The best homemade marinara sauce is cooked low and slow and prepared in a slow cooker.  Just add all the ingredients, cover, and wait while the ingredients transform into a tasty Marinara. The smaller 2-quart slow cooker is the best size for this small batch of marinara sauce. If doubling the recipe use a larger slow cooker or crockpot.

bowl of homemade slow cooker marina sauce and basil leaves with crockpot in background.

Click the recipe link at the top of the page to go straight to the printable recipe card, which includes ingredient amounts, a detailed ingredient list, instructions, and recipe notes. You can also scroll through the post for helpful tips and step-by-step instructions. The recipe card is located at the bottom of the post.

The ingredients used in this marinara recipe are both pantry items and fresh with a long shelf life.

ingredients to make slow cooker marinara sauce on parchment lined marble board.
All you need are these simple ingredients to make this slow cooker marinara sauce.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: My go-to is Pomi crushed Roma tomatoes.
  • Olive Oil: Use good quality Olive Oil, but you don’t need to use a dipping quality.
  • Onion: In this recipe I use a white onion, you can also use a brown of yellow onion. To add even more sweetness use a sweeter onion variety.
  • Carrot: the carrot infuses a little natural sweetness. I don’t ever put sugar in any of my sauces.
  • Garlic: Start with fresh garlic, but in a pinch, you can use a tube. I’m not a fan of jarred garlic.
  • Red Pepper flakes: I like my marinara with a hint of heat, you can omit this ingredient.
  • Dried basil: I get a deeper basil flavor with dried garlic and then add a fresh ripped basil after cooking as a tasty garnish.

Instructions

  1. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot to the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, dried basil, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. About halfway through cooking open the lid and give the sauce a stir. Replace the lid and continue cooking.
view of crockpots with slow cooker marinara ingredients.

The sauce is perfect for keeping handy as a base for classic Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (Pasta with Olives) or Sausage and Peppers.

Substitutions

  • Tomatoes: If you can’t find the Pomi brand tomatoes, you can use any other crushed tomatoes. Glen Muir, Hunts, and S & W are all good brands. The way I made this in Italy was by using canned Whole tomatoes and then pressing them through a sieve. Yes, it was time-consuming, but it feels like a very authentic way to make the sauce.
  • Garlic: I always use fresh garlic, but in a pinch, you can use the tube variety. I generally don’t use jarred garlic. To make this a true pantry meal, you could also use dehydrated garlic.

Variations

  • This marinara recipe is easy to adjust to your personal taste, most of the time I just throw in the ingredients without measuring. I like lots of garlic and prefer my marinara sauce on the spicy side.
  • My slow-cooker marinara sauce is the perfect base sauce for making Meat Sauce, Puttanesca, or Arribiata sauce.

Marinara Sauce vs Pizza Sauce

The main difference between marinara sauce and pizza sauce is in the consistency. Marinara is a little thinner or lighter sauce and generally, pizza sauce is going to be thicker. Marinara will have more ingredients, typically including onions, garlic, seasonings, and is cooked low and slow to develop rich deep flavors.

Pizza sauce is typically made with seasonings, tomato sauce, and tomato paste and can be cooked up much quicker.

Equipment

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You only need a few things to make this Marinara sauce.

  • 2-quart slow cooker or larger if doubling the recipe. A basic slow cooker like this 2-quart Crockpot is basic with no bells and whistles and is an inexpensive option. I own two of these.
  • A good knife to chop the onions and garlic. I own several higher-end knives, but this Victronix Chef’s Knife gets the most use and is under $40.
  • A simple cutting board. The Epicurean boards are sturdy and lightweight. Mine is well used and still going strong after many years.

Storage

Marinara just gets better the next day. Cover and store in the fridge for 2-3 days. The sauce can also be frozen.

Looking for more small slow cooker recipes? Read 14 Easy Recipes to Make in Your Small Slow Cooker

Can I make this sauce on the stovetop?

Yes. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Saute the onion and carrot. Add in the remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat and slowly simmer for about one hour. Check frequently to avoid burning and cooking down the sauce too much. If the sauce thickens too fast, add liquid and continue cooking. The beauty of the slow cooker is you can cook the Marinara low and slow to really develop all the flavors in the sauce.

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bowl of homemade marinara sauce in white bowl

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce

This is the same recipe I brought back from Italy, I adapted my classic marinara sauce for the slow cooker.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 77kcal
Author:Sydney Dawes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon grated carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 can (26-28 ounce) Crushed Tomatoes San Marzanos
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Turn on the slow cooker and let preheat while gathering the ingredients.
  • Dice the onions, mince the garlic and grate the carrot
  • Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and grated carrot.
  • Pour in the crushed tomatoes.
  • Add the dried basil and red pepper flakes.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Notes

While fresh tomatoes can be used, many cooks actually prefer canned tomatoes for marinara sauce.
Not necessary, but for extra flavor sauté your onions, garlic, in a bit of olive oil before adding them to the slow cooker. This helps to release their flavors and sweetness.
One of the benefits of a slow cooker is the ability to slowly simmer the sauce, allowing the flavors to develop and meld together. A low and slow cook time is best for marinara sauce.
If using fresh herbs near the end of cooking to keep their flavors bright.
A small amount of sugar helps balance might balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
If you prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to puree the sauce to your desired consistency once it’s done cooking.
BONUS TIP: A tablespoon or two of tomato paste can help thicken the sauce and deepen the tomato flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 11/2 cup | Calories: 77kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 40mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g
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Food safety

See food safety guidelines for cooking with slow cookers at USDA.gov.

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