Slow-Cooker Sunday Sauce

Slow-Cooker Sunday Sauce

Whether it’s called red sauce, sugo or gravy, you’ll find a big pot of the rich tomato sauce simmering all Sunday long in many Italian-American households. Every family has their own version, but this recipe includes shreddy pork shoulder, sausage and meatballs. This slow-cooker version lets you simmer it overnight or while you’re not home (and without splatters and stirring). Once the sauce is done, coat pasta in the sauce, spoon the meats on top and serve it with a green salad, crusty bread and red wine. Sauce can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 week and frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 6 persons



  1. Step 1

    In a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker, add the crushed tomatoes and basil sprigs. Season the pork shoulder all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Step 2

    In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium high. Working in batches if necessary, cook the pork until browned on two sides, 8 to 10 minutes total, adding more oil if the pan looks dry. Transfer pieces to the slow cooker as they finish. Add the sausages to the pot and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  3. Step 3

    Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, if needed, and the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the red wine, stirring to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, and cook until the wine is nearly evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes. Scrape the onion-wine mixture into the slow cooker, and stir to combine. Add the meatballs on top. (It’s okay if they’re sticking out of the sauce.) Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until the pork shoulder falls apart when shredded with a fork.
  4. Step 4

    When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package instructions until al dente. While the pasta boils, slice the sausage and shred the pork shoulder on a cutting board, and leave it there. When the pasta is al dente, reserve ½ cup pasta water, then drain and return the pasta to the pot. Over medium heat, toss the pasta with enough sauce to coat (about 4 cups), adding pasta water as needed until the sauce clings to the pasta. (Some meatballs might end up in the pasta pot; that’s OK.) Return the sausage and pork shoulder to the remaining sauce in the slow cooker.
  5. Step 5

    Divide pasta between bowls, then top with a bit of each meat. Pass the Parmesan and extra meat and sauce at the table.