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Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

Good bolognese sauce (Italian Ragu) is cooked slowly, puttering away as deep meaty flavors develop. This slow cooker bolognese recipe couldn't be easier! | natashaskitchen.com

Bolognese is a classic Italian Ragu sauce. A good bolognese sauce is cooked slowly, puttering away on the stove for hours as the deep meaty flavors develop but it’s so easy in the slow cooker!

This slow cooker bolognese recipe allows you to set it and forget it. Watch everyones eyes light up as their warm pasta bowls are filled with noodles, an irresistible meat sauce, and sprinkled pummeled with cheese. Buy one of these hand-cranked Cheese Grater doodads and it will almost feel like dining out because lets face it, dinner is way more fun pretending you’re at an Italian restaurant (we have kids). This sauce freezes and reheats well so you’ll have leftovers ready for another meal.

Big thank you to our friends at Reynolds® who sponsored this bolognese recipe and made it way too easy to clean my slow cooker, actually I didn’t even have to (more on that below)!

Ingredients for Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
2 medium carrots, grated
2 lb ground beef (we prefer beef with 15% or 20% fat content)
Salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup dry white wine (Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay)
2 (28 oz each) canned crushed tomatoes (or canned whole tomatoes crushed by hand)*
1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf, optional

Pasta and Parmesan (or your favorite Italian cheese) to serve

What You’ll Need:

Large skillet or dutch oven, slow cooker and Reynolds® Slow Cooker Liner

Good bolognese sauce (Italian Ragu) is cooked slowly, puttering away as deep meaty flavors develop. This slow cooker bolognese recipe couldn't be easier! | natashaskitchen.com

*I know many chefs esteem Imported Italian whole plum tomatoes, but if you can’t find them in your grocery store (as was the case with me), the best quality you can buy will do! 🙂

Hold the phone! Have you tried these Reynolds slow cooker liners? They are so handy. I’m particularly fond of them for slow cooker meat dishes because those are the ones that need the longest cooking times and you otherwise have to soak or scrub your slow cooker for awhile. You’ll see below when I removed the liner; it was clean clean!

slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce-3

How to Make Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce:

1. In a large deep pan or dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add onion, celery and carrots and sauté until softened (8-10 mins). Add minced garlic and 1/2 cup parsley and stir 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Transfer to a slow cooker.

slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce-8

2. In the same pan (without washing it), add ground beef, season with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and sauté until cooked through and no longer red (6-10 mins). For a leaner sauce, you can spoon off and discard excess oil at this point keeping 3 Tbsp oil in the pan. Add 1 cup white wine and sauté on med/high heat until wine has completely evaporated (8-10 mins) Transfer to slow cooker.

slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce-9

3. Add 1 cup milk, 1 bay leaf, 1 Tbsp sugar, and both cans of tomatoes with their juice.

Good bolognese sauce (Italian Ragu) is cooked slowly, puttering away as deep meaty flavors develop. This slow cooker bolognese recipe couldn't be easier! | natashaskitchen.com

4. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. If it it seems too liquidy, let it cook with the lid off for the last 30 minutes. See how clean it is after I took out the bag? I just wiped the condensation with a paper towel. Easy peasy!

slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce-11

5. Season with more salt to taste (I added nearly 1 tsp more salt). Serve generous amounts of bolognese sauce over your favorite pasta, topped with cheese and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Good bolognese sauce (Italian Ragu) is cooked slowly, puttering away as deep meaty flavors develop. This slow cooker bolognese recipe couldn't be easier! | natashaskitchen.com

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce (Pasta Meat Sauce)

4.94 from 15 votes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 25 minutes
A good bolognese sauce is cooked slowly, puttering away on the stove for hours as the deep meaty flavors develop but it's so easy in the slow cooker!
Author: Natasha of NatashasKitchen.com
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $20-$23
Servings: 8 -10 servings

Ingredients

For the Bolognese Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots grated
  • 2 lb ground beef we prefer beef with 15% or 20% fat content
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley plus more to serve
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dry white wine Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay
  • 2 28 oz each canned crushed tomatoes (or canned whole tomatoes, crushed)*
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 bay leaf optional

To Serve:

  • Pasta and Parmesan or your favorite Italian cheese to serve

What You'll Need:

