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One Pot Slow-Cooked Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

We are a household that loves pasta. While browsing through the Serious Eats website, as we often do, we came across this slow-cooked tomato sauce recipe by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Truthfully, we were a bit intimated as it requires 4+ hours of cooking in the oven. We decided to give it a try the following weekend since all of Kenji's recipes have been absolutely wonderful and delicious.

For our version of the recipe, we've made a few changes from Kenji's:

  1. We first brown 2lbs of ground beef, then transfer to a container until the very end when we mix it together
  2. We omit the fish sauce because I'm not a fan of fish/seafood (I'm sorry!)
  3. We use 4 28oz cans of no-salt added crushed tomatoes instead of whole-peeled tomatoes that we crush ourselves.
  4. Instead of reserving 3 cups of the hand crushed tomatoes for the end and getting another dish dirty, we set aside 1 28oz can for the end.

If you want to make this sauce vegetarian, omit the ground beef and fish sauce. If you want to make this sauce vegan and Whole30 friendly, omit the butter and use slightly more olive oil. If you're following Whole30 or Keto, pair the sauce with spiralized zucchini! 

Our favorite is to pair this sauce with rigatoni and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Yummy. Once you're done with dinner, you can freeze the leftover sauce for later. While it does take some time to cook away in the oven, it's pretty hands off during that time and well worth the wait! Love that the dish only requires one pot

More of a pesto person, be sure to check out our delicious basil pesto recipe!

You can get the original recipe from Serious Eats: The Best Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce Recipe. Our adapted version is below with pictures and notes.

First, gather and prep your ingredients

Preheat the oven to 300°F as you're prepping the ingredients. Take out all but one of the oven racks (you'll want the rack on the lowest setting so there's room for the pot).

Add oil to a Dutch oven, then brown your ground beef

I like to buy the 85% lean ground beef. Once the beef is cooked through, I drain the fat out and put the beef in a container that I leave in the fridge. You only need to add the beef for the last 15 minutes.

Heat oil and butter, sauté garlic, crushed red pepper, & oregano.

The garlic cooks pretty quickly so you'll want to make sure you've already crushed the tomatoes ahead of time so the garlic doesn't burn. I recommend cooking the garlic and spices for no more than 30-40 seconds on a medium heat.

To make this vegan and Whole30 friendly, omit the butter and add 1/4 cup of olive oil instead. 

Add crushed tomatoes, carrot, onion, and basil leaves

You're going to only use 3 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes at this point. Bring to a simmer, then take off heat.

A note about canned tomatoes... Kenji uses San Marzano whole-peeled tomatoes. We used to as well but we found (1) they're more expensive; (2) crushing them by hand adds extra time; and (3) we didn't notice a significant difference from regular crushed tomatoes. Since we're a low-sodium household, our preference is to use no salt added crushed tomatoes. However, if you prefer, you can hand-crush (or use an immersion blender) San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes to follow the original recipe more closely

With lid slightly ajar, place pot in oven. Stir every hour for 4 to 5 hours.

Our favorite is using our Lodge dutch oven pot since we can use it on the stovetop and in the oven. We cooked this sauce in the oven for 4 hours.

Place pot on stovetop and remove carrot, onion, and basil leaves. Then add reserved tomato sauce, freshly minced basil, and ground beef. Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer for 8-10 minutes. 

If the sauce appears chunkier than you'd prefer, you can use an immersion blender to cut up the tomato pieces. You'll want to do this before you add the beef into the sauce. 

Enjoy! Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  

Our favorite pasta to pair this sauce with is rigatoni, though we've also made this with spaghetti and loved it.

Freeze leftover sauce for later using your Souper Cubes™ tray

Typically, this recipe will yield 11-12 cups of sauce (depending on how long you slow-cook it in the oven). We tend to use 3-4 cups of sauce for a bag of dry pasta.

Slow-Cooked Tomato Sauce with Beef Recipe

Adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt


  • 4 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter (if omitting, add additional 1/4 cup EVOO)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 large stem fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 2lbs of ground meat (we use 85% lean ground beef)


  1. Preheat Oven. Set oven to 300°F. Make sure to adjust your oven rack to the lower position so that your oven-safe pot can fit in the oven.
  2. Brown Ground Meat. If using ground meat, heat oil in a Dutch oven. Once hot, place 2lbs of meat. Cook until meat is fully cooked through. Then drain fat and place meat in a bowl. Place in refrigerator until sauce is ready.
  3. Create Infused Oil. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 4 tbsp. butter over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Once melted, add 8 garlic cloves (minced), 1 tsp. red pepper flaskes, and 1 tbsp. oregano. Stir until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Add Tomatoes and Veggies. Add 3 28oz. cans of crushed tomatoes, 2 medium-sized chopped carrots, 1 medium onion (quartered), and 1 large stem fresh basil to the pot. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over high heat. 
  5. Slow Cook in Oven with Lid. Cover Dutch oven with lid slightly ajar and transfer to oven. Cook for 4-5 hours. Stir every 1-2 hours. The sauce will reduce and darken to a deep red. Make sure to scrap up any browned bits along the side of the Dutch oven and mix into the pot.
  6. Remove from Oven. Discard onion halves, carrots, and basil stems. Add remaining 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, browned ground beef, and 1/2 cup fresh minced basil. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes on low heat with lid.
  7. Enjoy. Enjoy! If you're cooking it more than a few days in advance from when you're going to eat it, make sure to freeze in individual 1cup portions so its easy to reheat.

Check out our recipe page: Souper Cubes® Recipe Page

Make sure to pick up a two-pack of Souper Cubes® to freeze 8 cups of this delicious sauce to add to your freezer meal stash.