Crock-Pot® spaghetti usually refers only to the sauce. Instead of simmering sauce ingredients in a large pot on the stove, the cook adds them to a Crock-Pot® and lets them warm for up to 10 hours. This method allows people to infuse their spaghetti sauces with a number of different flavor combinations. It also gives home cooks a low-stress way to create homemade sauces that require long cooking times.
People making Crock-Pot® spaghetti have a wide range of options when it comes to creating the dish. Some prefer to combine several different kinds of jarred sauces and simply allow them to marry in the Crock-Pot® over time. In these cases, mixing a spicy or acidic sauce with a sweeter or cheese-based one usually works best to create a blend of balanced flavors. For instance, one might mix a spicy olive-laden sauce with a four-cheese variety.
Homemade pasta sauces often benefit greatly from Crock-Pot® simmering. All the cook must do is add a pound or two (1/2 kg to 1 kg) of seeded, diced tomatoes, up to 1 quart (about 1 L) of liquid, and desired spices to the slow cooker. As the mixture simmers, the liquid typically breaks down the tomatoes. After the tomatoes are completely softened, all the cook must do is blend the sauce together with an immersion blender or food processor.
Liquid options for Crock-Pot® spaghetti sauce include chicken broth, vegetable stock, or cream. One may also use a combination of these ingredients. Adding cream to spaghetti sauce usually brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes while counteracting acidity. Some spice options are garlic, onion powder, basil, oregano, and paprika. Cream usually helps underscore spice flavors as well.
Meats almost always give Crock-Pot® spaghetti a savory richness. Such options usually include ground beef and various types of sausage. Ground beef must be browned before it is added to the sauce, otherwise it may not cook all the way through. Pre-cooked sausage, like kielbasa, may be added directly to the sauce. Pepperoni, turkey sausage, and pre-cooked ham can also give Crock-Pot® spaghetti full, hearty flavors.
The noodles in Crock-Pot® spaghetti are usually boiled separately from the sauce. Spaghetti noodles, if simmered for eight to 10 hours, usually become very soft and fall apart, which is generally not appetizing. Cooking the noodles separately and stirring them into the fully-simmered sauce generally ensures they will be tender, but not overcooked.
Those that want to create true Crock-Pot® spaghetti may add the noodles to the sauce about an hour before the sauce is ready. This technique should allow the sauce to soften and cook the spaghetti without ruining it. Home cooks trying this technique should check and taste the spaghetti about every 15 minutes to make sure it isn’t too soft. When the spaghetti noodles are almost cooked, one should turn off the heat. The residual heat in the slow cooker should finish the process.