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!
I’m definitely a pasta fiend. Give me bowls topped with Vodka Sauce, Broccoli Pesto, or my Nana’s Sunday Gravy any night of the week and I’ll be a happy girl.
Which means smiles.
Which I’ll be doing a lot of when a big ladleful of this yummy meat sauce makes its way onto my plate.
Which is why I’ve decided to take the step of perfecting my smile with Dr. Greg Gillespie at Gillespie Dentistry in Vancouver, WA. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a gap widening in the side of my smile, as well as some small chips. That combined with my feeling that my smile has always been just a bit too small for my face is what made me finally decide to consult with a cosmetic dentist.
The process with Dr. Gillespie has been super easy so far. We started with a virtual consult where Dr. Greg sent me a personalized video with his suggestions on what could be done to improve my smile. Several options were provided including clear braces and veneers. I had a good idea going into things that I wanted to go with porcelain veneers and that’s what we decided on.
Since then, I’ve been into the office and Dr. Greg fitted me with some temporary veneers. I was able to wear them home for a few days to try them out and show them to Rick, and then I popped back in and we decided on a few small changes – widening my smile even further and extending the front teeth just a bit more.
The teeth I’m most excited for are my canines. It’s like Dr. Greg has mastered the canine tooth. I didn’t even know that that was something I wanted, but it really helped make my smile pop.
So, in just a couple more weeks I’ll be fitted with my final porcelain veneers at their office and I can’t wait to share after pics with you. Be sure to keep an eye on my Instagram stories for more sneak peeks.
If you’re in the Portland, Oregon area and interested in learning more about cosmetic dentistry (teeth whitening, clear braces, veneers) I’d highly recommend booking a virtual consult with Dr. Greg. The process takes less than 5 minutes, it’s totally free, and you get a personalized video from Dr. Greg explaining his suggestions, costs, etc.
Back to the food – and this epic bolognese sauce.
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.
First thing’s first:
👩🍳 What is Bolognese?
- Bolognese is a meat sauce that’s simmered low and slow. It’s often seasoned with a splash of wine, garlic, and vegetables like onion, carrot and celery. In many versions, milk is added to help tenderize the meat and make it extra silky and delicious.
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.
In my book, no great bolognese sauce is complete without a bit of white wine added to it.
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.
This is a tip that I learned from America’s Test Kitchen, and that bread/milk mixture is called a panade. Here’s some more information on the process if you’re interested!
🛒 Ingredients Needed
- 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
Slow Cooker Bolognese Recipe
- 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.
Check out the web story here.
12 thoughts on “PERFECT Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce Recipe”
I decided to try this and substituted lamb for pork. I must say, it was quite tasty! I didn’t reveal the ingredients to my family and my children gobbled it up just as if it was regular “spaghetti sauce”. With the recipe being super easy and yummy, it will definitely be a repeat!
I’m so happy you liked it Amanda!
I hope you can respond to this in time! I didn’t add the breadcrumbs right away because I was waiting to see if a gluten-free friend was joining for dinner. I added later… not I’m worried the meat won’t be cooked. Do you think it will cool after 8 hours on low in the crockpot?
Hi! If the meat cooks for 8 hours on low, it should be cooked!
You mention thyme in the directions but not the ingredients list?? Typo?
Thanks Ramona. That was a typo. I decided to leave the thyme out of the final recipe. However, you can add some in if you’re a fan of its flavor!
Can I make this a day in advance and throw back into the slow cooker to reheat??
Hi Jennifer – That shouldn’t be a problem!
The recipe calla for 2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes but doesn’t include where or how you add them in the actual recipe…?
Also shouldn’t it specify san marazano tomatoes? Other tomatoes are to acidic?
Hi Cierra – The tomatoes go in during step 2 of the recipe. I don’t find that San Marzano tomatoes are necessary. They’re best, but not necessary. If you do find your tomatoes are not sweet enough, you can add a pinch of sugar. Hope that helps!
2.28 oz liquid makes it dry…
Hi Susi – It’s 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes.