Slow-Cooker Spicy Sausage and Pepper Ragu comes together easily and really delivers for that amazing long-cooked Italian red sauce taste that will rival your favorite homestyle Italian restaurant. It’s perfect to enjoy right away and you’ll still have plenty to “put away!”
Although life for most people has really slowed down these days and people are finding more time along with having to cook at home, life WILL get busy again! Slow-Cooker Spicy Sausage and Pepper Ragu is perfect to make now for a meal to enjoy right away and some to put away!
Like everyone is doing right now with looking through the pantry, freezer and refrigerator for meals to pull together, I’m doing the same!
I had way too many cans of tomatoes in various forms so I decided to make this Slow-Cooker Spicy Sausage and Pepper Ragu, inspired by a recipe in The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook: From Appetizers to Desserts 500 Recipes You Can Make in Advance from America’s Test Kitchen. (Affiliate link below.)
What is a ragu?
In Italian cooking, a ragu is a ground meat-based sauce with onions, red wine and tomatoes. The meat can be sausage, ground beef, veal, pork. If you’re not into meat, ground turkey or chicken can be substituted for a healthier version. A ragu shouldn’t be confused with a ragout which is a slowly-simmered French stew.
A Bolognese sauce is similar to a ragu and considered one but it has white wine instead of red and cream or milk is often added at the end.
How to make Slow-Cooker Spicy Sausage and Pepper Ragu:
- First, brown the sausage (pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage) in a skillet or saute pan then place in a slow-cooker. If you’re not into sausage at all, you can use any type of ground meat.
- Next, cook onions and garlic until nice and soft to really pull the flavor out.
- Add tomato paste, spices and red wine and let that cook.
- Transfer that to the slow-cooker…
- Add canned tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes and Calabrian hot pepper paste, a diced Calabrian hot pepper from a jar or just a little extra crushed red pepper flakes. Leave out if Italian sausage is spicy enough for you!
- Cover and let simmer away for 8-10 hours on LOW or 6-7 hours on HIGH until nice and thick and full-flavored.
- Before you wash the pan you cooked the onions in, cook chopped red and green bell pepper until softened. Let cool and refrigerate it until there’s an hour or two of cooking time to go.
- Add the peppers and continue cooking until thissss… Yesssss…
- Add some chopped fresh parsley and another shot of red wine at the end.
Why add red wine at the end?
Almost all red or tomato sauces need to have the acidity balanced. Taste it and see! You may like it as is, you may want to add a touch of sugar, or like us, it tasted too sweet. Another shot of red wine at the end made it just right!
Cool the sauce thoroughly before freezing. Because there’s only two of us here, I divided it into three containers. Each container will cover 12 ounces of pasta or provide 3-4 servings.
We enjoyed one right away over whole-grain spaghetti and garlic bread and froze the other two! Sooo good!! Just like our favorite homestyle Italian restaurant!
Ways to use Slow-Cooker Spicy Sausage and Pepper Ragu:
- Serve over spaghetti, rigatoni, penne or ziti.
- Stuff pasta shells or manicotti with cheese then spoon the sauce over and bake.
- Combine with cooked pasta, add cheese and bake later.
For more great make-ahead Italian-inspired meals, try my:
- Shrimp, Scallop and Artichoke Lasagna
- Lasagna with Pesto, Green Beans and Potatoes
- Spaghetti Pie with Three Cheeses
- Baked Orzo with Pesto, Peas, Prosciutto and Mascarpone
- Baked Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Bacon and Taleggio
- Cheese-Stuffed Pasta Shells with Chunky Garden Marinara Sauce
- Baked Spaghetti Frittata with Broccoli Rabe, Bacon and Three Cheeses
Helpful tools and equipment (Affiliate Links):
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 12 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry red wine plus more for a splash at the end if desired when sauce is finished
- 1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (28-ounce) tomato sauce
- 2 cans (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes with Italian herbs (undrained)
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian hot pepper paste or 1 Calabrian hot pepper from a jar, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, reduce heat to medium and brown well until no longer pink, approximately 5 minutes. Transfer to slow-cooker. Reserve fat in the skillet.
- Place onions in the skillet. Cook over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until softened and lightly browned.
- Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, oregano and red pepper flakes. Stir until the garlic is fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.
- Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute then transfer to the slow cooker in small amounts (to prevent any sudden temperature change which may damage the slow-cooker insert).
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and hot pepper paste or chopped Calabrian hot pepper.
- Cover and cook 8-10 hours on LOW or 6-7 hours on HIGH.
- Before washing the skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped peppers and cook 4-5 minutes or until softened. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
- When there are about 1-2 hours left (2 for low and 1 for high), add the chopped peppers, cover and continue cooking.
- Add the chopped parsley, salt and black pepper to taste. Taste, and if desired, add a splash of red wine at the end.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 509Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 1084mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 3gSugar: 9gProtein: 24g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate. Please do your own research with the products you're using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.