Make the most of the flavor of summer produce with a batch of easy Tomato Sauce made with fresh tomatoes. This method is super easy, relies on the slow cooker so you can avoid heating up your range, and delivers on the classic Italian flavor your family craves all year long. And it freezes so well.

slow-cooker-spaghetti-sauce-in-freezer-containers in storage containers

Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

If you have a pile of fresh tomatoes to use up, but you don’t have time to spend a day canning, you will love this recipe. And if your kiddos love pasta, you will double love it.

It took me a few years to figure out this method, but it’s by far the easiest way that I’ve found to quickly turn a pile of tomatoes into delicious spaghetti sauce.

So without ever turning on the stove or heating up the kitchen, you can make use of those garden-fresh tomatoes while you sleep. (OK, you have a little work to do in the morning and you still need to chop the tomatoes, but it’s so much less intense than the traditional methods of tomato preserving.)

This slow cooker spaghetti sauce is packed with nutrients and freezes so well.

TIP: I use this method in the summer when we have access to a lot of low-cost fresh tomatoes from the garden and farmer’s market, but it also works with tomatoes from the store.

Using Fresh Tomatoes to Make Spaghetti Sauce

We’re fortunate to almost always have an excess of fresh tomatoes (which I often freeze) in the summer since our neighbor happens to be a farmer. She, like many farmers, typically have “seconds” which are tomatoes that are perfectly fine but may have a blemish or two that prevents them from being sold at market.

TIP: You can often get these for much less cost per pound that perfect tomatoes, but they have the same fresh tomato flavor. And it’s easy to turn them into sauce using the Crock Pot.

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need:

heirloom tomatoes in container
  • Fresh tomatoes: Paste tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes both work.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic adds really amazing flavor. You don’t have to chop it, don’t worry.
  • Basil: You can add fresh basil for that classic Italian flavor.
  • Salt

TIP: You can omit the basil if you don’t have it, or use a little dried Italian seasoning.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Previously, the idea of making sauce in the slow cooker made no sense to me because with the lid on, there’s no chance for the liquid to evaporate. And trust me, fresh tomatoes have a ton of liquid that needs to cook off! 

But then I realized: Instead of cooking the liquid down, I could just separate it out. Here’s how the process works. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe.

how to make slow cooker spaghetti sauce step-by-step
  1. Fill the slow cooker with chopped fresh tomatoes and the garlic. Cover and cook on low.
  2. Remove the lid and let cool. 
  3. Use a large slotted spoon to scoop out the tomato solids. Blend.
  4. Freeze for later or use right away.

TIP: I like to use quart-size freezer storage containers to store this tomato sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a vegetarian tomato sauce?

This is a great basic marinara sauce for pasta since it’s packed with tomato flavor and really doesn’t need much else. It’s a nice vegetarian pasta sauce for weeknight family dinners. And it packs a huge dose of Vitamins A and C!

What do I do with the leftover liquid?

The liquid the tomatoes leave behind, which I call “tomato water” is a flavorful substitution for stock or broth. It’s particularly great in lentil or bean soups and in chili. I love making my spaghetti sauce this way because instead of having all of that flavorful liquid evaporate, you get to keep it for another use.

I let it cool and freeze it in containers the same way as the sauce.

How long can I store this sauce?

Once cooled, you can pour the sauce into freezer containers or storage bags and freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature. (Don’t worry if it looks a little separated—it will come back together when it’s warmed up.) To use, heat a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste.

slow-cooker-spaghetti-sauce-in-freezer-containers

This Sauce Goes Well With…

Try pairing the finished sauce with pasta, chicken tenders (for a chicken Parmesan type of meal), quinoa, couscous, Sausage Meatballs, Toddler Meatballs, Chicken Meatballs, Mini Meatballs, and really any other ways you like it.

How to Store

Once cooled, you can pour the sauce into freezer containers or storage bags and freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature.

Don’t worry if it looks a little separated—it will come back together when it’s warmed up. To use, heat a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Best Tips for Success

  • You can leave the peel on the tomatoes.
  • Cut the amounts in half if you have a smaller amount of tomatoes.
  • If you don’t have fresh basil, you can omit it. Add ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning instead, if desired.
  • Once cooked, let the tomatoes cool enough that you can safely blend them. If they are too hot, the steam may cause the top of the blender to come off (and trust me, you don’t want that!). Blend the sauce in two batches to further prevent the possibility of this even more.
  • Blend the sauce on high to fully blend in the tomato skins.
  • Let cool before storing the containers in the fridge or freezer.
  • Thaw in the fridge or at room temperature.
  • Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper before you toss it with the pasta.