  • Large skillet or dutch oven slow cooker

Instructions

  1. In a large deep pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add onion, celery and carrots and sauté until softened (8-10 mins). Add garlic and 1/2 cup parsley and stir 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. In the same pan (without washing it), add ground beef, season with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and sauté until cooked through and no longer red (6-10 mins). For leaner sauce, you can spoon off and discard excess oil at this point keeping 3 Tbsp oil in the pan. Add 1 cup white wine and sauté on med/high heat until wine has completely evaporated (8-10 mins). Transfer meat to slow cooker.
  3. Add 1 cup milk, 1 bay leaf, 1 Tbsp sugar, and both cans of tomatoes with juice.
  4. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. If it it seems too liquidy, let it cook with the lid off for the last 30 minutes.
  5. Season with more salt to taste (I added nearly 1 tsp more salt). Serve generous amounts of bolognese sauce over your favorite pasta, topped with cheese and garnished with fresh parsley.

Recipe Notes

*I know many chefs esteem Imported Italian whole plum tomatoes, but if you can't find them in your grocery store (as was the case with me), the best quality you can buy will do!

If you make this recipe, I’d love to see pics of your creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Hashtag them #natashaskitchen

Good bolognese sauce (Italian Ragu) is cooked slowly, puttering away as deep meaty flavors develop. This slow cooker bolognese recipe couldn't be easier! | natashaskitchen.com

???That my friends is the definition of Italian comfort food!

Good bolognese sauce (Italian Ragu) is cooked slowly, puttering away as deep meaty flavors develop. This slow cooker bolognese recipe couldn't be easier! | natashaskitchen.com

natashaskitchen

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • Kaia
    May 31, 2018

    I’m always so bad at writing reviews but I absulotely love this recipie! I’ve been making it for two years now and have become known in my household as the good Bolognese maker thanks to your recipie :). Since I’m a student I make a couple of tweeks now; I use apple cider vinegar mixed with water instead of white wine, turkey mince with pork and beef stock cubes into the apple cider and I use mixed herbs instead of parsley. But this recipie is so close to my heart and is so delicious- thank you 🙂 Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      May 31, 2018

      You’re welcome Kaia! I’m happy to hear how much you love the recipe. Thanks for taking the time to share your outstanding review! 🙂 Reply

  • Neal
    April 27, 2018

    I checked out a few web sites concerning the safety of slow cooker liners, Reynolds had the most reviews and all stated that Reynolds liners are BPA free, and plastic resin which is very stable and does not leech into foods, even high acid foods. Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 28, 2018

      Great tip Neal, thanks for sharing! Reply

    • dianne
      May 28, 2018

      It’s not whether it’s BPA free that is the issue here, but the unnecessary and mindless use of plastic of any type. Why on earth would you contribute another plastic bag to the mountain suffocating our seas and landfill when all you have to do is scrub a pot? Here in New Zealand we are seeing an increasing awareness of the problems caused by single-use plastic bags – they are on their way out of all supermarkets etc. It’s really not hard to eliminate plastics if you commit to it. Reply

      • Chris
        October 16, 2018

        Australia has the same rule on plastics. Avoid where ever possible A cleaner planet for our children and grandchildren can be achieved when we all do the little things together and it will then make a difference. Something for all to consider!

        Great recipe I will give this one a try in my new slow cooker. I usually use red wine for a rich sauce Is it ok to switch from white to red? Thanks for recipe and great website. Reply

        • Natashas Kitchen
          October 16, 2018

          I think that could work Chris! I’d love to know how you like it with red! Reply

      • James
        December 12, 2018

        I’m all for conserving the planet, but we can’t lose sight of chasing the issue around. If you don’t use slow cooker liners, then people will wash them which means washing up liquid down the drain as well as more liquid purchased which comes in a plastic container. Or worse, they put their dishwasher safe crock pot dish in the dishwasher which is arguably worse for the environment.

