Slow Cooker Bolognese

This slow cooker bolognese sauce is made with ground beef, pork, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasonings. It slow cooks in a crockpot for hours until it’s thick and rich. Serve it with pasta for a cozy comfort food dinner.

a bowl of spaghetti topped with bolognese.

Bolognese, the meatiest meat sauce from Bologna, Italy, is on the docket today, and, seeing as it’s October, now is the perfect time to try it. Unless you live on the other side of the world, in which case, save it until your fall season rolls around again. For the rest of us facing the upcoming cold-weather months, carpe diem.

Homemade Bolognese

Bolognese (also known as a type of ragu) is a simmer-for-hours pasta sauce, and so I’ve adapted it for a slow cooker so you can have your sauce and a life. Once assembled, you can leave it to be until it’s time to eat. The magic happens all on its own.

overhead photo of a ladle of sauce.

My recipe is an Americanized take made with ground beef, pork, and a little more tomato than the classic. However, where it doesn’t stray is in the texture and flavor. The sauce is rich, hearty, and velvety thick with a touch of creaminess that aligns with the traditional dish.

Like a good American, I pile it on top of a tangle of thick spaghetti, but tagliatelle, a flat ribbon-like pasta, would be more in line with the Italian way of doing things. Either way, it’s delicious.

So please check your dinner schedule because this slow cooker bolognese recipe needs to be penned and not penciled into your meal plan. It’s permanent ink-worthy and a delicious weeknight night upgrade.

ingredients for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 90% lean ground beef
  • Ground pork
  • Tomato paste
  • Diced yellow onion
  • Diced celery
  • Diced carrots
  • Chopped garlic cloves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dried oregano or dried Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Tomato puree
  • Whole milk

Ingredient Q & A

Can you use ground turkey?

I think the deliciousness comes from the pork fat, but for a leaner sauce, ground turkey works. If you use it, I would brown the meat in a few tablespoons of olive oil.

I hate to chop vegetables 😭 What can I do?

If you want to cut down on the prep time, some grocery stores have prepared mirepoix, a combination of diced carrots, onion, and celery stalks. Look for it in the produce aisle near the other prepped veggies. You will need about 3 1/2 cups. If you hate to chop garlic, buy the minced garlic in a jar and use a generous tablespoon.

What’s with the vinegar?

A lot of bolognese sauce recipes call for some kind of acid and I love balsamic vinegar. Some recipes call for wine, so feel free to use that instead of vinegar. I recommend a dry red wine, but you can use a dry white wine, too.

What else can you add to it?

If you want a kick of heat, add some red pepper flakes. For an extra herbal touch, add a bay leaf while it simmers. Just don’t forget to fish it out at the end. For serving, add your favorite long pasta shape and garnish the sauce with grated Parmesan cheese and finely chopped fresh parsley.

photo collage showing how to brown the meat.

How to Make It

Brown the beef and pork in a large skillet on the stovetop. Cook them over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart as it cooks. Add the tomato paste and stir until the tomato paste melts and coats the meat.

photo collage showing the ingredients being added to slow cooker.

Combine the browned beef with all of the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir and then place the lid on top and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Taste the sauce and add more salt if you think it needs it.

Serve it with cooked spaghetti or other pasta that you like. Garnish with chopped parsley or fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

A simple green salad and toasted garlic bread are the perfect side dishes for an epic spaghetti with bolognese sauce night.

Other Ways to Serve It

To quote a late-night infomercial, “but there’s more!” I love it with spaghetti, but you can use this sauce to make other comfort food dinners. Here are some ideas:

  • Use it to make a meaty lasagna.
  • Spoon some of the bolognese over baked potatoes.
  • If you have leftover sauce, toast some bread and top it with a spoonful of sauce, a sprinkle of cheese, and chopped herbs for a quick and easy dinner.
  • Make a carb happy meal and serve it over mashed potatoes with chopped herbs and grated cheese.
overhead shot of the cooked sauce in the slow cooker with a ladle.

This slow cooker bolognese will take the chilly edge off a cold day, so make it when you want to get your cozy on. I think you’ll love it.

Happy slow cooking,

April
a bowl of pasta topped with sauce.

More Slow Cooker Recipes

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Slow Cooker Bolognese

a bowl of spaghetti bolognese.

This slow cooker bolognese sauce is made with ground beef, pork, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasonings. It slow cooks in a crockpot for hours until it’s thick and rich. Serve it with pasta for a cozy comfort food dinner.

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Italian-American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large celery rib, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (10-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Brown the beef and pork in a skillet and break it apart as it cooks. Add the tomato paste and stir until the paste is coating the meat.
  2. Combine the browned beef with all of the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir and then place the lid on top and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Taste the sauce and add more salt if you think it needs it.
  3. Serve with cooked spaghetti or other pasta that you like. Garnish with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes

Beef and pork: There will be excess fat in the pan when you brown the meat. I like to keep it because it gives the dish a rich, delicious flavor. You can drain off some or all of the fat if you prefer.

For the salt: I like to serve bolognese with lots of Parmesan cheese which adds more salt. If you serve your sauce plain you may want to add more salt. Wait until it’s done cooking and then give it a taste – if you think it needs more add a little at a time until you’re happy with it.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 336
  • Sugar: 10.8g
  • Sodium: 450mg
  • Fat: 18.7g
  • Saturated Fat: 7.1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 9.4g
  • Trans Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 18.4g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 24.6g
  • Cholesterol: 79.3mg

Keywords: crockpot bolognese, slow cooker spaghetti bolognese, slow cooker meat sauce

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.

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