Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce | Weeknight Meal Planning

Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce – Tomato, Sausage, Short & Country Style Ribs

Sunday sauce, although not something I grew up with, is a concept I wholeheartedly approve of.  Tomato sauce, lots of different proteins (sausage and/or slow cooked pork or meats)… I have made a lot of Sunday sauce recipes over the past 10 years and have experimented with quite a few of my own mash ups.

This was a bit of a mashup — part Marcella Hazan butter sauce, America’s Test Kitchen Sunday Sauce and Food & Wine Short Rib Sunday Sauce — because I was inspired to make Sunday sauce while dashing through the aisles at the grocery store (where I get most of my menu inspiration) and without thinking, I decided to ‘try’ mixing short ribs (super hearty, rich beef) with slow cooked pork and sausage (which cooks a little quicker).

However, it didn’t quite work the way I wanted – although it was very delicious in the end, I’m going to recommend some changes to save you some distress.


To brown the meats, do a little chopping (not much, note the onion’s quartered and the garlic cloves left whole, but some), open the cans and prep everything it’ll take about 15 – 25 minutes of prep time. Less if you season the meats and cut the onions and garlic the day before.

The GREAT news, this is mostly a hands-off ‘cooks itself’ dish that I adapted for the slow cooker but could also easily be made stovetop (which I have).


Meats/proteins –

  • Variation A – What I did:  4 bone in beef short ribs; 2 hot Italian pork sausages & 2 country style pork ribs.
  • Variation B – What you should do:  2 lbs of beef flank steak (instead of the short ribs) if you want to do the pork sausage & country style ribs.
  • Consider Variation C – Use the ingredients I did – but remove the meats sooner and remove the fat/bones from the short ribs after about 7 1/2 hours — also note that the sausage & country style ribs will likely cook faster.


  • One 28 oz. can of San Marzano style whole tomatoes in juice
  • One 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in puree
  • One 6 oz. can of tomato paste (optional – because I forgot to buy one & everything worked out fine. But usually I include one).
  • One and a half large yellow onions (cut into quarters)
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic (hard tops removed)
  • Handful (1/4 cup each) of your favorite sauce friendly herbs – I used thyme and rosemary (chopped)
Picture of Sunday sauce prep work
See? Barely any chopping – I was in a huge hurry the morning I put this together, running late for my son’s soccer practice…took very little time, even easier if you cut the onions & garlic the night before.

Steps to put this on your table:

  • Season the short ribs or flank steak (if using) and country style ribs with salt and pepper.
  • In a large stockpot, brown the meats on all sides (about 5 to 7 minutes per side) over medium to medium high heat.  Put aside.
Browned, beef short ribs – pre slow cooker.
  • Put the tomatoes, paste (if using), onions, garlic and herbs in the slow cooker insert.
  • Gently nestle the meat into the sauce and set your slow cooker on low (7.5 to 9.5 hours).
  • Check the meat at the 7 to 7.5 hour mark — at this point, remove the meat from the sauce and when they’re cool enough (about 10 – 15 minutes) discard the bones, cut off (and discard) the large pieces of fat and cut the sausages into rounds, pork and beef into pieces and return the meat to the sauce to cook for another 30 minutes or so.  If the sausage and pork seems fully cooked already – keep it aside and only return it to the sauce about 5 minutes before you’re ready to finish it, to avoid having it dry out on you (as mine did on me a bit).

Enjoy this!  Serve it over pappardelle, rigatoni, penne or a hearty grain like Barley, it’s delicious over just about anything!

Picture of Sunday sauce over pappardelle noodles
So good Sunday sauce – mostly cooks by itself in slow cooker magic land. Make a huge batch & serve leftovers during the week or freeze.

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