This Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce would make my Nana Lamancuso proud. It’s silky and luscious with super tender meat and so much flavor. Crockpot bolognese is where it’s at!
And, now that summer is winding down and we’ll be entering comfort food season once again (and we ALL need comfort food right now) I thought it was time to share this recipe with you – Bolognese Sauce, made in the slow cooker.
I’ve shared my recipe previously for white bolognese sauce, but this is the traditional tomato based bolognese.
As with any great tomato sauce recipe, bolognese meat sauce benefits from a low and slow cook.
That’s why the crockpot is the perfect kitchen tool for making it! Unlike many stove tops, slow cookers maintain a low, even temperature. They’re the best kind of set it and forget it tool and in my book, you can’t beat a slow cooker for making the BEST bolognese sauce.
This is a super easy bolognese sauce recipe, but I do have a couple key tips for making it amazing.
First, while we would all love the option to just throw everything into the slow cooker, put the lid on, and walk away, I find it really important to brown the vegetables and garlic first before adding them to the pot.
This really helps to enhance the flavor, especially when combined with the fact that when they’re done browning, the skillet gets deglazed with a splash of white wine.
Second, I’m using a special ingredient to ensure that our sauce is deliciously thick and silky – panko. Here’s how we’re incorporating it:
While the veggies are cooking away in the skillet, add the panko, heavy cream, beef and pork to your crockpot with a pinch of salt and pepper. Knead this mixture together to get it well combined. The breadcrumb/cream mixture is what will help to tenderize the meat and make it extra delicious.
- Butter – I prefer to use unsalted butter so that I can control the seasoning
- Onion, Carrot, Celery – The holy trifecta of veggies. Feel free to leave any out.
- Tomato Paste – This will give a sweet, concentrated tomato flavor to your sauce.
- Garlic – I use 3 cloves, but feel free to throw caution to the wind and use more!
- Oregano, Nutmeg, Bay Leaf, Kosher Salt + Pepper
- White Wine – A dry wine like Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc works best. The wine is optional and can be left out.
- Panko Breadcrumbs – This is what will help thicken the sauce.
- Heavy Cream – Lends a silkiness to the sauce.
- Meat – I use a combination of half lean ground beef and half pork. Feel free to use all ground beef if you prefer. Or, try adding in some Italian sausage.
- Crushed Tomatoes – San Marzano are best.
- Parmesan Cheese
🔪 How to Make It
- Melt butter and saute onion, carrot, celery and salt.
- Add tomato paste, garlic, oregano, pepper and nutmeg. Cook until fragrant.
- Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Combine panko, cream, beef and pork in the slow cooker.
- Knead the mixture together.
- Add vegetable-herb mixture and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add bay leaf.
- Cook 9 to 10 hours on LOW or 6 to 7 hours on HIGH.
- Break up meat with a spoon. Stir in parmesan and season with salt + pepper.
Can You Freeze It?
- Yes! This slow cooker meat sauce makes a big batch and it freezes wonderfully for up to three months. I like to freeze it in individual portions. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the fridge, or heat over very low heat on the stove.
How Long Do You Cook Bolognese in the Crockpot?
You can make slow cooker bolognese on high or low heat:
- HIGH heat: 6-7 hours
- LOW heat: 9-10 hours
I like to use a combination of lean ground beef (85%) and ground pork. Alternatively, you can use equal parts beef, pork and veal (also sold as “meatloaf mix” in stores). You can also use all beef or all pork if you prefer. If you don’t eat red meat, you can use ground turkey or chicken.
No. This crock pot bolognese recipe has no browning of the beef. Instead, the meat gets combined with cream and breadcrumbs which helps to tenderize the meat as it cooks away.
For food safety reasons, it’s best to not cook frozen meat in the slow cooker. This is because the crockpot doesn’t get hot enough to ensure that bacteria won’t become a problem.
This recipe adds panko breadcrumbs into the mix to ensure that our sauce is thick and delicious. However, if you find that near the end of your cook time, your sauce is still too thin, simply remove the lid and continue to cook uncovered for 30 minutes and the sauce should thicken up.
How to Serve It
- Serve this meat sauce over noodles like pappardelle or spaghetti, potato gnocchi, or serve it over a bed of creamy polenta.
- Use it in place of marinara sauce when making these tortellini in cream sauce.
- Garnish plates with a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil or parsley.
What to Serve with It
- Easy Sauteed Spinach
- Kale Cesar Salad
- Balsamic Glazed Brussel Sprouts
- Bean Soup with Pesto
- Arugula Salad
- MORE —> the BEST sides for pasta.
Wine Pairings for Bolognese Sauce
- Since we’re eating authentic Italian Meat sauce, I’m going for an authentic Italian wine – Try a Chianti, Barolo or Teroldego.
- MORE —> the BEST wines to pair with pasta.
More Slow Cooker Recipes
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Pork Chops
- Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker Lamb Curry
- Slow Cooker Kung Pao Chicken
- Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
More Pasta Recipes
- Easy Lemon Pasta
- Tortellini in Cream Sauce
- Creamy Sun Dried Tomato Pasta
- Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp & Cherry Tomatoes
- Cheesy Brussel Sprout Pasta with Grainy Mustard
- Roasted Fennel Pasta with Ricotta
- BLT Pasta
- More → 30+ Ground Beef Pasta Recipes
Did you try this crockpot bolognese?
If you loved this slow cooker bolognese sauce I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a ⭐️star review⭐️! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
- 1 carrot (finely chopped)
- 2 stalks celery (finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 ½ pounds ground pork
- 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Melt butter in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, oregano, pepper and nutmeg and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits; set aside.
- Meanwhile, in slow cooker, combine panko, cream, beef and pork with a pinch of salt and pepper. Use your hands to knead the mixture together. Then add the vegetable-herb mixture and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Add bay leaf.
- Cover and cook until meat is tender, 9 to 10 hours on LOW or 6 to 7 hours on HIGH.
- Break up any large pieces of meat with spoon. Stir in parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Be sure to check out my tips on how to clean a dutch oven after using it.
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This crock pot bolognese sauce post was originally published in 2020. It was updated in 2023 to add new information. The recipe remains the same. Enjoy.