Monica's favorite gear for making
Marinara Sauce
This is the only small appliance that I leave out on my counter, because I use it daily for food prep. In this recipe, I used it to mince the garlic in a few pulses.
This Crock Pot has great features. It is recommended by Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen. I especially like that it automatically switches to the warm setting with the cook time is finished.
A multi-purpose measuring cup that is microwave-safe. I used it for microwaving the garlic in olive oil.
I used the smallest lid in this set of 4 to cover my cup of garlic & olive oil while I microwaved it. These lids are microwave, oven and stove top safe, and they cut way down on the use of foil and plastic wrap. Dishwasher safe, too!
These hold 2 cups of sauce for refrigerator or freezer storage. They also may be used for canning the sauce.
Also available: white plastic jar lids
This painters tape is great for labeling food containers. It can be cut any size and is easy to move and remove without leaving any sticky residue. Click below for labeling marker.
Also available: Sharpie marker
These full size sheets work ink-jet printers. Print a sheet of labels, cut them apart, and adhere them to jars for a polished finishing touch.
This punches perfect circles just the right size for cutting the jar labels in one quick, easy motion.
Make pasta FAST without the hassle of a big pot of boiling water. I was skeptical about cooking pasta in the microwave, but read rave reviews of this gizmo from Cook's Illustrated's Home Test Kitchen. They were right! This clever container makes it SO EASY to make pasta without the hassle or mess of the traditional stove-top method. I highly recommend the Fasta Pasta!

Slow Cooker Rustic Italian Marinara Sauce

An easy, vegetarian sauce for pasta or pizza; may can or freeze


Looking for holiday gifts for the foodie in your life?
Here are a few gift guides I made to help:

Marinara Sauce in A Slow Cooker

By Monica              makes 8 cups
This easy, flavorful sauce is perfect for topping both pasta and pizza. It has healthy, vegetarian ingredients and is suitable for freezing or canning. From TheYummyLife.com

This easy, flavorful sauce is perfect for topping both pasta and pizza. It has healthy, vegetarian ingredients and is suitable for freezing or canning.

Ingredients
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (if canning, increase to 1/3 cup for food safety)
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Directions
Combine garlic and olive oil in a small micro-safe bowl, cover and microwave 60-90 seconds until sizzling and garlic has softened.

Coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Drain liquid from tomato cans into slow cooker. Squeeze tomatoes through your fingers to break them into irregular pieces, dropping them into slow cooker.  Add garlic/oil mixture, tomato paste, red wine, red wine vinegar, oregano, marjoram, thyme, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and salt. Stir, cover, and cook on low 5-8 hours*. Stir in fresh parsley and basil. Taste and add sugar and additional salt to taste, if needed.

If sauce is too watery, remove lid, set on high heat, and cook until liquid evaporates to desired consistency.

Serve over pasta or use as a pizza sauce.

*There is flexibility in total cooking time. The sauce is ready in 5 hours on low; but it can cook 2 or 3 hours longer if necessary for convenience. It will take half the time to cook it on high, however the edges may get scorched. If you have time, low and slow is better for gently blending the flavors.

MAY BE FROZEN.
To freeze, use freezer safe jars, plastic containers, or ziploc bags, leaving enough extra space for expansion when it freezes (at least 1/2" at the top of jars).
MAY BE CANNED.
Ladle sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in water bath 35 minutes for pint jars or 40 minutes for quart jars. (Warning! To insure food safety with water-process canning, do NOT alter the recipe by adding meat or other veggies to the recipe.)

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: High in potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, B6, C.  
Per 1/2 cup serving:
51 calories, 2g fat, 0g sat. fat, 0 cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 367mg potassium, 6.7g carbs, 1.8g fiber, 4g sugars, 1.5 protein
Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 2

Marinara sauce is my go-to sauce for pasta and pizza. This recipe is a slow cooker adaptation of my original, family favorite, stove-top marinara sauce explained in a previous post. With a few tweaks to my original recipe, this easy sauce gets even easier in the slow cooker. Toss everything in your Crock Pot, let the flavors develop slowly throughout the day or overnight, and you've got an amazingly flavorful pasta or pizza sauce for dinner. 

Healthy, vegetarian, and versatile. This sauce is made of good quality, healthy ingredients. It can be used as is, or it can easily be used as a base to which you can add other favorite ingredients like sauteed onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, or any veggie of your choosing. Browned ground meat or crumbled meatballs can be stirred in to convert it to a meat sauce.

