Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce Recipe for Slow Cooker

The Recipe: Homey comfort food, it's the favorite for kids and grown-ups alike. This is my recipe for homemade meat sauce for spaghetti with all the flavor for a fraction of the calories. I make it ahead of time in the slow cooker for convenience and with a pantry's worth of spices for a low-fat and low-calorie healthy supper. Kid friendly!

The Conversation: Remembering Italian suppers hosted by my parents, such exotic world cuisine through my child's eyes!

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce for the Slow Cooker, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, low-fat, low-cal homemade meat sauce for spaghetti, shown here with optional Giant Meatballs. Low Carb. High Protein.

When I was a girl, my parents hosted a party for friends, fussing over the food and the table. The theme must have been "Italy" because the menu was classic Italian, at least "Eye-talian" as interpreted by Prairie Canadians and Midwesterners who’d no more seen Naples than New York. [A side note: Thank you to my 80-something father for his gentle reminder that during World War II, Canadian and Midwestern soldiers were in Italy by the thousands and that Italian military cemeteries hold thousands of those thousands.]

The kitchen table sagged with big platters of spaghetti topped with meat sauce, baskets of garlic bread and a festive (plastic) bowl of (iceberg) lettuce and tomato salad with – no doubt – (bottled) Italian dressing.

To widened young eyes, this party was somehow "grown-up entertaining" not just the familiar "company for Sunday dinner" or "having people over for supper". Oh, it looked so worldly! so chic! oh-so-grown-up! What disappointment when the babysitter corralled all the kids and took us next door for the night.

Nowadays, ha, when just-add-hamburger spaghetti sauce comes cheap in jars, there’s nothing so exotic about spaghetti with a meaty tomato sauce. It’s everyday food, inexpensive to make, easy to serve, a household staple.

So many recipes for homemade spaghetti sauce take their flavor from Italian sausage – it works, every time. But Italian sausage adds much fat and many calories, more than is healthful for an everyday meal.

So when I adapted this recipe from Taste of Home, I skipped the Italian sausage itself but kept its spices. Then I let the spaghetti sauce simmer at low temperature for a loooong time, concentrating the flavors. The result is assertive flavor that’s good for you and good to eat. Let’s have a party!

ALANNA’s TIPS I have tested this recipe with both ground beef and ground elk. If using ground beef, you may want to drain off any fat that accumulates in the skillet during cooking. Another way to remove fat is to make this a day before serving, refrigerate overnight, then scrape the fat off the top before re-warming to serve. The list of spices is long, for sure. Italian seasoning is a close approximation, but don’t hesitate to keep doctoring until it tastes good. To my taste, the ground fennel is essential.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 9 hours
Makes 8 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef (see TIPS)
  • 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground fennel (see TIPS)
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooked spaghetti
  • Giant meatballs, optional
  • Chopped parsley, optional

In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium high until shimmery. Add the onions and garlic as prepped, stirring to coat with fat. Stir in the meat, breaking it apart but still leaving in chunks. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is well-browned, in fact, don't hesitate to let a little "burn" collect on the edges, it's flavor!

While the meat cooks, collect the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker. Add the meat. Cover and set on low for 8 hours. If possible, remove the lid for the last hour or so, cooking down the liquid.

To serve, remove the bay leaves. To serve, toss some of the tomato-y liquid with the cooked spaghetti. Arrange spaghetti on serving plates and top with spaghetti sauce. If using, sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Can be made ahead of time, it reheats beautifully.

Freezes well.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Half Cup: 117 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 35mg Cholesterol; 705mg Sodium; 8g Carb; 2g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 13g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 2 & WW Points Plus 3 & SmartPoints 3. This recipe has been "Alanna-sized".
Adapted from Taste of Home, Feb-Mar 2009 issue

GIANT MEATBALLS! We're fiends for tender giant meatballs in tomato sauce at Mia Sorella, our favorite neighborhood hangout. So I adapted my recipe for Finnish Meatballs to make giant meatballs. So good!

Just substitute Italian-friendly ground fennel for the Scandinavian-typical allspice, then form large meatballs (about 4 ounces each). I cook the meatballs right in the Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce, made the day before, uncovered at 300F/150C until the meatballs reach 180F/80C, about 2 hours, drizzling the meatballs with sauce occasionally.

Slow Cooked Goodness

Homemade Spaghetti Meat Sauce for the Slow Cooker, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, low-fat, low-cal homemade meat sauce for spaghetti. Low Carb. High Protein.

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I usually make my own sauce and am always looking for new recipes to try. this will be the next one I make. Also, always use ground fennel in my sauce. can be hard to find, but can always find it in Louisiana.
That was a wonderful experience, and a great recipe!! I remember something like this when I was in Girl Scouts. My mom made burritos for "international night" in the early 1970's. I had never had anything like it before and was amazed by the flavors. It was the most wonderful thing I'd ever eaten! A couple of years later we got our first "Taco Bell", and it became standard "fast food", but to this day, my mom's burritos (however humble!) are the standard to meet. Thanks for such a wonderful post!!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna