Easy Tomato Sauce (from Fresh Tomatoes) in the Slow Cooker

Make the most of the flavor of summer produce with a batch of slow cooker Tomato Sauce from fresh tomatoes. This method is super easy, relies on the slow cooker so you can avoid heating up your oven, and delivers on the classic Italian flavor your family craves all year long.

slow-cooker-spaghetti-sauce-in-freezer-containers in storage containers

Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

If you have a pile of fresh tomatoes to use up, but you don’t have time to spend a day canning, you will love this recipe. And if your kiddos love pasta, you will double love it!

It took me a few years to figure out this method, but it’s by far the easiest way that I’ve found to quickly turn a pile of tomatoes into delicious spaghetti sauce.

So without ever turning on the stove or heating up the kitchen, you can make use of those garden fresh tomatoes while you sleep. (Okay, you have a little work to do in the morning and you still need to chop the tomatoes, but it’s so much less intense than the traditional methods of tomato preserving.)

This slow cooker spaghetti sauce is packed with nutrients and freezes so well.

TIP: I use this method in the summer when we have access to a lot of low cost fresh tomatoes from the garden and farmer’s market, but it also works with tomatoes from the store.

heirloom tomatoes in container

Using Fresh Tomatoes to Make Spaghetti Sauce

We’re fortunate to almost always have an excess of fresh tomatoes in the summer since our neighbor happens to be a farmer. She, like many farmers, typically have “seconds” which are tomatoes that are perfectly fine but may have a blemish or two that prevents them from being sold at market.

TIP: You can often get these for much less cost per pound that perfect tomatoes, but they have the same fresh tomato flavor. And it’s easy to turn them into sauce using the crock pot.

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need:

  • Fresh tomatoes (paste tomatoes or heirlooms both work)
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Salt

TIP: You can omit the basil if you don’t have it or use a little dried Italian seasoning.

how to make slow cooker spaghetti sauce step-by-step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Previously, the idea of making sauce in the slow cooker made no sense to me because with the lid on, there’s no chance for the liquid to evaporate. And trust me, fresh tomatoes have a ton of liquid that needs to cook off! 

But then I realized: Instead of cooking the liquid down, I could just separate it out. Here’s how the process works. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe.

  1. Fill the slow cooker with chopped fresh tomatoes and the garlic. Cover and cook on low.
  2. Remove the lid and let cool. 
  3. Use a large slotted spoon to scoop out the tomato solids. Blend.
  4. Freeze for later or use right away.

TIP: I like to use quart-size freezer storage containers to store this tomato sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a vegetarian tomato sauce?

This is a great basic marinara sauce for pasta since it’s packed with tomato flavor and really doesn’t need much else. It’s a nice vegetarian pasta sauce for weeknight family dinners. And it packs a huge dose of Vitamins A and C!

What do I do with the leftover liquid?

The liquid the tomatoes leave behind, which I call “tomato water” is a flavorful substitution for stock or broth. It’s particularly great in lentil or bean soups and in chili. I love making my spaghetti sauce this way because instead of having all of that flavorful liquid evaporate, you get to keep it for another use.

I let it cool and freeze it in containers the same way as the sauce.

How long can I store this sauce?

Once cooled, you can pour the sauce into freezer containers or storage bags and freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature. (Don’t worry if it looks a little separated—it will come back together when it’s warmed up.) To use, heat a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste.


This Sauce Goes Well With…

Try pairing the finished sauce with pasta, chicken tenders (for a chicken Parmesan type of meal), quinoa, couscous, Sausage Meatballs, Toddler Meatballs, Chicken Meatballs, and really any other ways you like it.

Best Tips for Success

  • You can leave the peel on the tomatoes.
  • Cut the amounts in half if you have a smaller amount of tomatoes.
  • If you don’t have fresh basil, you can omit it. Add ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning if desired instead.
  • Once cooked, let the tomatoes cool enough that you can safely blend them. If they are too hot, the steam may cause the top of the blender to come off (and trust me, you don’t want that!). Blend the sauce in two batches to help eliminate the possibility of this even more.
  • Blend the sauce on high to fully blend in the tomato skins.
  • Let cool before storing the containers in the fridge or freezer.
  • Thaw in the fridge or at room temperature.
  • Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper before you toss it with the pasta.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it right here in the comments—I love to know what your families think of my recipes!

This post was originally published July 2020.

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