Related Recipes


I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it, so please rate the recipe and comment!

slow-cooker-spaghetti-sauce-in-freezer-containers in storage containers

Easy Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

This slow cooker tomato sauce method is the easiest way to transform fresh tomatoes into delicious sauce. Scale the recipe up or down for a smaller or larger slow cooker. You don't have to be precise! And the chopped tomatoes can be very roughly chopped.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 83kcal
Servings 10 (or 2 quarts)

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts fresh tomatoes (very roughly chopped with stems discarded)
  • 4 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  • Fill the slow cooker with the chopped fresh tomatoes, stems discarded, and the garlic. Cover and cook on low overnight, or about 8-10 hours. 
  • Remove the lid and let cool for 30-60 minutes. (This makes it possible to blend them without the risk of the steam making your blender explode, which is key.)
  • Use a large slotted spoon or small mesh spoon to scoop out the tomato solids and garlic into a blender, leaving the liquid in the slow cooker.
  • Add oregano, salt, olive oil, and basil and blend into a smooth sauce. (You may need to do two batches.) Blend very, very well to ensure that the skin is blended up.
  • Pour into freezer containers or storage bags and freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw overnight in the fridge. (Don’t worry if it looks a little separated—it will come back together when it’s warmed up.)
  • To use, heat a pot over medium heat, add sauce, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

Notes

  • You can leave the peel on the tomatoes. It blends in when you puree the sauce in Step 4.
  • Cut the amounts in half if you have a smaller amount of tomatoes.
  • If you don’t have fresh basil, you can omit it. Add ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning instead, if desired.
  • Once cooked, let the tomatoes cool enough that you can safely blend them. If they are too hot, the steam may cause the top of the blender to come off (and trust me, you don’t want that!). Blend the sauce in two batches to further prevent the possibility of this even more.
  • Let cool before storing the containers in the fridge or freezer.
  • Thaw in the fridge or at room temperature.
  • Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper before you toss it with the pasta.

Nutrition

Calories: 83kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 252mg, Potassium: 908mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 3220IU, Vitamin C: 52mg, Calcium: 46mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was originally published July 2020.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is very easy and so delicious! I really didn’t think the peels would blend up in my blender, but they did and the sauce is smooth.

  2. Where we supposed to remove the seeds? I have blended and blended and i just get a mouthful of crunch seeds. I would possibly make again but definitely remove the seeds. I had a full crockpot full and only ended up with 1 qt. Bag. Flavor is ok to me.

  3. Would this work if I used a large stock pot and left on low for several hours on stove? I just am trying to use 14 pounds of tomatoes in one go and my slow cooker is too small .

    1. Yes, I think so, and you can drain off liquid as you go to make it go a little faster. Like check it every so often and ladle it off.

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is the answer if you have
    Too many ripe garden tomatoes. I peeled my tomatoes and put all ingredients in the crockpot along with 1 teaspoon of sugar .
    Then cooked for 10 hours.
    After they cooled, I put them in a colander and let them drain for 15 minutes. There was lots of liquid. Then I processed them in my Cuisinart.
    This sauce is delicious! And SO easy! I have made 2 batches and the 3rd one is cooking now.

  5. 5 stars
    Actually, always have this stored in my freezer. It is a Nigerian staple and we usually would blend it with Bell Peppers. We use it as a sauce for Pasta, Chicken/Beef, Nigerian Jollof Rice. I also use it to fry eggs, as well as make Beef or Chicken stew with it.

    1. It would be very, very liquidy and not the texture of traditional tomato sauce so I prefer to do it in the order I have in the recipe.

  6. 5 stars
    I had never made spaghetti Sauce from scratch before and this recipe was easy to follow and make from my fresh tomatoes. I highly recommend this recipe!

    1. I have mine in the crockpot now – first time for me too – I did something really dumb – I sauteed the onion, garlic and MUSHROOMS and dumped them in to the crockpot too – I should have waited to do the mushrooms once the rest of the steps were complete, oh well, they will thicken things I guess LOL

  7. 5 stars
    SO easy and freezes well! We enjoyed this sauce in the dead of winter last year and are using our extra tomatoes to do the same this year. Love that you don’t have to remove skin or seeds – that’s always been my barrier with three little ones running around. Now, I don’t have to do all the extra and we still get sauce everyone eats and loves!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! And I know. I’m with you about traditional methods being too hard to do with littles!