Amazing Crockpot Bolognese Sauce
What is Bolognese sauce?
If you’ve never had Crockpot Bolognese sauce, you should definitely try it. Pronounced bow·luh·nayz (in case anyone has as much trouble with this word as I do) it is a hearty meat sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy.
This sauce is much creamier and thicker than traditional spaghetti sauce because one of its components is milk. There seems to be much debate over what makes this sauce “authentic”, but the base is made from broth, wine, and milk instead of tomatoes.
In addition to traditional ingredients like garlic and onion, it also has carrots and celery which lend a touch of sweetness to this otherwise savory dish.
To make a proper Bolognese sauce you need to cook it long and slow, but let’s face it… propane is expensive and when you are cooking in your RV, you never know when you are going to run out! This Crockpot Bolognese recipe is the answer to this very real dilemma.
I make no claims as to the authenticity of this recipe. I just know that my family loves it and I think yours will too.
As Anne Burrell would say, “brown food tastes good!”
I decided I would start this sauce on the stove so I could build all of the amazing flavors, and then let the slow cooker take it the rest of the way home. The results were amazing!
This is NOT a quick dump it in the slower cooker and walk away kind of meal. This recipe has a lot of steps and does take some time to make, but let me tell you… it is SO worth the time and effort involved. Browning the meat and veggies before transferring them to the crockpot is essential! Don’t skip this step.
Recipes like Crockpot Bolognese are made for Sunday afternoons
It’s a gorgeous day! The windows are open, 80’s country is playing on the radio, and I am taking my time as I compile all of the ingredients into a rich, luxurious sauce. The smells wafting through the RV right now are incredible. Have I painted a scene?
Once I have transferred everything to the crock pot, I plan to use the time to make homemade fettuccine to serve it with. I just love days like today!
Obviously, you don’t have to take the extra step of making your own pasta (although you should try it sometime. It’s a lot of fun) there are plenty of delicious options to purchase at the store. Have fun with it. Try different shapes. One that is very traditional is Pappardelle, but you could definitely serve it over fettuccine, spaghetti, or even use it to make lasagne bolognese. Which I plan to do with the leftover sauce from dinner tonight. Stay tuned!
The point is, while the crockpot does its thing, and the meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender, you can use the time to do whatever floats YOUR particular boat, knowing that you will have a fantastic meal to serve your family at the end of the day.
Let’s gather up the ingredients
- Ground beef
- Ground pork
- Onions, carrots, celery– Italians refer to this mixture as soffrito
- Pancetta– Italian bacon. It is much like the American version, except that instead of being smoked, it is cured with salt and spices and then dried. You can find it precut and packaged at most supermarkets.
- Red wine– Use a dry red wine that isn’t too expensive, but still good enough that you would drink it. Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy, or Merlot would all be good choices.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Tomato Paste-Helps to thicken the sauce and gives it a rich flavor.
- Beef broth
- Beef Bullion
- Whole peeled tomatoes– I like to crush these by hand.
- Whole Milk– You could also use heavy cream if you wanted to make it a bit richer.
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese– For serving
A lot of slow cookers have a sauté setting which is very handy for browning before slow cooking. However, the surface area is not large enough to brown the meat (unless you did it in batches). If you try to throw it all in there, your meat will steam and that’s not what we are looking for here.
I just brown everything in a large skillet and then transfer it to the slow cooker.
First, brown the veggies in some olive oil until they are tender. Transfer them into the crockpot and then brown the meat. I don’t have a skillet larger enough to do both at the same time and again, you really want to get some good color on the meat.
Once all of the meat and veggies have been transferred, you can add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Give it a stir, set it to low, and wait for the magic to happen.
This crockpot Bolognese recipe is what slow cookers were made for!
To be honest, I am not a huge fan of food that is cooked in a crockpot. In my opinion, things should be made in a slow cooker only if it either enhances the flavor or texture of the recipe. Pot roast or recipes like this Slow Cooker Pork Loin are excellent examples.
Bolognese sauce definitely fits this bill as well. When crockpots are set on low they maintain an even temperature that is lower than most stoves. Especially RV stoves! Because of this, I think it enhances the flavor AND the texture making it a win-win.
Now let’s get cooking!
Place the onions in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Transfer to another bowl and then repeat this process with the carrots, celery, and garlic cloves.
Once all of your veggies have been chopped, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the veggies you just chopped, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetable to the crockpot.
Add the ground beef, pancetta, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to the same pan you just cooked your veggies in. Cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat has browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the red wine and bullion cubes to the skillet and let the alcohol cook off for about two minutes, being sure to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet with the wooden spoon. The bullion will dissolve in the cooking liquid.
Transfer the meat mixture into the crockpot along with the veggies. Using your fingers to crush the tomatoes, add them to the crockpot along with the broth, tomato paste, milk, and oregano. Give everything a good stir to combine all of the ingredients well.
Put the lid on the crockpot and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Stirring occasionally.
The sauce is now ready to serve over your favorite pasta! Garnish with some fresh herbs such as parsley or basil and give it a good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese!
Now all you need is a glass of red wine, bread for sopping up all of that luscious sauce, and your appetite.
Try serving it along with my Simple Caesar Salad!
I just love Italian food and if you do too, try out my fellow blogger’s recipe for Porketta. It is an Italian-inspired porchetta roast and it is absolutely delicious!
As always, if you decide to make this Crockpot Bolognese, please be sure to give it a rating and let me know how yours turned out. I love hearing your feedback and I will do my best to answer any questions you have as quickly as I can.
I will be back next week with more delicious recipes from my RV kitchen to yours!
- 1 Crockpot
- 1 Large Skillet
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork Not sausage
- 1 large onion, chopped into large chunks
- 2-3 carrots, chopped into large chunks
- 2-3 celery stalks, chopped into large chunks
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces Pancetta
- 1 14.5 ounce whole canned tomatoes
- 1 6 ounce can of tomato paste
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 beef bullion cubes
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- freshly cracked black pepper
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Place the onions in a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped. Transfer to another bowl and then repeat this process with the carrots, celery, and garlic cloves.
- Once all of your veggies have been chopped, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the veggies you just chopped, sprinkle with ½teaspoon of salt and saute, stirring frequently, until soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer the cooked veggies to the crockpot.
- Add the ground beef, pancetta, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to the same pan you just cooked your veggies in. Cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat has browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the red wine and bullion cubes to the skillet and let the alcohol cook off for about two minutes, being sure to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet with the wooden spoon. The bullion will disolve in the cooking liquid.
- Transfer the meat mixture into the crockpot along with the veggies.
- Using your fingers to crush the tomatoes, add them to the crockpot along with the broth, tomato paste, milk, and oregano.
- Give everything a good stir to combine all of the ingredients well.
- Put the lid on the crockpot and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Stiring occasionaly
- Check and adjust as needed seasoning and then serve over your favorite pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Store leftover sauce in an airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator.
- Freezes well. Put leftover sauce inside a ziplock bag, making sure it is sealed well. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight when you are ready to use it.
- To reheat, just place it in a pot on the stove and stir until heated through.