the high function for 4 hours. Stir the sauce after 1 hour and again at the halfway mark.
- If cooking this sauce on the stovetop, use a large pot. Add some olive oil to the pot on medium-high heat. Cook the ground meat and continuously break up the clumps. Turn the stove to medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions, chopped garlic, fresh herbs, mushrooms, salt, sugar, and water. Cover the sauce. Stir every 15 to 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add some extra water. The sauce should take about 1 hour and 30 minutes to finish.
- If this sauce needs to be hands-off throughout the entire cooking time (if you are working, etc), cook the meat on the stovetop breaking up the clumps. Add the cooked meat, chopped onions, minced garlic, herbs, sliced mushrooms, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, sugar, and salt to the slow cooker. Cook at the low temperature for 8 hours or the high temperature for 4 hours.
- Nutritional information includes pasta and meat sauce, however, does not include parmesan cheese.
This makes a really large amount so I cut the recipe in half. It made enough for dinner and leftovers the next day. Tasted good the next day too, so it was an overall win in my book.
I'm so glad you liked the recipe, and it's great to cut the dish in half. I might update the recipe card for a half batch.