        Again, I’m all for this stuff but you can’t fix the planet with a black and white view of the issues 🙂

        Thanks for the recipe either way (bag or not) gonna make this tonight, sounds delicious! Reply

        • Natashas Kitchen
          December 12, 2018

          Thank you James! Reply

  • Corey Mania
    February 26, 2018

    Hi! My Sicilian husband only eats poultry. Ugh! Can the recipe be modified with ground turkey and or chicken? I know it’s sad. 🙁 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 26, 2018

      Hi Corey, I haven’t tried that but I think it’s worth experimenting! 🙂 If you test it out, let me know how you like it 🙂 Reply

      • Corey Mania
        March 1, 2018

        We have a winner! After trying many recipes, this one came close to the real thing! Used organic ground turkey. Yum! Reply

        • Natasha's Kitchen
          March 1, 2018

          Yay! I’m glad you love it Corey! Thanks for sharing your great review! Reply

  • Vincent
    February 8, 2018

    Is the sugar absolutely necessary? I’ve never been a fan of sweet sauces. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 8, 2018

      Hi Vincent, you can make it without, but it does help to offset the acidity of tomatoes. You can always add it to taste at the end. The overall sauce is not sweet – you can’t really tell there is any sugar in there. Reply

    • PATRICIA GARCIA
      February 11, 2018

      If you are lucky enough to be able to buy San Marzano tomatoes, do NOT add the sugar. They have a very low acidity, and are naturally sweet and meaty Reply

      • Natasha
        natashaskitchen
        February 11, 2018

        Yes and it’s tricky to find the true San Marzano. There are plenty of cans that are marked that way but aren’t true imported San Marzano. I’ve had quite a time looking. Reply

        • PATRICIA GARCIA
          February 12, 2018

          Everyone has them here in the Northeast, with the huge Italian communities. And yes, they should be imported from Italy, to be true San Marzanos. Reply

  • Don
    February 8, 2018

    Love Bolognese, can’t wait to try this recipe. May have a touch or two to tweak it to my taste, but basically it looks great. BTW, I’ve been using the Slow Cooker Liners for years and they are the BOMB!!
    Thanks for your BLOG.
    Regards, Don Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      February 8, 2018

      It’s my pleasure Don! Please let me know what you think of the recipe. Thanks so much for following! Reply

  • Heather Adamson
    February 7, 2018

    Wondering if you could leave out the wine? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 7, 2018

      Hi Heather, I think the wine adds great depth of flavor but you could just add broth instead if you need to substitute. Reply

  • February 3, 2018

    Thank you for all your recipes, they are the way you should eat honest, down home and not complicated, just like you are. Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      February 3, 2018

      My pleasure Kathy! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the recipes. Thanks for following and sharing your thoughtful comments! Reply

  • Jody
    February 3, 2018

    Doesnt the milk curdle when you use it together with the tomatoes?
    Also cooking with plastic linings seems like a health risk. Any kind of plastic is not safe when heated.
    Just a concern. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      February 3, 2018

      Hi Jody, I think it warrants some research if you are concerned. You might do a google search to see if maybe their product is made differently? Also, I haven’t experienced milk curdling in this recipe. Reply

    • Oksana
      February 16, 2018

      You’re right. This is highly toxic and no on should use these liners if they don’t want to end up with some kind of cancer later in life. Reply

  • Shelly
    December 17, 2017

    If we don’t use dairy, is there something that can be substituted for the milk? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      December 18, 2017

      Hi Shelly, you could just add broth instead 🙂 Reply

  • Eri
    October 30, 2017

    Wow! This turned out fantastic! Don’t skip the wine, it really adds depth of flavor. I love the component of so many veggies packed in this sauce. As others suggested, I left the lid off for the last 30 minutes to thicken. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly. I did half the recipe since it was just two of us. So so delicious, thank you Natasha! Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      October 31, 2017

      My pleasure Eri! I’m happy you enjoy the recipe so much! Thanks for sharing your great review with other readers! Reply

  • Caroline
    October 21, 2017

    I have to try this. It looks so delicious as all of your dishes do. Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      October 22, 2017

      It’s easy AND so good! Please let me know what you think Caroline! Reply

  • Candice
    October 10, 2017

    I made this for my family tonight and it was so good! Thank you for sharing your talent with us! Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      October 10, 2017

      My pleasure Candice! I’m glad to hear that! Thanks for sharing your great review! Reply

  • Haifa
    September 26, 2017

    Hi Natasha,
    I want to send this recipe to my mom and she’s doe like slow cooker! Is possible to follow same instructions but on a stovetop instead the slow cooker?
    Thank you so much
    BTW I am trying it right now and can’t wait till its done. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 26, 2017

