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Everything you love about bolognese sauce made easy by cooking in the slow cooker! Make this slow cooker bolognese and pair with your favorite pasta for dinner tonight.
Calling All Comfort Food Lovers!
Our slow cooker bolognese is calling your name! Our take on this traditional Italian sauce combines ground beef and pork with a super flavorful spice blend, minced veggies, red wine, milk and allll the tomatoes. Pair it with your favorite pasta, and enjoy!
What is bolognese?
Bolognese is a meat sauce that hails from Bologna, Italy and is traditionally served over pasta or used in a lasagna.
What does bolognese taste like?
Bolognese sauce boasts the flavors of meat, wine and tomatoes. It is a rich sauce that tends to be more thick than chunky due to using ground meat and minced or finely diced vegetables.
why you’ll love it
- This slow cooker bolognese sauce is easy to prepare ahead of time! You can make it the night before or you can freeze it for another time, too.
- This recipe is nutrient-packed.
- Pasta is a dish that the whole family will enjoy.
- You can feed 6-8 or have enough for leftovers throughout the week.
What You Need for Slow Cooker Bolognese
Ground beef and ground pork: We used 85/15 beef for this bolognese, but any fat percentage will do. The higher the fat content, the more fat that will cook out of the ground beef.
Red wine: We used a cabernet sauvignon for this bolognese, but any dry red wine will do.
Milk: 2% milk will yield a creamy bolognese, but feel free to sub for 1% or skim if that’s all you have on hand. Or go dairy free and use a plain unsweetened plant-based milk.
Worcestershire sauce: the vinegar and savory flavors of Worcestershire sauce are a must for this bolognese!
Spices: You’ll need dried thyme, dried oregano, dried marjoram, dried parsley, dried basil, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt and pepper, garlic and bay leaves.
Veggies: This bolognese calls for celery, onion and carrots — all finely minced! This will ensure they can be incorporated fully into this bolognese sauce for the perfect flavor and bite.
All the tomatoes: For this slow cooker bolognese we used a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and tomato paste.
Your favorite pasta: Pair this slow cooker bolognese sauce with your favorite pasta. We love a classic pappardelle or spaghetti, but you do you — this sauce will pair nicely with any noodle ?
How to Make Slow Cooker Bolognese
For the full recipe, scroll down to the recipe card for a list of ingredients and instructions.
Prepare the spice mix
Add the thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley, basil, red pepper flakes, paprika, kosher salt, and pepper to a bowl and mix until combined.
Partially cook ground meat
Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat and add the ground beef and ground pork to the skillet. Break the meat up into small chunks. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the meat and toss. Cook the meat until it is mostly cooked through.
Pro tip: It is ok if the meat remains a little pink as it will continue to cook in the slow cooker.
Combine Milk + Ground Meat
Remove the skillet from heat and using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pan and scoop it into the slow cooker, making sure to leave the meat drippings in the skillet. Then, add the milk to the meat in the slow cooker and stir to combine with the meat.
Heat the same skillet over medium/high heat and add the red wine to the skillet. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen any brown bits from the meat, and bring the meat drippings and wine to a gentle simmer.
Then, add the onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté until the onions are translucent. Last, add the celery, carrots, and the remaining dried spices to the skillet and toss with the other ingredients.
Add Remaining Ingredients to Slow Cooker
Remove the skillet from heat and add the vegetables and excess liquid to the slow cooker. Also add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and bay leaves to the slow cooker at this time and stir to combine.
Slow Cook Bolognese
Cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Your house is about to smell amazing ?
Let rest, then serve
When the cook time is up, turn off the slow cooker and stir the bolognese and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before serving it over your favorite pasta. ENJOY!
Slow Cooker Bolognese Tips
IS SAUTEING NECESSARY? Sautéing the ingredients together first is 100% necessary because it ensures that the ground meat fully cooks in the slow cooker while also releasing amazing flavor from both the spices and veggies. We don’t recommend skipping this step.
LET IT REST BEFORE SERVING: You want to let the bolognese rest with the slow cooker off so that any excess liquid can absorb into the meat as it stops cooking.
LARGE BATCH BOLOGNESE: This slow cooker bolognese serves 6-8, so feel free to freeze some of the batch for later if you’re not serving a crowd or meal prepping for the week.
How to Serve Bolognese
Pasta all the way! We love this recipe with pappardelle pasta, but fettuccine, spaghetti or angel hair pasta would also be delicious!
Looking for a salad to serve with this bolognese? Let us recommend any of the following:
It is important to let your slow cooker bolognese cool completely before transferring it into an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
To reheat: If you have multiple servings remaining in the slow cooker, heat the bolognese on high for 1-2 hours, or until warm, or place 1 serving of bolognese into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
To thin out bolognese: your leftover bolognese will likely be thicker than when you first made it, so add broth by the tablespoon per serving to thin out to your desired consistency when reheating.
Can you Freeze Bolognese?
While you can absolutely freeze the cooked bolognese sauce itself, we recommend waiting to pair with pasta until you thaw and are ready to serve your bolognese as pasta can get mushy when frozen and thawed.
Freezer instructions: Let the slow cooker bolognese cool completely before placing it in an air tight and freezer safe container. Freeze the sauce for later for up to 3 months.
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
This slow cooker bolognese sauce is as easy as it is delicious! Make a batch to serve a crowd, freeze for later or meal prep for dinner for the week.
Prep: 20 minutesCook: 6 hoursTotal: 6 hours 20 minutes
Fat 16 Carbs 17 Protein 30
Yield 6–8 1x
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 2-lb. ground beef
- ¼-lb. Ground pork
- 1.5 cups 2% milk
- 1 cup dry red wine (we used a cabernet)
- ½ large white onion, minced
- 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 celery stalks, finely minced
- 4 large carrots, finely minced
- 2 15-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire
- 2 bay leaves
- Begin by preparing the dried spices. Add the thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley, basil, red pepper flakes, paprika, kosher salt, and pepper to a bowl and mix until combined. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat and add the ground beef and ground pork to the skillet. Break the meat up into small chunks. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the meat. Toss the spices with the meat.
- Cook the meat until it is mostly cooked through. It is ok if the meat remains a little pink as it will continue to cook in the slow cooker.
- Remove the skillet from heat and using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pan and scoop it into the slow cooker. Leave the meat drippings in the skillet.
- Add the milk to the meat in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Let the meat sit in the milk while other ingredients are being prepared.
- Heat the same skillet over medium/high heat and add the red wine to the skillet. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen any brown bits from the meat. Bring the meat drippings and wine to a gentle simmer.
- Turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the celery, carrots, and the remaining dried spices to the skillet and toss with the other ingredients. Sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from heat and add the vegetables and excess liquid to the slow cooker.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, worcestershire, and bay leaves to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
- When the cook time is up, turn off the slow cooker and remove the cover from the slow cooker. Stir the bolognese and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before serving it over pasta.
Serving Size: 1/8 Calories: 352 Sugar: 10 Sodium: 447 Fat: 16 Carbohydrates: 17 Fiber: 5 Protein: 30 Cholesterol: 85
Author: Lee FunkeCategory: Lunch and DinnerMethod: Slow CookerCuisine: Italian
Keywords: slow cooker bolognese