This Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce is beyond easy to make and can be used in just about every pasta recipe. You can even make this in huge batches to make a couple of freezer meals. Bonus- this is a vegan-friendly recipe!
Marinara sauce is one of the simplest sauces to make! It was one of the first Italian sauces my nonna ever taught me how to make and it’s absolutely delicious. I can’t wait to teach my kids how to make it too!
Essentially, it’s made with 3 different kinds of tomato ingredients, onions, and garlic. I like to also use carrots to add a bit of sweetness (and more vegetables!) but you don’t have to.
Most of these ingredients are something you likely have on hand. So, this makes it an easy “throw together with whatever is in the pantry” recipe.
Now I’m not going to lie, I have no shame in purchasing a jar of marinara sauce. In fact, I’ve used my favorite jarred marinara sauce, Rao’s, in many of the recipes I shared on this blog. It’s delicious, easy to get, and super high quality!
So, when I don’t have time to make the homemade marinara sauce, then I grab a jar and call it a day.
However, homemade is always best! So, when I can I make a huge batch of marinara, I try to freeze it for recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Marinara Sauce Made From Scratch
Before I jump into this recipe, I wanted to answer a few questions I received from some of my readers about this slow cooker marinara sauce.
Does It Matter What Canned Tomatoes I Use?
In my opinion, it 100% does!
I’m a firm believer that the higher quality the food, the better the recipe will taste. And, that also goes for canned tomatoes.
The brands I like best are Tuttorosso tomatoes, Muir Glen Organic, and 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods Brand). Each of these brands creates a delicious rich tasty sauce. I also love to grab San Marzano tomatoes when I find them. Those are delicious!
My advice is to grab organic high-quality tomatoes when making this marinara sauce.
Can I Switch Up The Type Of Canned Tomato Used?
Marinara sauce is supposed to be on the chunkier side – not smooth like a traditional spaghetti sauce. So I don’t recommend using tomato sauce or tomato puree – although, it’s not the end of the world if you do.
I’d just say if you have to (or want to) use a different type of tomato, use half tomato sauce or puree and then the other half use diced tomatoes.
Again, you want those chunks. It really makes this Italian sauce!
If you want to use whole canned tomatoes, you can do that. Just make sure to crush them up before putting in the sauce.
Whole tomatoes actually make a nice chunky sauce. If those extra chunks are what you’re looking for, then you can certainly use them. If you do use whole tomatoes, then also use half crushed tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes or it won’t be thick enough.
Do I Have To Use Carrots Or Can I Use Other Vegetables? Can I Leave Vegetables Out All Together?
So many questions in one!
A traditional marinara sauce is only tomatoes, onion, and garlic. So you can easily leave the carrots or any vegetable out. I like adding carrots because it gives it a little bit of a sweet flavor and also adds in nutrition.
The great thing about this sauce is it’s super versatile so you can really add in any vegetable. I’ve added spinach, kale, zucchini, and other squashes. If you make this in the slow cooker, I suggest adding the spinach and kale in the last 1/2 hour and squash in the last hour. If you add it in the beginning, it gets too mushy.
How Do I Use Marinara? How Do I Serve It?
This sauce can go with just about any Italian recipe!
It goes great with everything!
Can I Add Meat To This?
Yep. This is a vegan sauce but if you want to add meatballs or sausage, then go for it. It will only add to the flavor!
My advice is to brown the meatballs and sausage first before putting it into the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.
If you are looking for a great meat sauce recipe, take a look at my healthy stovetop turkey bolognese 😉
Can I Make This On The Stovetop?
Yes. Just cook the carrots, onions, and garlic in a pot and then add in the tomato paste along with the wine and cook the wine down for about 3-4 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 2-3 hours stirring occasionally.
Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce
Now, it’s time you learn how to make your own marinara sauce in the slow cooker- the right way! Here’s a list of ingredients you will need to make this Italian marinara sauce for dinner:
- Olive Oil
- Carrots (peeled and chopped)
- Onion (chopped)
- Garlic Cloves (chopped)
- Tomato paste
- Crushed tomatoes
- Diced tomatoes
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
How To Make Homemade Marinara Sauce
This recipe requires a couple of steps prior to putting into the slow cooker. I know this is a little annoying especially when you want a dump and go recipe. However, in my experience, this helps so much in developing flavor.
When you just dump in the vegetables, they only boil and cook in the sauce. Cooking them in olive oil first brings out all of those hidden flavors.
Same with the wine. Cooking it down allows for the alcohol to break down and you won’t get a mouthful of it.
Start by cooking the carrots in olive oil for about 3 – 4 minutes. They don’t need to be soft but more of just a little crispy on the outsides. When they’re done, add the carrots to the slow cooker.
Next, using the same pan, add some more olive oil and cook the onions for about 3 minutes or until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until they’re fragrant.
Then, stir in all of the herbs and seasonings. Again, this helps the flavor to bloom before adding it into the slow cooker.
Now, you’re going to stir in the tomato paste and wine and then cook it for another 3-4 minutes.
Add this to the slow cooker with the crushed and diced tomatoes.
Cover and cook for 4 hours on HIGH or on 8 hours on LOW.
When it’s done, all of the carrots will be soft and the color will be a deep rich red. And, the smell will be amazing!
Serve hot with some whole wheat pasta, in your favorite Italian recipe, or freeze for a dinner later in the month.
More Italian Dinner Recipes
This robust slow cooker marinara sauce is going to become a family favorite very quickly! Here are a couple of more Italian themed recipes to add to the list:
- Stovetop Turkey Bolognese
- Turkey Zucchini Meatballs
- Healthy Chicken Parmesan
- Zucchini Lasagna with Ricotta and Noodles
- Pasta Fagioli (Copycat Olive Garden Recipe)
This Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce will make the perfect topping for spaghetti night or the next time you just have a hunk of garlic bread lying around… Dunk it! Share a picture and tag me on Instagram or Facebook if you decide to make this!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6-7 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste
- ½ cup wine
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a 5½ - 6 qt sauce pot heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium high. Add in the carrots and cook for about 3-4 minutes until all sides are slightly browned. Place carrots in the slow cooker insert.
- Using the same pot, heat up another tablespoon of olive oil and add in the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato paste and red wine. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add to slow cooker with the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes.
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours hours or on low for 7-8 hours.