Recipe: Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce (that will feed a crowd!)

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This Sunday Sauce is a hearty, delicious crowd pleaser. There is just no other way to describe it! I was first introduced to this style of spaghetti sauce by our old babysitter, Kim, long ago when we lived in Florida and I was working full time for corporate America. While the baby (who is now 8 going on 9!) was napping and I was working, rather than sitting around, Kim would start or sometimes even make our dinner for us. Now that is a good babysitter. And with our work schedules back then, her extra help with dinner was such a life saver at times. Granted, at that time in our lives, the meat wasn’t local and the tomatoes weren’t organic and the pasta definitely wasn’t whole-grain, BUT it was still a somewhat wholesome meal I very much enjoyed and remember to this day.

And thanks to a similar dish made by my friend Trang and a “Super Sunday Sauce” recipe I found in Rachael Ray Magazine, I was able to piece together how Kim made this for us, plus – added bonus – turn it into a dish that can simmer all day long in the slow cooker!

Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce from 100 Days of Real Food #realfood #slowcooker


5.0 from 4 reviews

Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce
Serves: 10-12
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound country style pork ribs, preferably pasture raised
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage (either links that have been cut into 1 inch pieces or ground sausage), preferably pasture raised
  • 1 pound homemade beef meatballs (we have a tried and true recipe you can follow), preferably grass-fed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Necessary equipment: Slow cooker
  • Serving suggestion: Serve over whole-grain noodles and for a garnish top with fresh basil leaves or freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or both!)
  • Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce (Close Up) from 100 Days of Real Food #sundaysauce #slowcooker
  1. In your largest skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and cook the ribs on one side for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the prepared meatballs and sausage pieces to the pan (depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the meat in batches) then flip the ribs over to the other side. After 2 to 3 minutes flip over the meatballs and sausage link pieces (or break up the sausage with a spatula if using ground). Keep cooking until all of the meat is done all the way through and no longer pink in the middle.
  2. Transfer the meat from the pan to the slow cooker. In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. After 3 or 4 minutes add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Scrape the onion and garlic on top of the meat in the slow cooker.
  3. Add both cans of tomatoes, salt, and pepper into the slow cooker on top of the meat mixture.
  4. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook for 5 to 6 hours or until the rib meat is falling off the bone. Serve with whole-grain noodles and a side salad and enjoy!
We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.


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62 comments to Recipe: Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce (that will feed a crowd!)

  • Valerie

    Are canned foods considered “real food”? With the BPA lining, and added ingredients I don’t like to use them. What’s the difference of subbing actual organic tomatoes?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Valerie. You could use BPA-free canned tomatoes (like Eden Organic) or you can find them in boxed or jarred forms, as well. You can always make your own, especially during prime tomato season and you can can them yourself, too. Buying them prepared or having them canned in your pantry definitely cuts down on your meal prep time. :) ~Amy

  • Becky

    This is fantastic. I’m a slow cooker newbie and love this. My daughter loved the meatballs. I served over crispy roasted polenta with sauteed kale. Lovely winter comfort meal.

  • This is the best pasta sauce we have ever had. Hands down. LOVE IT!

  • Jamie

    I have been hearing about canned tomatoes having effects on our health, is there another option to buying canned tomatoes?

  • Catherine

    What is your feeling on organic beef vs. non-organic grass fed. I don’t have easy access to organic-grass fed on a daily basis… Am I still doing right by my family by at least buying organic beef?!?
    Going to make my next Sunday sauce in the crock pot instead of stove top (traditional Italian way)

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Catherine. Organic grass fed is the best of the best for many reasons but organic is certainly much better than non-organic. There are some quality standards there, anyway. You can ask your grocer to stock grass fed. They may accommodate though it is unlikely to be local. Also, check out and you might find a farmer in your area and this might allow you to occasionally stock up. :) ~Amy

    • Mandie

      If your buying direct from a farmer you can ask how they raise their livestock. Many times small local farms have chosen not to add the extra expense of organic certification to thee food prices and so cannot legally advertise it as organic. But I’ve found that in talking to the farmers I buy from the ‘non-organic’ grass fed meat is quite often organic without the increased expense of certification.

  • kristen

    do you put all 3 of those meats in at once? or just pick 1 meat?

  • Michele

    What size slow cooker?

  • Fiona

    When you cooked this dish with venison, which meat did you sub for the venison? or did you just make it all venison?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Fiona. If you were posing this question to someone who commented here, you need to click reply under that particular comment. ~Amy

  • Moramay

    Just noticed I meant to say “crock pot;” sorry, it’s late!

  • Kassandrah lent

    Do you suggest pulling and shredding the pork off the bone? I’m assuming the meatballs and sausage can be served as is just didn’t know about the ribs thank you!

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