My Italian grandmother loved cooking for her family, and would happily work in the kitchen day and night making the best meatballs, pasta, and tomato sauce.
While I love making homemade gnocchi just like my grandmother taught me, many times my hectic schedule gets in the way from enjoying a home-cooked meal.
And I’m sure many of you have to deal with your own crazy schedules – we’re just too darn busy to channel our inner nonna to make an Italian dinner.
Thank goodness for slow cookers.
You can easily prep and forget our hearty spaghetti meat sauce in the slow cooker that would make any grandmother smile with pride! It’s like a lazier version of the classic spaghetti and meatballs, without allllll that time spent having to roll out meatball after meatball!
In addition to the delicious chunks of ground beef, sausage, and tomatoes, this recipe is also packed with veggies like grated carrots and green peppers.
Served with spaghetti and topped with basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, you’ll enjoy every bite of this dish that’s easy and healthy to make for the whole family.
Prep it in the morning before starting your busy day, and arrive back home in the evening to a mouthwatering, slow-cooked creation!
|8 servings||15 minutes|
Want a healthy sauce for pasta, but don't have time to stay in the kitchen? Prep and forget our hearty meat sauce packed with veggies in the slow cooker.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion
- 3 cloves fresh garlic finely minced
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ lb bulk Italian sausage mild or hot, depending upon your preference
- 2 large carrots peeled and grated
- 1 large sweet bell pepper diced
- 3 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- minced fresh basil for garnish
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Saute until transparent, but not brown.
- Add the ground beef and the Italian sausage. Cook until the meat is browned, breaking up large chunks.
- Drain the meat thoroughly in a colander, pressing down to remove most of the grease. Transfer to a large pot insert of a slow cooker.
- Add all of the other ingredients: carrots, peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and basil. Stir until everything is fully mixed.
- Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours. Serve over your favorite pasta. Garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Ingredients
Measure the olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and dried basil. Open the cans of diced tomatoes and tomato paste.
Set out the ground beef and sausage.
Using a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board, chop the onion and bell pepper. Mince the garlic, or put it through your garlic press. Peel and finely grate the carrots.
Step 2 – Saute the Onions and Garlic
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and garlic until transparent, but not too brown.
Step 3 – Brown the Meat
Add the ground beef and the Italian sausage to the saute pan. Cook until the meat is browned, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon.
Transfer to a colander in the sink. Press down with a spoon to squeeze out any extra liquid and grease. Place in a slow cooker.
Step 4 – Combine and Cook
Add all of the other ingredients to the slow cooker: carrots, peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and dried basil. Stir until everything is fully mixed.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
Step 5 – Serve
Pour a few hefty spoonfuls over your favorite cooked pasta.
Going gluten-free? Serve it over any of your favorite grain varieties, like quinoa or amaranth.
Garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve, and enjoy!
An Easy, Slow-Cooked Italian Dish
Too busy to stay in the kitchen all day to cook a delicious Italian dinner? Bring out your slow cooker to make this hearty spaghetti meat sauce!
You’ll love the chunks of beef, sausage, and tomatoes, as well as the heavenly aroma of garlic and basil – you’ll nearly forget that this dish is made with nutrient-packed carrots and bell peppers, too.
Need more ideas to pour on top your pasta? Try more of our recipes:
Have a little extra time on your hands? Set aside that box of noodles and learn how to make your own basic semolina pasta.
How do you like to health-ify your favorite Italian dishes? What are some of your favorite slow cooker meals? Send me a message in the comment section below!
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Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.