Monica's favorite gear for
making Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce
This is Cooks Illustrated's #1 recommendation. It has great features, is easy to use, and is sized for small or big batches.
My favorite slow cooker cookbook! All of the recipes are created and thoroughly tested by America's Test Kitchen. It has lots of practical tips.
The jars are freezer safe and the perfect size to hold 2 servings of this pasta sauce. Great for fridge & freezer storage.

Slow Cooker Pasta Meat Sauce with Ground Turkey

Healthy ingredients combined in a Crock Pot for an easy Italian meal.

Recipes don't get much easier than this one. Throw everything in the Crock Pot, let it be, and later in the day a healthy, crowd pleasing dinner is served! 

We often have my vegetarian marinara sauce on pasta around here, but sometimes we're in the mood for a meaty pasta sauce. So, I started with my marinara sauce recipe and modified it a touch for the slow cooker. I added some ground turkey in place of the usual ground beef or pork in a meat sauce to cut down on fat and calories and pump up the protein. The result is a savory, hearty sauce that's as good as those higher calorie versions. It freezes well, too.

Nutritional Information (for 3/4 cup serving of sauce made with ground turkey breast). 201 calories, 8g fat, 11.4g carbs, 3.4g fiber, 6.8g sugar, 18.9g protein; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 5

Step-by-step photos for making
Slow Cooker Ground Turkey Pasta Sauce 

Step 1. Assemble the ingredients:

  • diced tomatoes (These remain in visible chunks in the sauce. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use a food processor or blender to make them less chunky. Or, buy crushed tomatoes instead of diced.)
  • tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes)
  • tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • dry red wine (I used a cabarnet)
  • Italian seasoning (store bought; or use my recipe to make your own)
  • black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes 
  • garlic -- The recipe calls for 6 cloves. That may sound like too much, but the slow cooking mellows their flavor a lot. So you need to add more garlic than you would in a stove top sauce.
  • onion
  • ground turkey (use ground breast, thigh, or a mix).
  • salt to taste (I added 1/2 teaspoon, but you may want more)


Step 2. Put the minced garlic and chopped onion in a bowl; stir in the olive oil. Microwave for 2 minutes, stopping and stirring after the 1st minute. Why? This is a short-cut so you don't have to saute these aromatics as is usually necessary--a handy tip I learned from my favorite slow cooker cookbook: Slow Cooker Revolution Cookbook from America's Test Kitchen. Of course, you can saute them on the stove-top, if you'd rather.


Step 3. Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray and add all of the ingredients (minus the turkey) and give it a stir.

view my slow cooker on Amazon

Step 4.  It's not necessary to brown the raw turkey before adding it to the slow cooker. I've tried it both ways, and couldn't tell the difference. (Yay!) Drop the raw turkey into the sauce mixture in small chunks. Tap down the turkey pieces so they are partially immersed in the sauce; but don't stir and break the turkey apart too much. You want it to remain in small chunks while it cooks to maintain a good finished texture.

Step 5. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-7 hours.


Below is how mine looked when I lifted the lid after 7 hours of cooking. A quick stir and it's ready to serve. It's chunky and hearty. I like it that way. If you like yours smoother, you can chop up the turkey chunks into smaller pieces with the spoon edge as you stir.


I served mine over whole wheat linguini with garlic toast (my garlic bread spread recipe is coming in my next post).


I like to sprinkle on a little chopped fresh Italian parsley or basil and grated Parmesan cheese.


Freeze it! This recipe makes approx. 9 cups of sauce. I transfer leftover sauce to wide-mouth pint jars, screw on plastic lids, and freeze it.  One jar is the right amount for King-Man and me for a meal. It is so convenient to have this healthy sauce in my freezer to thaw for a quick dinner. If you freeze the sauce in jars, make sure you leave 3/4" at the top to allow for expansion.

View on Amazon:
wide-mouth pint jars (freezer safe),   plastic jar lids,   jar funnel


Since I opened a bottle of wine to add to the sauce, I figured I might as well pour a glass to have with my pasta. Wouldn't want it to go to waste. That would just be wrong.


It's a healthy, hearty, delicious meal. Hope you like it, too.

Make it a Yummy day!

Link directly to this recipe Print this recipe
Slow Cooker Ground Turkey Pasta Sauce
By Monica              Servings: 8 servings
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (may reduce or omit for less spice)
  • 1 pound ground turkey (breast, thigh or mixed)
  • fresh chopped Italian parsley or basil for garnish (optional)
  • grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)
Coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray.  Put garlic, onion and olive oil in small bowl and microwave 2 minutes at full power, stopping and stirring after the 1st minute. Add all ingredients to slow cooker (minus the turkey) and stir to combine. Break ground turkey into  chunks and add to the sauce. Tap down the turkey chunks so they are partially covered in the sauce, but do not stir or break up the turkey chunks. Cover, and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Stir cooked sauce, taste, and add more salt, if needed. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or basil and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Nutritional Information (for 3/4 cup serving of sauce made with ground turkey breast). 201 calories, 8g fat, 11.4g carbs, 3.4g fiber, 6.8g sugar, 18.9g protein; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 5
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Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

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