Slow Cooker Bolognese is a classic Italian dinner recipe, made easily in your Crock Pot. To make the bolognese sauce incredibly rich and delicious, a soup bone is cooked with the sauce ingredients! This Crock Pot bolognese sauce is freezer-friendly, so it’s perfect for making easy meal prep lunches and make-ahead dinners.
What is bolognese?
Italian Bolognese is a meat-based sauce, made with minced beef, pork or veal. The dish is named for the city where it originates from, Bologna, Italy.
Unlike spaghetti sauce and ragu which have a tomato base, Bolognese sauce is primarily meat. For additional flavor, an authentic recipe for Bolognese typically includes a small amount of tomato.
In addition to the meat, a delicious Bolognese sauce will usually have a lot of aromatic vegetables. The sauce usually includes garlic, onion, carrots, celery, and sometimes, red wine.
What is the best ground beef for slow cooker bolognese?
The type of beef you use in this Crock Pot Bolognese recipe is a matter of personal preference. In general, higher fat content ground beef makes the best tasting Bolognese sauce. But that deliciously rich flavour comes at a cost – additional calories. I make bolognese using a mix of 80 percent lean ground beef and 90 percent lean ground beef.
Another way to reduce calories in a Bolognese pasta dish is to replace some of the starchy carbs with fresh zucchini noodles. I serve it over a combination of linguine and Zoodles; it is a great way to add extra veggies to the dish.
How do you thicken watery bolognese sauce?
If your slow cooker Bolognese sauce seems watery, you can thicken it in one of two ways. The first method involves allowing the sauce to simmer and reduce. It’s easiest to do that on a stove top. You can also add a cornstarch slurry to the sauce to thicken it. Be careful not to add too much cornstarch or the sauce may thicken too much.
Start with a mixture of 1 tablespoon cornstarch whisked into 2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir that into the hot Bolognese sauce, adding more slurry if you want it thicker.
The “clean” version is letting it reduce though of course. Simply remove the lid about an hour or two before the bolognese sauce is finished cooking.
Can you freeze crock pot bolognese?
Crock Pot Bolognese freezes very well, so feel free to make a double batch of this recipe! However, before you freeze it, be sure that the Bolognese is completely cool first.
Please don’t skip this step! If you freeze the sauce before it reaches room temperature, the excess moisture can cause freezer burn.
You can store the sauce in freezer-safe containers or large silicone freezer bags. Once frozen, the Bolognese will keep well for 3 to 4 months.
What should I serve with bolognese?
As with any authentic recipe for pasta, Bolognese is delicious with pasta or zoodles or a mix of both. OR, even better….in Sweet Potato Lasagna! YUM!
If you like easy crock pot recipes like this Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce, I bet you’ll like these recipes, too!
Slow Cooker Bolognese
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 carrot
- 2 lbs ground beef - see notes
- 27 oz diced tomatoes or tomato sauce or a mix of both - one big can or 2 small
- sea salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-2 beef soup bones
- 1 cup beef bone broth
- Chop onion, garlic, celery, and carrot into small pieces and add to the slow cooker.
- Add ground beef, diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, sea salt, pepper, bay leaves, beef soup bones, and broth and give it a stir breaking up the ground beef a little. (You can add other spices & herbs, too at this point if you like)
- Put on the lid and set the slow cooker to 8 hours on low.
- Once the 8-hour cooking time is over, give everything a good stir and finish breaking apart the beef.
- Serve over pasta or in a lasagna. What I like to do is cook some linguini, spiralize some zucchini and then mix both up so I have more vegetables in my meal. Enjoy!
Hi! How can I make this without stock? Would it be too bland with just water? Thanks!
Lorena Grater says
You can use water and then flavor it with spices instead.
Rod Ferris says
1. I found that when adding the wine to the soffrito, if you’ve cooked it slowly for a long while, I found that there is an emulsion caused by the tanin that thickens.
2. Cook the meat separately until it starts to fry and brown and have that wonderful browning meat aroma and starts to brown.
3. When tomatoes and tomato paste are added let them cook a bit and to emulsify with the find of the sauce. Then add the meat which should be beginning to brown significantly and cook a while to blend. At the end add the passata and bring to the slightest boil. Turn the fire down to low and slightly cover the sauce so that it can reduce yet not overpower the flavour of the sauce.
N. B. The reason why this sauce doesn’t support garlic is that it cooks too long and garlic can’t support that amount of long cooking without becoming overpoweringly funky. This sauce is a universal sauce. The less defining flavours that compromise the dishes you wish to create using it will limit its wonderful usefulness.
Making this today. Never used (or heard of really) soup bones. Throwing some frozen ones in as that’s what the store had. Any idea if this will be OK?
Lorena Grater says
I recommend defrosting them first. Take the out of the freezer and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Else your slow-cooker will have a hard time getting the sauce to the right temperature.
Please What if I Want to do it in my Instant Pot instead of crockpot? I choose Slow Cook for 8 hours? On Low, Medium or High? Thx
You can brown your onion and then meat (in batches) with the sauté button, then deglaze to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom, then add all other ingredients and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes + full natural pressure release.
MJ Schalk says
This looks amazing and we will be making it soon. Just wondering if I could pre cook the meat a little before putting in the crock just to get rid of some of the fat.
Can’t wait to try this sauce.
Yes! Absolutely! You can brown the meat in a large pan, then strain some of the fat.
Mary Jane Schalk says
Thank you very much. I am making this today with half ground beef and half Italian sausage. My house is going to smell so good soon.
Love all your recipes – thank you for many good dinners.
Can’t wait to hear back how it turned out :D Bonne Appetit!