Bolognese is a thick, tomato based meat sauce with carrots, celery, and onion. If you are in the mood for a hearty Italian meal, Bolognese is just what you need.
I love this recipe because not only is it filling and flavorful, the majority of the prep can be done the night before, leaving you with an easy meal for the next day.
While I really enjoy a classic Marinara, sometimes I want a thick, heartier sauce for my pasta.
What You Need to Make Bolognese
If you haven’t ever had Bolognese, you are in for a treat. So peruse the ingredient list and let’s get cooking!
- Celery Rib
- Garlic Cloves
- Tomato Paste
- Ground chuck
- Ground pork
- Salt and Pepper
- Whole Milk
- Dry White Wine
- Cans of Whole Tomatoes
- Fresh Thyme (minced)
How to Make Bolognese
Making bolognese is an art form, and something that is much better when you give it time. The beautiful thing about this recipe is you let the slow cooker do the majority of the work. You prep everything, then the flavors develop and meld while it cooks, giving you a rich and hearty sauce. First, cook the veggies, garlic, and tomato paste in melted butter in a dutch oven. Next, add the meat and then after about five minutes add milk and simmer. Then before transferring the sauce to the slow cooker, add wine, tomatoes, and thyme and bring the ingredients to a boil. Then transfer the sauce to the slow cooker, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 7-8 hours. Sauce should be thick and delicious!
Step one: Cook Veggies, Garlic, and Tomato Paste in Melted Butter.
Melt Butter and Cook Veggies:In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, Melt butter and cook onion, carrot, and celery, until softened, about 6 minutes.
Add Garlic and Tomato Paste: Stir in garlic and tomato paste, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Step two: Add the Meat
Add the meat with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes and make sure to break up the meat until it is crumbled into tiny pieces.
Step three: Incorporate Milk and Simmer.
Add the milk and bring it to a vigorous simmer, cooking for about 10-15 minutes. When done, the milk should be evaporated and only clear fat should remain.
Step four: Add Wine, Tomatoes, and Thyme.
Add the wine, tomatoes, and thyme. Cover the pan with a lid and increase the temperature to high heat. Bring to a boil.
Step five: Transfer and Cook in a Slow Cooker.
Transfer: Once boiling, remove the lid and transfer the Bolognese to a slow cooker.
Boil: In the slow cooker, cover and return to a boil.
Simmer: Once boiling, remove the lid, and let the sauce simmer in the slow cooker for about 7-8 hours. Bolognese should be very thick.
Step six: Season and Serve.
Season the Bolognese with salt and pepper. Then serve and enjoy.
Tips and Tricks
Making this recipe is Eazy Peazy…
- Use good tomatoes: My favorite canned tomatoes are Progresso and Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes.
- Slow Cooker should not be below cabinetry: Because a lot of steam will rise as the sauce cooks, make sure the slow cooker is not below any cabinetry.
- Get a jump on things and partially make the sauce ahead of time: Bolognese can be partially made ahead the night before so that it’s ready to go in the slow cooker first thing in the morning.
- Partner Bolognese with a thicker pasta, not spaghetti: SInce Bolognese is a thicker sauce, partner it with a rigatoni or fettuccine.
- Add extra richness to the sauce: Follow this recipe and you will love this sauce. However, you can add sugar to the tomatoes or balsamic vinegar to the sauce to add extra richness to the dish.
Make Ahead and Storage
How to make this recipe ahead of time:
Make the Night Before:
Get a jump on life and prepare most of the dish the night before.
Simply follow the directions up to the point of putting the sauce in the slow cooker. Then let the sauce cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.
The next day all you have left is cooking the Bolognese in the slow cooker.
Freeze the sauce for up to two months in the freezer in a freezer bag.
- Let the sauce cool completely.
- Then place the sauce in a freezer bag.
- When wanting to eat, transfer the sauce to the fridge the night before to allow it time to defrost.
- Then cook over the stove top in a pot until heated through.
Any leftover Bolognese will store well in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Then reheat the Bolognese over the stove or in the microwave.
Can’t wait for you to try what will soon be your new favorite sauce!
Other Great Recipes:
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan
- Instant Pot Chili Mac
- Porcupine Meatballs
Slow Cooker Bolognese
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ onion minced
- 1 carrot chopped fine
- ½ celery rib chopped fine
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef chuck
- 1 ½ pounds ground pork
- Salt and Pepper
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 cups dry white wine
- 56 ounces whole tomatoes 2 cans, blend in a blender until smooth
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes.
- Next, stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the meat, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat until crumbled into tiny pieces and browned. About 5 minutes.
- Add in the milk, bring it to a vigorous simmer, and cook 10-15 minutes until the milk evaporates. Only clear fat remains, this is a good thing.
- Add the wine, tomatoes, and thyme.
- Cover with the lid, and increase the temperature to high heat and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, remove the lid and transfer to a slow cooker set to high.
- Cover the slow cooker with a lid and bring back to a boil. Then remove the lid, and let the sauce simmer until the sauce is very thick, 7 to 8 hours.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
If you need more than the 7 or 8 hours of cooking time, set the lid halfway off the slow cooker rather than removing it completely, and then simmer for 10 to 11 hours.
Freeze leftover sauce in airtight containers for up to 2 months.
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
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