      Hi Haifa, yes, I do believe simmering it on the stove until it reaches your desired consistency (usually 2-3 hours uncovered, stirring occassionally) would work great. Reply

      • Haifa
        September 26, 2017

        Thank you so much for replying and for the recipe, made it tonight and my whole family loved it so much it was perfect I followed your instructions on slow cooker and was really yummy. Reply

        • Natasha's Kitchen
          September 26, 2017

          My pleasure! I’m glad to hear that! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Reply

  • Alyssa
    September 14, 2017

    Unfortunately this recipe is not good. Was way to watery and had no flavor . Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 14, 2017

      Hi Alyssa, I would love to help troubleshoot to figure out what could have gone wrong. I haven’t had anyone say the same thing so I’m wondering if something was modified or substituted in the recipe? Reply

  • Marimar
    August 25, 2017

    Hi Natasha, how many packeges of pasta you used for this recipe.Thanks Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      August 26, 2017

      Hi Marimar, it depends on how much pasta your crowd will eat. What I used here was one (1 lb) package 🙂 I would suggest making enough pasta to feed your crowd since you can refrigerate or freeze the leftover bolognese sauce for later 🙂 Reply

  • Viktoriya
    March 12, 2017

    Will it be okay to skip the wine? Does it change the taste much? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      March 13, 2017

      Hi Viktoriya, I like the flavor it adds, but yes you can definitely omit it if you prefer. Reply

  • Liza
    November 25, 2016

    Please help – I cooked it for 4 hours but now I think I accidentally cooked it on low instead of high . Can I put it back in the slow cooker a day after for a few more hours on low ? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      November 25, 2016

      Hi Liza, I think that would be ok as long as it’s properly refrigerated overnight. 🙂 Reply

  • Nadia T
    November 3, 2016

    I made this sauce and instead of serving over pasta, I stuffed it into pasta shells, sprinkled a bunch of cheese, broiled for 15min and oh so yummy!! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      November 4, 2016

      Oh wow that sounds so amazing!!! Thank you for sharing! 🙂 Reply

  • Raquel
    October 27, 2016

    Can I prepare at night, put it in the fridge and turn it on in the morning before going to work? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 27, 2016

      Hi Raquel, yes that would work fine 🙂 Reply

  • Olga Vorobey
    October 25, 2016

    I made this last week and loved it. I usually don’t like any type of tomato sauce because it always ends up too acidic for me but this recipe was delicious. Its definitely a huge portion of sauce so I ended up putting most of it in the fridge and used it for a pasta party a week later and it was as delicious as ever. Thank you. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 25, 2016

      That is awesome!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful review 🙂 Reply

  • Ksusha. A
    October 4, 2016

    This is definitely a keeper recipe. I accidentally bought one can of diced tomatoes and other crushed and i actually like the texture. I ended up cooking it 2 hrs on high and 5 on low and it turned out great! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 4, 2016

      Ksusha, thank you for the nice review 😄. Reply

      • Ksusha. A
        January 16, 2018

        forever later..
        This is our family favorite.
        Comfort food at it’s best.
        I make 2 pots at a time and freeze half. Last time i made this we ate it for 4 days straight..it never gets old! I add more vegetables then the recipe calls for and a small can of tomato paste helps make it thicker. Otherwise recipe is perfect.
        Thank you 🙂 Reply

        • Natasha's Kitchen
          January 16, 2018

          My pleasure! I’m happy to hear how much your family enjoys the recipe. Thanks for sharing your fantastic review! Reply

  • Hana
    October 3, 2016

    Hi Natahsa, would fresh tomatoes work for this recipe? I have lots of them and need to find a good use for them Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 3, 2016

      Hi Hana, I haven’t tried with fresh tomatoes. I think it might work but you may need a little longer cooking time uncovered to release some of the extra juice. Reply

  • October 3, 2016

    This Bolognese sauce looks amazing! I also love how easy it is! It’s been super rainy here lately so this would be the ultimate comfort right now! Reply

  • Anna
    October 2, 2016

    Is it necessary to use the slow cooker liner bag? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 3, 2016

      Hi Anna, it can be done without the bag. The bag just makes it easier to clean up 🙂 Reply

      • Elaine
        October 17, 2016

        With all due respect, I wouldn’t use any plastic in cooking.
        Being careful not to asurb any chemicals in my cooking. Reply

