Make the best slow cooker Bolognese sauce ever! This rich and deep flavored sauce is delicious with pasta or use it to make lasagna.
Why You'll Love This Recipe:
- This slow cooker bolognese sauce is a low-fat recipe because, it uses lean beef mince and is cooked with very little oil.
- It’s a healthy bolognese with vegetables that you can see. Or make it a hidden veg spaghetti bolognese by grating or finely chopping the veg.
- This is a big batch recipe making ideal for large families or feeding a small crowd.
- This sauce freezes and reheats very well, making it great for fast and easy weeknight meals.
- This is not a dump and go slow cooker recipe, some pre-cooking is required. However, the pre-cooking can be done the night before, cooled and stored in the fridge overnight. The next morning, dump everything into the slow cooker before you leave for the day.
Ingredients In This Recipe
The printable recipe further down the page has the complete list of ingredients, including quantities and step-by-step instructions.
You don’t need many ingredients to make slow cooker bolognese sauce, it’s basically made with ground beef, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, milk, onion, carrot, celery, and a few herbs.
Ground beef – We used fat-reduced mince, it does cost a little more but, we find it a healthier option. If you can’t get lean beef mince, drain away the excess fat after frying and before placing it in the slow cooker.
Canned tomatoes – Use whole canned tomatoes because it is easier to drain the juices from whole tomatoes compared to diced canned tomatoes.
Drain away most of the juice into a small bowl and keep it until after cooking.
If you were to add the tomatoes and all the juice at the start, the finished sauce would end up being too wet and would need to thicken at the end.
The consistency of a thick sauce can be adjusted to your liking by, mixing in some of the reserved juices in the last hour or so of cooking.
Milk – If you’ve never made a Bolognese sauce with milk, try making it at least once. I promise you will love it!
Not much milk is used but, it adds another depth of flavor and brings a richness to the sauce, just like an authentic Bolognese sauce.
Worcestershire sauce – This is not an authentic ingredient but, just like milk it adds another depth of flavor.
Small red chili – Chili is optional if you don’t like it leave it out. Or, if you like the flavor of chili use green chili or a large red chili, these are milder than small red chilies.
Tomato paste – Due to the concentration of flavor tomato paste intensifies the tomato taste in the sauce.
A pinch of sugar – also helps to bring out the flavor of the tomato.
Red wine – Don’t buy an expensive wine, a cheap wine will do. Most cheap wines these days are of good quality.
Step By Step Instructions
Step 1 -Drain the canned tomatoes and keep the juices. Place the drained tomatoes into the slow cooker and crush them with a fork or potato masher.
- Note - It’s okay to have some juice left with the tomatoes when they go in the slow cooker. You just don’t want all the juice because the sauce will end up being too wet at the end of cooking.
- Note - Store the reserved juice in the fridge for later.
Step 2 - Dice or chop the onions, carrot, and celery into small pieces.
If you are cooking for fussy kids and want to hide the vegetables. Grate the carrot and either very finely chop the onion and celery or grind them down in a blender.
Next, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and fry, stirring constantly for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds more. Then transfer everything to the slow cooker.
- Tip - If you have ground down the veggies, they may start to stick to the pan. If this happens add a splash of water every now and again. This will loosen everything from the bottom of the pan and will prevent burning.
Step 3 - Using the same frying pan, turn the heat to high and heat the remaining oil.
Add the beef mince and cook until the color of the meat changes from pink to brown. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break the meat into tiny pieces as it browns.
Once the meat has browned add the tomato paste, mix it in and fry for 1 minute more. Then add the milk, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium/high and allow to simmer rapidly for about 10 minutes or until there is very little liquid left.
After the milk has reduced, add the wine, turn up the heat and bring it back up to a boil. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.
- Note: You might have to do this in batches if using a small frying pan. If this is the case either:
a) Cook the first batch of meat as outlined above with the tomato paste, milk, or wine. Then cook the remaining meat until all the liquid from the meat has evaporated.
b) Or, divide the tomato paste, milk, and wine evenly between the batches and cook each as outlined above.
Step 4 - Add the stock cubes, Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, bay leaves, sugar, nutmeg, chili (if using), salt, and pepper to the slow cooker.
