I started off my adventure with something easy. I have always wanted to learn to make my own pasta sauce. It seemed like such a waste buying it at the store when homemade is so good.
I started by placing one chopped yellow onion, 2 minced garlic cloves plus some because garlic makes everything better, a couple of pinches of dried oregano and basil, and olive oil in a saute pan on medium-high heat until the onion were soft and almost translucent. I added some sea salt with dried garlic, red pepper flakes, and rosemary to the pan while cooking. I add this mix to almost everything because it is so delicious. It was given to me at my bridal shower in a basket of specialty cooking items. It has a place in all my dinner recipes. I guess I would say it is my secret ingredient.
I had left over mushrooms and cherry tomatoes that were going to go bad, so I decided just to throw them into the mix as well. The saute pan was large enough to push the mixture to the side allowing the mushrooms to sweat before combining it all together. This is not necessary though. If you don't like mushrooms just don't add them.
When the contents of the pan are ready to be transferred to the crock pot, I add some dry white wine to the pan first. Not only does dry white wine add flavor, but it gets all of the stuck onions and garlic up off the bottom of the pan.
Transfer this liquid to a 5-7 quart slow cooker. Then, add 3 28-32 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes with juice and some fresh ground pepper. I bought the cans with added Italian herbs because I enjoy rich and flavorful pasta sauce. I did not find it overwhelming. I could have added even more. As the sauce is cooking, you can always taste and add anything that you feel would improve the taste. I think I might have even tossed in some red wine because it was around and open.
I love slow cookers because you are able to adjust the timing depending on when you will be home. For this, it takes about 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. I cooked mine from 6 am to 4:30 on low, sending my husband home at lunch to check up on it, and it turned out wonderful.
The best part of making your own sauce is that all the extra leftover sauce can be frozen.