  • Elaine M
    October 2, 2016

    Made this today in my slow cooker. I love how it tenderized the beef and it’s not as acidic tasting as a marinara. Thanks for the delice recipe! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      October 3, 2016

      I’m so happy to hear that! 🙂 Reply

  • JulieB
    September 30, 2016

    Absolutely deeeelicious! Pasta is my favorite meal by far. Love Italy as well, so you know what I mean 😉 Check Barilla Restaurant´s website, they have tons of Italian fresh recipes and very easy to prepare! http://www.barillarestaurants.com/ Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 30, 2016

      Thanks for the tip! 🙂 Reply

  • Leanne
    September 28, 2016

    Just found your site and this was the first recipe I tried. I LOVED it! I never simmered meat in wine before, and it certainly made an awesome flavor as opposed to simmering it in just the sauce. Will definitely be checking out the rest of your site. Thanks! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 28, 2016

      Leanne, welcome to the site and thank you for the nice review on the recipe 😀. Reply

  • September 27, 2016

    Yes I LOVE my slow cooker because it don’t require slaving in front to the stove. Like you said, set it and forget it! Because we have those days that we just want to relax lol. And I equally love those slow cooker liners it’s one of the staple in my pantry. They sure leave your crockpot clean! 😊 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 27, 2016

      Yes! I love that they made an easy process even easier with the Reynolds crockpot liners! It really is a time saver! 🙂 Reply

  • September 27, 2016

    thanks for this recipe, love bolognese with almost anything but haven’t made it in awhile, I like to dial down the pasta and serve with parmesean crisped french bread, thanks for the reminder! Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 27, 2016

      You are welcome Sabrina 😁. Reply

  • Marlene
    September 27, 2016

    Hi Natasha,

    What type of olive oil would you recommend? Regular, light or extra-virgin? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 27, 2016

      Hi Marlene, regular or light would work fine 🙂 Reply

  • natasha
    September 27, 2016

    I don’t think the instructions state how to cut the garlic. Mince? Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 27, 2016

      Yes, you are absolutely right! Sorry I missed that. The garlic is minced. 🙂 I updated the recipe Reply

  • Katja
    September 27, 2016

    Try to get San Marzano tomatoes… they are the best 😀 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 27, 2016

      I looked and the only ones I was able to find are ones that say San Marzano but are grown and packed in the US which didn’t make any sense. I guess they also have to be labeled as shipped from Italy. 🙂 Reply

  • Tina
    September 26, 2016

    I love all your recipes! I’ve tried most of them! 🙂 I know the point of this recipe is to use a slow cooker but i do not have one. Any ideas one how to make it without one? Can i use my stove on low heat? Also, can i half the recipe by using half of all the ingredients? 2 pounds of meat is way to much for just my husband and I. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 26, 2016

      Hi Tina, absolutely, put everything in a pot (I prefer a dutch oven and simmer it partially covered, stirring occassionally for 2 to 4 hours – the longer the better). Reply

  • Vicki
    September 25, 2016

    Hi Natasha. God bless you dear. I really like your recipes. I spent everyday on your website. I have 3 kids so I do a lot of cooking. (Which I’m not good at). But your recipes helped me to become a better chef. Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 25, 2016

      Vicki, I’m so inspired reading your review. Thank you! Blessings to you and your family 😀. Reply

  • Alina
    September 24, 2016

    Thank you so much for the recipe. It’s really good- I already made it and we all loved it:)
    Hope to see more slow cooker recipies by u:) Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 24, 2016

      That’s awesome!! I’m so happy you loved it 🙂 Thank you for sharing your wonderful review! Reply

  • Lena
    September 24, 2016

    Sounds yummy:) is it OK to freeze it? 8-10 servings for 2 seems too much 😉 Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 24, 2016

      Hi Lena, yes this recipe freezes and reheats really well! 🙂 Reply

  • Angharad
    September 24, 2016

    I use the same recipe in my slow cooker but I add the meat from 2 Italian sausages It does turn out more watery so it is a good suggestion to leave the lid off part way. I sometimes finish off my adding a jar of good quality pasta sauce just to make a bigger batch Reply

    • Natasha
      natashaskitchen
      September 24, 2016

      Thank you for sharing your version with us 😀. Reply

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