I'm sure I'm not alone in considering my slow cooker as mostly a piece of winter kitchen kit. Dishes like Slow Cooker Beef and Sausage Casserole and Slow Cooker Spanish Pork, are definitely all about woolly socks, roaring fires and cosy evenings, but in truth, aren't the summer months the days when we would really appreciate not needing to turn on the oven and be able to focus on enjoying life rather than spending loads of time in the kitchen?
Since my original slow cooker died and I replaced it with a more compact and worktop-friendly combined Instant Pot and Slow Cooker (this is the one I have and love), I do use it a lot more - maybe just the fact that it's not hidden away in the cupboard is also key here?
This Slow Cooker Sausage Ragu is my latest slow cooker success and I'm sure it will be a popular and useful addition to your summer repertoire for feeding you and yours through the longer days and (hopefully) lovelier weather.
Last week, I made it and did all the prep the evening before (chopping the vegetables and taking the casings off the sausages and breaking them into pieces), stored it all in the fridge and quickly set the ragu off to cook in the slow cooker the following morning. It was so great when dinner that night just needed some pasta to be cooked.
This simple ragu combines sautéd onions, carrots, celery and garlic with crumbled up sausages and slow cooks everything in a rich, tasty tomato sauce. Delicious. There are all sorts of toppings that you can use to adorn the dish (you know how much I love my toppings) but serving it as it comes also works like a dream.
What do you need to make this?
- olive oil - just a bit for sautéing
- onions, carrots, celery and garlic - all chopped finely
- a large sprig of fresh thyme - with the leaves pulled
- 700-800g (approx 1lb 8oz) of sausages - there is no need to be too precise on quantity here. You can also choose whichever sausage flavour you prefer. Sometimes I choose a really spicy flavour which gives the sauce some heat; other times I may go for a more traditional flavour and use some toppings to add a bit of extra kick.
- tomato purée - I like the double concentrate in a tube
- ½ to 1 cup of water (or dry white wine if you have it handy) - adding less liquid makes for a richer and more intense sauce but sometimes, I want to make it stretch a bit further so I opt for a full cup of liquid
- 2 tins of chopped or cherry tomatoes - both types of tinned tomatoes work well
- ½ cup sun-blush or semi-dried tomatoes - I find these to be expensive, although they add good flavour. In slow cooker recipes, I often replace them with 'sun-dried' (which tend to be cheaper, albeit chewy) and the slow cooking softens them a lot. I do cut them into small pieces though, just in case.
- salt and pepper - to taste
How to make this Slow Cooker Sausage Ragu
- Set your slow cooker to the sauté function (or complete stages 2-4 in a large frying pan on the hob if your slow cooker doesn't have this setting).
- Add a little olive oil and sauté the chopped onions until soft and translucent (mine took about 3 minutes).
- Add the carrot, celery and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft (about 5 minutes).
- Add the thyme leaves and the sausage meat and cook for about 5 minutes until the meat starts to brown a little. My slow cooker has a fairly small base so I found that there was too much steam created to make browning possible - instead, I just moved on to the next stage once the 5 minutes was up.
- Now add the remaining ingredients and cook on LOW for 10 hours (or HIGH for 6 hours).
- Season to taste once the cooking time is complete and serve with your favourite pasta shape.
What toppings could you use with this ragu?
- pitted black olives - I like the Kalamata variety (the ones that are more purple than black), stoned and cut in half
- a few capers
- some extra sun-blush tomatoes - I sometimes use ones that I've slow-roasted myself (particularly when I have some that are either bland or have gone a bit wrinkly and past their prime)
- chopped parsley or basil - everything benefits from the lift of a bit of green
- ricotta might also be a nice topping or maybe some burrata?
What is there to love about this Slow Cooker Sausage Ragu?
- It's easy and delicious.
- It's no drama to adapt by choosing your sausages depending on what mood you're in - spicy, traditional, chunky.
- It's a great dish for spanning the generations - toddlers, teenagers, parents and grandparents.
- It is also lovely served on a jacket potato, particularly if you chose to make it with a little less liquid.
- This is a perfect midweek family dinner but can also be prettied up to make it ideal if you have guests (think large, flat serving dish and plenty of toppings).
- Not surprisingly, it freezes like a dream.
There was a time when I rarely had a good word to say about my slow cooker. She (because she is a 'she') is definitely in my inner circle now!
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