Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce and a Review: America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution

Hello friends. I know I've mentioned here a time or two how much I love Cook's Illustrated magazine. Well, I'm even more in love with the America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook, especially their slow cooker pasta sauce.

Now you may think it odd that I, a gluten-free lady, would be psyched about pasta sauce. Well you know what?  A lovely brand of brown rice pasta makes it very easy for me to participate in all things pasta again.

And, you may also wonder why a lady who was raised by another lady who happens to be an excellent Italian-American cook would want a pasta sauce book. I'm here to tell you, we all have our ways of cooking, and pooh-pooh other versions of our tried-and-true recipes. I've never made a tomato sauce that has onions or sugar in it (Gran Fran says that's not the way it's done). Nor have I ever tried to use a slow cooker for sauce (Gran Fran's head is now exploding in NYC while she reads this and discovers that I had the audacity to leave an appliance not only plugged in but on and simmering things for hours on end in an empty house).

I went through the book and found many interesting recipes, including some for Asian style noodles, which happen to be rice, that I will totally try to make. I chose to make the Spicy Sausage Ragu with Red Peppers: it's one of the slow cooker pasta sauce recipes in the book. I'm new to slow cooking (see comment above about Gran Fran's head exploding) and I'm also not the best at actually following all the steps in a recipe. Since I create my own recipes 98 percent of the time, I find it hard to believe that anyone knows better than I how to put something together.

My previous successes with Cook's Illustrated recipes reminded me that I had to take the time to really make this recipe. I made a pact with myself to follow every step in the Ragu recipe, including browning ingredients before throwing them into the slow cooker. I tend to wing it, so this was a true test of my patience. I'd also like to point out that I started cooking this at 6am so that it would be ready for dinner with a friend by 7pm. I think my neighbors are more than fed up with their noisy cooking crazy person on the second floor (that's me, if you didn't catch on) who tends to cook late at night or early in the morning. Who knows? All I know is that a good recipe with clear instructions really floats my boat.

If I can follow this in the wee early morning hours and have a great dish by dinner, I fully recommend this book to all of you. It's especially good for people like me who need to find some discipline and pay attention to directions every once in awhile. As it turns out, I really did enjoy leaving my comfort zone and trying a new version of something I've made hundreds of times. I'm really excited to cook my way through a bunch of these recipes and will be posting my results.

I will say, though, as delicious as this sauce is when first prepared, it is even better re-heated. The initial sauce turned out a bit thin for my liking (my friend, however, said it was just the way she liked it, so maybe it's personal preference). The sauce thickened nicely as the portions were reheated. That said, I loved the flavors, but I have to admit, I left some of the sausages in their skins and cut them up into chunks to go along with the sausage meat. I just love a chunky sauce. Other than that, I followed the recipe to a T and was rewarded with a great sauce.

Give this book a try, even if you consider yourself an advanced cook. America's Test Kitchen recipes always teach me something new and turn out great.

Spicy Sausage Ragu with Red Peppers

(Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce)

Makes 12 cups


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds hot Italian sausage, removed from its casing
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsely
  • Salt & Pepper


  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown well, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker
  • Add onions, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, and red pepper flakes to fat in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until onions are softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in wine, scraping up brown bits and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add ingredients to the slow cooker.
  • Stir crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce into the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook until the sauce is deeply flavored. 9 to 11 hours on low; 5 to 7 hours on high.
  • Let sauce settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.
  • Microwave bell peppers with remaining tablespoon of oil in bowl, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir softened bell peppers into sauce and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  • Before serving, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Author's Note:

I received a complimentary copy of

America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution.

There was no monetary compensation for this review.