Step 5 - After adding the remaining ingredients as stated in step 4 give everything a good mix. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-7 hours on high for 3-4 hours.
- Note: The mixture should be slightly dry. As you can see from the image above our sauce at this stage is dry looking.
However, yours could look a little different, maybe it’s a little wetter. This is okay, the difference will be due how much liquid was cooked out in the earlier steps.
Step 6 - Check the consistency of the sauce in the last hour of cooking. If it looks too dry for your tastes, mix in some of the reserve tomato juices and adjust the consistency to your liking. Then continue to cook for the remaining time.
Step 7 - At the end of cooking taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve hot over pasta or use it to make lasagna.
What To Serve With Bolognese?
Turn this slow cooker bolognese sauce into an extra special meal and make your own homemade pasta. It's not as hard as you think and homemade is so much better than store-bought.
To complete the meal try some of these easy side dishes or desserts.
- No knead Focaccia bread
- Spelt Focaccia bread
- Roast pumpkin chick pea and feta salad
- Parmesan chipotle corn salad
- Easy ricotta cookies
- Fluffy apricot cake
- Lemon drizzle cake
Frequently Asked Questions
No, it can’t. It is best to store it in the fridge after it has cooled.
Yes, this sauce freezes very well. For quick easy weeknight meals divided the sauce into individual serving portions before freezing.
If made in advance for a party this sauce can be frozen in large containers.
No, once defrosted refreezing is not recommended.
Yes, this slow cooker Bolognese sauce recipe can be used to make lasagna but, not as is. Because this sauce is thick it needs to be made more liquid.
This can be done using the reserved canned tomato juice (if you still have it), water, or beef stock.
Yes, pizza can be made with Bolognese sauce.
Yes, this slow cooker Bolognese sauce can be used to make a pie similar to shepherd’s pie.
This recipe serves 16 people, with ½ cup (about 125 grams) of Bolognese sauce per person. Each serving is about 197 calories.
More Easy Slow Cooker Recipes
I do hope you try this slow cooker bolognese sauce recipe. If you do make it! Please come back and leave a comment below because I would love to know how it went.
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
- 6 litre slow cooker
- 2 x 800 grams canned whole tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves crushed (or 1 tablespoon garlic paste)
- 450 grams onions diced (2 large onions)
- 100 grams stalks of celery finely chopped (2 stalks)
- 240 grams carrot finely diced (1 medium carrot)
- 900 grams lean ground beef
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup of full cream milk
- 1 cup red wine or chicken stock or beef stock
- 3 beef stock cubes crushed (or 3 teaspoons beef stock powder)
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3 teaspoons dried basil leaves
- 1 dried bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 large red chillies or 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes optional
- 1 teaspoon salt + extra for seasoning after cooking
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Open the cans of tomatoes and a pour into a sieve that has been placed over a large bowl and drain away most of the juice. Keep the drained juices for later.
- Place the drained tomatoes into the slow cooker, and mash them until they break into tiny pieces.
- Next, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot. Fry and stir constantly for about 5 minutes or until all the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same fry pan over a high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until brown, use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the milk, bring to a boil and cook over a medium/high heat until the milk has reduced and there is very little liquid left. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Add the wine, bring back to the boil and cook until most of the wine has evaporated, this will take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to the slow cooker.
- Add the stock cubes, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, basil, bay leaves, sugar, nutmeg, red chilli (if using), salt and pepper into the slow cooker. Stir well. The mixture should not look dry, it should look like a thick with just a little bit of liquid. If it looks dry add some of the reserved tomato juice. If the sauce looks soupy don’t worry, it can be fixed toward the end of cooking.Note: Keep the remaining tomato juice until after you have finished cooking the bolognese sauce, you may need it.
- Put the lid on and cook on low for 6- 7 hours or high for 3 – 4 hours. In the last 1 hour of cooking, check the sauce. If it looks soupy, continue to cook with the lid off to allow the excess liquid to evaporate. If the sauce looks too dry add some more of the reserved tomato juice and cook for the remaining time.The finished sauce should be thick and slightly moist. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve with pasta,