This slow cooker Bolognese features tender meat in a rich tomato sauce that’s slow cooked for hours to build flavor. Toss this hearty sauce with tender pappardelle pasta and top with fresh Parmesan.
Everyone needs a good meaty pasta dinner up their sleeve and this Bolognese absolutely fits the bill while simultaneously transforming your kitchen into an Italian bistro!
Even more so if said dinner is made in the slow cooker and you get to forget about it for a few hours while the slow cooker works its magic.
Y’all, this Bolognese is pretty much pure magic since we’ve got a hearty combination of ground meats, tender vegetables, a rich and flavorful tomato sauce, and all the tender pappardelle you could ever need.
Yeah, the slow cooker really puts its heart and soul into this one thus making this sauce every bit as good as your favorite Italian restaurant.
This Bolognese features…
- A rich and flavorful tomato-based sauce
- Two kinds of ground meat and hearty vegetables
- Incredibly flavorful from a long cook in the slow cooker
- Tender pappardelle pasta for serving
Making the Bolognese
(scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe)
Ingredients You Will Need
- Ground beef
- Ground pork or veal
- Sweet onion
- White wine
- Granulated sugar
- Tomato paste
- Whole tomatoes
- Bay leaf
- Half and half cream
- Pappardelle pasta
- Parmesan cheese
What is Bolognese?
Bolognese is a meaty tomato-based sauce that originates from Bologna, Italy and is very similar to a ragu with white wine being a primary sauce ingredient along with a combination of ground meats and vegetables in a savory tomato sauce.
Typically Bolognese is simmered for hours to develop flavor and is served with pappardelle or another wide pasta shape that’s best suited to hold this hearty sauce.
Tips for Perfect Bolognese
- Use a mix of two meats – we think beef and pork are an excellent meat pairing in this sauce and make it extra hearty.
- Finely chop vegetables – this sauce does not get pureed at the end of cooking so make sure the onion, carrot, and celery are cut into very small cubes.
- Reduce white wine – this step concentrates the wine a bit and adds lots of flavor to the sauce.
- Use whole tomatoes and tomato paste – we found that the combination of whole tomatoes and tomato paste gives this sauce a strong tomato background.
- Skim grease from sauce after cooking – if your meat was especially fatty, you may have a layer of grease on top of your sauce after it’s finished cooking, so make sure to skim that off with a spoon.
- Add half and half at end of cooking – this adds just a touch of fat that pulls everything together in the sauce while making it rich and creamy.
- Toss pappardelle pasta in sauce – we recommend pappardelle because it’s wide shape is perfect for a hearty sauce like this. Make sure to cook pasta only to al dente so it doesn’t overcook once added to the warm sauce.
Try these ideas for a different twist on this recipe.
- Use a different meat – try ground chicken, turkey, veal, or Italian sausage.
- Make it spicy – Bolognese is not traditionally made spicy, but you can bump up the heat in this sauce by adding red pepper flakes or your favorite hot sauce.
- Try a different pasta – again, we think that pappardelle holds this sauce the best, but wide egg noodles, rigatoni, or spaghetti will also work.
- Make it alcohol-free – use 3/4 cup chicken broth and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar in place of the wine wine.
Instant Pot Instructions
To make this sauce more quickly in the instant pot, follow recipe instructions through step 3 and then transfer sauce to a 4-quart instant pot.
Next, close the vent on instant pot and cook sauce on high pressure 8 minutes, allowing to release pressure naturally and proceed with adding pasta per recipe instructions.
The slow cooking develops the most incredible hearty flavors in this Bolognese and it’s absolute heaven draped over tender pasta.
Just don’t forget the fresh Parmesan on top and heck yeah, you need some bread nearby for dipping.
Save this recipe using the ‘save to recipe box’ button below. If you make it, please let us know! Leave a comment + star rating below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #wholeandheavenlyoven.
Try these other slow cooker gems next!
Slow Cooker Beef Bolognese Sauce
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- 1/2 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork or veal
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
- 1 cup finely-diced carrots
- 1 cup finely-diced celery
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup half and half cream
- 8.8 oz Pappardelle noodles or other wide pasta
- Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- Heat a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground meats and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat over medium-high heat, breaking meat up into pieces until no longer pink. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
- Add onion, carrot, and celery to pan drippings and cook over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute until fragrant.
- Pour wine into pan and let simmer 3-5 minutes until wine is slightly reduced. Add sugar, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, breaking up tomatoes against the side of pan with a wooden spoon.
- Transfer sauce to a slow cooker and stir in bay leaf, thyme, and oregano. Cover slow cooker and cook Bolognese sauce on high 2-3 hours or on low 4-5 hours, stirring sauce and breaking up tomatoes occasionally.
- When ready to serve, skim any collected grease from the top of sauce, remove bay leaf from sauce, and stir in half and half.
- Cook pappardelle noodles in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain noodles and toss into Bolognese sauce until evenly coated. Season Bolognese with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm with Parmesan on top. Enjoy!
This post was updated with new recipe adjustments and photos on 1/18/24.