Eat it now, can it, or freeze it. When I have the freezer space, I make a double batch of this sauce and freeze it in pint jars. It is so convenient to have on hand! The base recipe (without any meat or additional veggies) is also safe and suitable for water-process canning--another good way to keep this sauce on hand and have available for gift-giving. You'll find printable jar labels further down in this post.

Nutritional Information. This sauce is good for you! It is especially high in potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, B6, C.  Per 1/2 cup serving:

  • 51 calories, 2g fat, 0g sat. fat, 0 cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 367mg potassium, 6.7g carbs, 1.8g fiber, 4g sugars, 1.5 protein
  • Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 2

 

Step-by-step photos for making
Rustic Italian Marinara Sauce 

Step 1. Assemble the ingredients.

  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • whole canned tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano, but any whole canned tomato will do. Whole canned tomatoes are generally better quality than canned tomatoes that are already diced or crushed.)
  • red wine vinegar
  • dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • tomato paste
  • dried herbs/spices: marjoram, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper

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  • fresh basil and Italian parsley -- These two herbs are chopped and stirred in at the end of the cook time; their freshness brightens the final flavor of the sauce.

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Step 2. Mince the garlic. Use a knife, a garlic press, or a mini food processor--pictured below. 

view on Amazon:  mini food processor (I use my mini processor so often that it's the only appliance I leave out on my limited kitchen counter space--I love this little multi-tasker.)

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Step 3. There are two options for "sweating" the garlic before adding it to the slow cooker: (1) On the stove top, saute the minced garlic in olive oil until soft;  (2) use the speedy prep tip I learned from The Slow Cooker Revolution: add the garlic and oil to a microwave proof bowl, cover, and microwave 60-90 seconds until sizzling and softened. Ready in a flash! (I used the 2nd easy method with a Pyrex measuring cup and silicone cover--pictured below.)

  • Wondering why this step is necessary? Garlic (and onions, celery and additional aromatics that are called for in other recipes) need to be "sweated" in order to avoid a strange, raw pungency in the sauce. Adding them raw with the other sauce ingredients results in a tinny flavor. You can read about the science behind this cooking tip from the food lab at Serious Eats.

view on Amazon:  Pyrex measuring cup, silicone lid (I use the smallest lid in this set in the photo below; the lid is oven, stove-top, and microwave safe)

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Step 4. Drain the liquid from the canned tomatoes into the slow cooker. Remove the tomatoes from the can one-at-a-time; make a fist around the tomato and squeeze it through your fingers as you add it to the slow cooker. This results in irregular chunks of tomatoes, lending the sauce a rustic appearance and texture. (If you prefer a smooth sauce, mince the tomatoes with a knife or puree them in an electric blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender.)

view on Amazon:  my favorite slow cooker (top rated by Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen)

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Step 5. Add the garlic/oil mixture, wine, vinegar, tomato paste, dried herbs, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, give it a stir, put on the lid, and cook on low 5-8 hours.

  • Note: There is flexibility in total cooking time. The sauce is ready in 5 hours, but it can cook 2 or 3 hours longer, if necessary, for convenience. It will take it half the time to cook on high, however the edges may get scorched. If you have the time, low and slow is better for gently blending the flavors.

Step 6. Stir in chopped fresh basil and parsley and your sauce is ready to eat!

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Step 7. Taste the sauce and add more salt, to taste, if needed. You can also add a pinch of sugar to the sauce to add a hint of sweetness to balance the acidity of the other sauce ingredients. The addition of sugar is a personal preference thing--with or without, this sauce is great!

Is your sauce too runny? To thicken it, remove the lid, turn the slow cooker to high, and continue to cook until enough liquid has evaporated to result in the consistency you want. I don't normally do this, but some people prefer a thicker sauce--another personal preference thing.

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Want meatballs with your sauce? Immerse frozen meatballs in the sauce in the last 1.5 to 2 hours; the exact time will vary depending on how many you add. If the meatballs are already thawed, they will heat up in 30-60 minutes in the heated sauce. If you'd like to make your own meatballs, here's my popular Italian meatball recipe--it's a winner! I make a big batch of meatballs and freeze them. With marinara sauce in the freezer, I'm always ready for a quick spaghetti and meatball meal.

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This rustic, chunky sauce tastes amazing! It's so easy to make and have on hand, that you may never need to buy jars of sauce at the store. It's all you need to transform a plate of spaghetti into a spectacular meal.

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It also makes a perfectly seasoned pizza sauce.

