The slow cooker is the ideal vessel for long, slow marinara sauce. You don’t have to watch it on the stove to keep it from boiling too hard, nor do you have to stir it to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pot. Just throw everything in and leave it alone until you’re ready to use the sauce—with plain pasta, in lasagna, even on pizzas (if you like cooked sauce on pizzas)—or preserve it in jars to use later.
If you’d like to use fresh plum tomatoes instead of canned, drop them into boiling water for a couple of minutes, then slip the skins off and chop them in the blender as in the recipe. You’ll need to cook fresh tomatoes longer, 8 to 10 hours on the low setting.
- 4 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 large sprigs basil, plus 1/3 cup chopped or torn basil leaves
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sugar or ¼ teaspoon baking soda (if necessary)
In a blender or food processor, roughly puree the tomatoes with their juices. (If the tomatoes are packed in puree rather than juice, you might need to add a little water to the sauce to thin it out a bit.) Put them in a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker.
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil, then add the onion and garlic and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to become translucent, about 4 minutes. Scrape the mixture into the cooker.
Add the basil sprigs, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
Cook, covered, on the low setting for 6 to 8 hours. If the sauce is too thin after 6 hours, cook on the high setting with the lid on sideways for 1 hour, or until thickened to your liking. Remove and discard the cooked basil.
Stir in the chopped basil, season again with salt and pepper, and add a bit of sugar or the baking soda if the sauce is too acidic.
Serve immediately, or can the sauce for future use, or freeze it in small containers for up to several months.
Nutritional information is based on 12 servings and includes 1 teaspoon of added salt.