Generally speaking, pasta isn’t the sort of dish you turn to when you’re looking for a big, complicated cooking project. There are some exceptions, like lasagna. But for the most part, it’s a go-to when you want a quick dinner on the table with minimal effort. And ideally, it should require only three steps: boil water + cook pasta + add sauce.
Okay, water and pasta are simple enough, but what about the sauce? If you’re thinking about that store bought stuff from a jar, fuggedaboutit. You can do so much better than that. Instead, let’s turn to the crock pot: think of it as a sauce-making machine that will turn out homemade, slow cooked bologneses and marinaras that will make that plate of spaghetti all the more amazing to behold.
There’s a little more to it than just throwing some tomatoes all willy nilly into the crock, though. Here are seven recipes that will show you how to make slow cooker pasta sauces that come together at the push of a button.
1. Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese
There’s no way around it: real deal bolognese is a slow simmering affair. Your nonna might have made it by spending hours at the stove, stirring away. We like to throw it in the slow cooker and consider our work done. Get our Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.
2. Slow Cooker Beef Goulash
Egg noodles love a hearty and rich sauce, the kind that sticks to and coats each piece in a thick, glossy sheen. Our slow cooker beef goulash brings all the beefy, lip-sticking goodness that those twirls demand. Get our Slow Cooker Beef Goulash recipe.
3. Slow Cooker Marinara
It’s always a good idea to have some marinara stored away to use on pastas, pizzas, and more. You can easily make a large batch of this one in the slow cooker and freeze up any extras for another day. Get the recipe here.
4. Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti
There’s nothing like a good cream sauce to satisfy any comfort food cravings. With diced peppers, a healthy dash of spice, and fork-shredded chicken, this recipe takes that hankering to the max, giving classic alfredo something of a Tex-Mex makeover. Get the recipe here.
5. Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta
Italian-American cuisine has a few signature ingredients: red sauce, herb-based seasonings, and lots of melty mozzarella cheese. Here, they all come together in a sauce that would have its place in Little Italy. Get the recipe here.
6. Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder With Tomatoes, Fennel, and Pasta
Just because slow cooker sauces are easy doesn’t mean that they can’t be sophisticated, too. This hearty concoction with chunks of tender pork is definitely worthy of a classy dinner party or special meal with family or friends. Get the recipe here.
7. Crockpot Enchilada Pasta
Although it’s got tomatoes at its heart, the beans, corn, and spices in this enchilada-inspired sauce take things in a totally unexpected direction. Break out the hot sauce for this one. Get the recipe here.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.