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Eat it. Freeze it. Can it. This sauce can be eaten right away. It also freezes really well--either in freezer-safe jars, plastic freezer containers, or Ziploc bags. I've used all three freezer methods. I label my freezer jars with blue painters tape, because it's inexpensive and adhere's well but is easy to remove without leaving a residue behind on the lids.

  • Tip: Not all jars are freezer safe. The Ball website has a list of jars that are recommended for freezing. I use wide-mouth pint (2-cup) jars. The white plastic lids on my jars are more durable than the metal lids/rings that come with the jars, and the plastic lids are easier to screw on and off. I label my jars with inexpensive blue painter's tape; it adheres well, but removes easily without leaving a sticky residue behind.

view on Amazon: wide-mouth pint jarsplastic lids for wide-mouth jars, blue tape (for labeling), Sharpie markers

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I often make a double batch of sauce while I'm at it and freeze or can some to have later. If my freezer is full, I can my leftover marinara sauce. I explain how in my post, Step-By-Step Canning TipsIt's more work to can the sauce, but an advantage of canning is that the jars are shelf stable and can be stored at room temperature. That makes it easy to store and have on hand to use or to give as gifts. I've made some labels to jazz up the jars for gift giving.

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To use the downloadable tags:

  • Print these on card stock, cut them out, punch a hole in the corner, and hang them from the jar neck with a ribbon, string, or rubber band. 
  • Print them on sticker paper and stick them to the jar lid or side. Or, stick them on with tape.

If you don't have a printer or specialty papers, you can have a store with printing services download and print them for you (Kinkos, Office Depot, Staples, etc.)

Cut with scissors or a circle punch. You can cut the round tags out carefully with scissors, or use a circle punch to make the task easier and more precise. I use a 2-1/4" circle punch; it fits both regular and wide canning lids.

view on Amazon:  2-1/4" circle punch (this fits mason jar lids)

Click on the image below to download & print a full sheet of labels.

Marinara_label_image.jpg

My family loves this sauce, and I love how easy it is to make! 

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Make it a meal! Spoon this marinara sauce over pasta and serve it with these recipes for a complete and loved Italian meal.

Make it a Yummy day!

Monica

Link directly to this recipe
Marinara Sauce in A Slow Cooker
By Monica              Servings: makes 8 cups
Ingredients
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (if canning, increase to 1/3 cup for food safety)
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Directions
Combine garlic and olive oil in a small micro-safe bowl, cover and microwave 60-90 seconds until sizzling and garlic has softened.

Coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Drain liquid from tomato cans into slow cooker. Squeeze tomatoes through your fingers to break them into irregular pieces, dropping them into slow cooker.  Add garlic/oil mixture, tomato paste, red wine, red wine vinegar, oregano, marjoram, thyme, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and salt. Stir, cover, and cook on low 5-8 hours*. Stir in fresh parsley and basil. Taste and add sugar and additional salt to taste, if needed.

If sauce is too watery, remove lid, set on high heat, and cook until liquid evaporates to desired consistency.

Serve over pasta or use as a pizza sauce.

*There is flexibility in total cooking time. The sauce is ready in 5 hours on low; but it can cook 2 or 3 hours longer if necessary for convenience. It will take half the time to cook it on high, however the edges may get scorched. If you have time, low and slow is better for gently blending the flavors.

MAY BE FROZEN.
To freeze, use freezer safe jars, plastic containers, or ziploc bags, leaving enough extra space for expansion when it freezes (at least 1/2" at the top of jars).
MAY BE CANNED.
Ladle sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in water bath 35 minutes for pint jars or 40 minutes for quart jars. (Warning! To insure food safety with water-process canning, do NOT alter the recipe by adding meat or other veggies to the recipe.)

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: High in potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, B6, C.  
Per 1/2 cup serving:
51 calories, 2g fat, 0g sat. fat, 0 cholesterol, 90mg sodium, 367mg potassium, 6.7g carbs, 1.8g fiber, 4g sugars, 1.5 protein
Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 2

Make pasta in the microwave FAST without the hassle of a big pot of boiling water.  I was skeptical about cooking pasta in the microwave, but read rave reviews of this gizmo from Cook's Illustrated's Home Test Kitchen. They were right! This clever, inexpensive container makes it SO EASY to make pasta without the hassle or mess of the traditional stove-top method. I highly recommend the Fasta Pasta!

view FASTA PASTA on Amazon

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Posted on Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Looking for holiday gifts for the foodie in your life?
Here are a few gift guides I made to help:








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