Authentic Italian Red Sauce (in a Crock Pot!)

by Heather on December 18, 2012

I’m confused.

Authentic Italian Red Sauce (in a Crock Pot!) from @HeathersDish

I guess let me start off with this (not-so-new) nugget of info:  I’m obsessed with Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  Like to the point that I’ve literally seen every.single.episode.  To the point that my husband is sick and tired of coming home and seeing re-runs on TV.  To the point that should you engage me in a conversation about the show, you should probably be prepared to chat for a minimum of an hour about it.


Obsessed.  Really.


So here’s where I’m confused though:  what do you call this sauce?  It’s not really marinara so to speak – I believe true marinara is made with onions and garlic and lots of basil.  I mean, this sauce has those things but in veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery limited quantities.  On TripleD (totally just went there) I hear it called marinara, tomato sauce, red sauce, gravy, red gravy.  And since I’m only really Italian by marriage, I have not a clue what to call this.

Authentic Italian Red Sauce (in a Crock Pot!) from @HeathersDish

And so we’re going with red sauce.  Because it’s red and it’s a sauce.  Good?  Good!


I think the point that I should make here though is that this sauce is awesome on many many levels:

  • It’s inexpensive – even if you buy the fanciest of canned crushed tomatoes!
  • It’s flavorful – with only two ingredients!
  • It’s so very simple – two words: CROCK.POT.
  • It’s the kind of sauce that makes people ask, “WHAT is that recipe?” and you just respond with a smile and say you can’t give away your family’s authentic recipe.

My sister-in-law is real-deal Italian and has an amazing red sauce & meatball recipe that she literally will not even share with her husband (Nate’s brother).  It’s her grandmother’s and she’s been sworn to secrecy and have I mentioned that she WILLNOTSHARE the recipe?  (Brooke, I love you so much.  I just want the recipe :))  But I think it’s the intrigue that makes it that much more special, you know?


But like I said, I’m only Italian by marriage.  And I’m Texan by birth, which means I think sharing is caring.  So I won’t make y’all wait any more – as long as you promise to share!

Authentic Italian Red Sauce (in a Crock Pot!) from @HeathersDish


  • 2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes**
  • 1 Tbsp prepared pesto

Put everything in a crock pot (I would recommend using a crock pot liner – cleanup will be so easy if you do!) and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  You really really do want to do the whole low and slow thing here; the sauce gets super sweet and rich and the pesto just melts into it!  Serve with whatever pasta you like, or feel free to simmer your favorite meatball recipe in there too!

**Note:  I know in the first photo I show a can of crushed tomatoes + a can of whole tomatoes.  I made a mistake at the store and bought the whole, but I would HIGHLY recommend only using crushed.  Another note on the tomatoes:  San Marzano really are the best if you can find them, but I’ve made this sauce several times with regular old Walmart store brand and it turns out fabulously.  I think the point is just make it – you won’t regret it!**

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