I'm a fan of slow cooking. I'm not so much a fan of rubbery meat and days of stews, which sometimes come courtesy of the slow cooker, from my own experience.
When I use the thing, I typically focus on stews, soups, beans and chuck roasts, which seem to come out well every time I cook them. I've added something new to my list: marinara sauce.
I was making my weekly dinner list the other week when I realized I had a lot of meatballs in the freezer, but no marinara sauce. I was just about to put spaghetti sauce on my shopping list when I wondered whether I could make it myself.
I know you can make it pretty quickly on the stove, but I had a busy afternoon ahead of me with afterschool activities and commitments. I needed something that I didn't need to watch. So I did a Google search for slow cooker marinara sauce and came up with a long list of possible recipes.
I looked at each of them, but landed primarily on a recipe courtesy of Budget Bytes, which focuses on inexpensive, but tasty recipes. And this recipe was cheap. Thanks to a combination of sales, coupons and items from my garden, I probably spent around $3 on this batch of sauce, which is enough for about three dinners for my family. That's a great deal considering a jar of spaghetti sauce can cost $2.50 or more and feeds my family one dinner and a lunch for my husband.
This sauce is really versatile. Once it's done, you can just toss it over pasta as is. Or you can stir in some cooked meatballs or cooked ground beef, sausage, turkey or vegetables before you add the pasta. It's good and easy!
Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce
Adapted from Budget Bytes
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes (I used whole peeled tomatoes and crushed them with my hands after I poured them into the pot).
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 medium yellow onion
½ Tbsp minced garlic (I nearly tripled the amount of garlic, which we like a lot at my house)
2 whole bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried basil (I used about two tablespoons of fresh basil from our garden, which we had frozen).
½ Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (I skipped this step after reading the comments in the recipe on Budget Bytes)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dice your onion and mince your garlic and put it all in the slow cooker. Add your tomatoes, paste, sugar, balsamic vinegar (if using), bay leaves, basil, oregano and pepper. Stir it up and set it to cook on low for eight hours.
Take out the bay leaves. I then poured it into a large metal bowl and used an immersion blender to make it a little smoother. I might not have needed to do that if I had started with the crushed instead of whole tomatoes. Serve over pasta or mix in your favorite cooked meat or meatballs.
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