World’s Simplest Crockpot Bolognese (Freezer-Friendly!)

This recipe requires just 5 minutes of effort.

YES! Just. Five. Minutes.

And when such little effort produces a rich, comforting, out-of-this-world sauce that you can pair with almost anything, it’s not just the world’s simplest recipe. It’s straight-up magic.

Nearly every crockpot bolognese recipe I’ve found calls for browning the meat prior to cooking in the crockpot. And while this certainly isn’t a bad thing, to me it sort of defeats the purpose. If I’m using my crockpot, it’s because I literally want NOTHING to do with the ins-and-outs of cooking. I want to throw a bunch of ingredients inside, set the timer, choose a heat setting, and that’s freakin’ it. So while browning your meat does typically render a richer sauce, I found a fool-proof way to eliminate this step entirely. And it’s worth every barely-there second.

The key to this bolognese’s success is the use of extra-lean ground beef. In the majority of my red-meat recipes I recommend 96%/4% beef  — see here, here, and here — because it’s tremendously flavorful with such little fat. The low fat content not only helps your thighs (you’re welcome), it also means there’s VERY little fat to render. That’s important in skillets, sauces, and obviously… here. Because without it, this sauce would end up a greasy, unappetizing mess. So when you go to make this recipe don’t buy anything with a fat content higher than 90%/10%. If buy something fattier, you’ll need to brown the meat before the crockpot.

Anyhoo, when you’re ready combine San Marzano tomatoes, ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic into the crockpot. Set the heat to high, the timer to 4 hours, and BOOM. Let your crockpot do it’s thang. I used peeled San Marzano tomatoes for mine, so I mashed the sauce 2 or 3 times while it cooked to break them up — if you can buy them crushed, even better. Regardless, when the sauce has about 30 minutes left to cook, add tomato paste to thicken, adjust the seasonings as needed, and lastly add a few pinches of sugar. The smells alone will indicate that this sauce is perfect. But when you taste it? Amazing.

Luscious, savory, sweet bolognese heaven that’s primed for pasta, stuffed peppers, zucchini noodles, and more.

Once the sauce is finished let it cool completely, then store in the freezer in air-tight Ball jars. To defrost, simply unscrew the metal tops and thaw on your countertop for 4 – 6 hours, or heat on your microwave’s defrost setting for 4 – 5 minutes. As soon as the sauce is loose enough to transfer from jar to stove, complete the warming process there and then serve as desired. xo

World's Simplest Crockpot Bolognese (Freezer-Friendly!)


  • (two) 28oz cans peeled or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 lbs extra-lean ground beef (I used 96%/4%)
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsps basil
  • 2 1/2 tsps oregano
  • 2 tsps crushed or minced garlic
  • several dashes salt
  • a few pinches black pepper
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • a few pinches granulated sugar
  • Ball jars for storing in the freezer


  1. In a slow-cooker combine the tomatoes, extra-lean ground beef, onion, basil, oregano, garlic, and salt & pepper. Set the heat setting to high and the time to 4 hours, then cover and allow to cook. If using peeled tomatoes, occasionally mash them with a potato masher (about 2 or 3 times).
  2. With 30 minutes left to cook, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed, then stir in the tomato paste and sugar. Taste again to ensure you are happy with the sauce, then cover and cook for the remaining 30 minutes.
  3. Once the sauce is cooked, allow it to cool completely. Evenly spoon into Ball jars, then seal and place in the freezer until needed. When ready to defrost, unscrew the metal tops and thaw on your countertop for 4 – 6 hours, or heat on your microwave’s “defrost” setting for 4 – 5 minutes. As soon as the sauce is loose enough to transfer from jar to saucepan, complete the warming process on the stove over a medium flame, then serve as desired.