Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
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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
*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!
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.
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.
3. Add 1 cup milk, 1 bay leaf, 1 Tbsp sugar, and both cans of tomatoes with their juice. Stir to combine.
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!
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.
Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce (Pasta Meat Sauce)
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
- Pasta, Parsley and Parmesan, or your favorite Italian cheese to serve
What You'll Need:
- Large skillet or dutch oven, slow cooker
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.
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.
Add 1 cup milk, 1 bay leaf, 1 Tbsp sugar, and both cans of tomatoes with juice and stir to combine.
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.
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.
*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
???That my friends is the definition of Italian comfort food!
Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review
Hi Natasha, I have to say I love your recipes I have not sent pictures of the things I have made, but I promise I will the next time. You are my inspiration and I love your family. God bless you and you rock.
Thank you so much, Roseanne! I appreciate your love and support. I would love to see pictures. You can tag me on Instagram or Facbeook #natashaskitchen. Be blessed!
Wow! My first attempt at making Bolognese – and it was a big hit with a very discriminating audience! Thank you Natasha!!
That’s awesome! I’m so glad it was a hit. Thank you for sharing.
So, so good! Made over the holidays for a big crowd. Amazing. I added some red pepper flakes as another review suggested, and used 1/2 cup sour cream instead of milk. Stays more creamy and less watery. Great recipe!
That’s just awesome! Thank you for sharing your wonderful review, Danielle!
Can I make this without crockpot and how? Husband’s favorite sauce
Hi Linda. Yes, I do believe simmering it on the stove until it reaches your desired consistency (usually 2-3 hours uncovered, stirring occasionally) would work great.
For everyone wondering if this will work in the instant pot I just tried it without adding the milk (was planning on doing that at the end so it didn’t curdle) and got the dreaded burn message. So if you want to try it I would add some broth/stock to it. I don’t know how much that will change the flavor though. I threw mine on the stove to finish it up.
Thank you for sharing your experience Candice!
Hi Natasha, do you think unsweetened almond milk would work as a milk substitute in this recipe? Thanks!
Hi Amber. I have not tested that to know what the outcome would be but have used broth in place of dairy so it may work. You’d have to experiment with it.
I’ve made many bolognese recipes over the years and have never been happy. This is the best one I’ve ever tasted. Keeping this in the book of favorite recipes!
Hello Alyanna, wow thank you for the awesome feedback! I’m so happy to have seen your review, thank you so much!
After reading other reviews regarding final product being a little watery, I decided to add a small can of tomato paste. Still cooked uncovered last half hour or so. Absolutely delicious.
Thank you so much for sharing that with me, Janine! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
What is the conversion from slow cooker to crock pot in the oven?
Hi Mika, I haven’t tried it in an oven, but you can make it on the stovetop. Put everything in a pot (I prefer a dutch oven) and simmer it partially covered, occasionally stirring for 2 to 4 hours – the longer, the better. I hope this helps.
Can I make everything the night before, store in the fridge, and then cook it in the crock pot the next day?
Hi Lauren, I think that would be ok as long as it’s properly refrigerated overnight. 🙂
I love how easy and tasty this recipe is. I have been making it for a few years now. I am going to try introduce this to my baby and experiment with poultry mince as another reader recommended. Thank you!
Sounds like a great plan, Karen. I hope this becomes your family’s favorite!
can red wine be used instead of white wine?
Hi Elaine, I haven’t tested that to advise but that might work! Please share with us how it goes if you try this with red.
I use red wine and it tastes just as great.
I have tried both red and white wines and the red gives it a much richer/bolder taste. Both are equally great so it just depends on your preference in my opinion.
Made this today and it turned out great! I added a few shakes each of oregano and red pepper flakes. The little bit of heat really adds flavor.
Hello Shawn, so nice to know that it came out great! Thanks for your good comments and feedback.
Please Help!. The question has nothing in particular with this recipe, but I am one of those unfortunate people whose has a gene that makes cilantro taste like soap! I find it is just disgusting! What would be a good substitution when a recipe calls for (ugh) Cilantro)? I’ve thought of Italian parsley, flatleaf parsley, or tarragon. If you think any of these would work, would the amounts be the same if one is using cilantro? Thank you for any enlightenment you may have for my conundrum! I feel I am missing some flavor when I prepare all your great recipes! Thank you!
Hi Joseph, any of those would work. Just use the same amount too and I’m sure it will be just as delicious as using cilantro.
I am not seeing anywhere to use Cilantro? Am I missing something?
Hi Bob, that was parsley and I just used it to garnish and you’re right – I missed writing it into the ingredient list. Thanks for asking!
Made this today. Served it with pappardelle pasta. It was fabulous. I will never make this on the stove top again. Thanks for sharing.
You are so welcome, Arabella. Glad you loved this recipe and thank you for sharing some great feedback with us!
Help! For slow cooker bolognese recioe,When I add milk and tomatoes and juice do I STIR it all in or just layer and dump on top? What kind of pasta is in the picture?
Hi Betty, I did stir before turning it on. Sorry I missed that but I have updated the post now. Thanks!
Can I use chicken or beef broth instead of wine?
Hi David, you sure can! We have notes on that in the recipe!
I wasn’t able to find those notes and have the same question.
The notes are in the description below each YouTube video that I upload.
I have looked as well for the substitute for wine and cannot find. Please help!
Hi Dawn, the wine adds great depth of flavor but you could just add broth instead if you need to substitute.
WOULD IT TASTE THE SAME MADE IN THE INSTANT POT? IF SO HOW LONG TO COOK?
Hi, Doreen, I haven’t tested this in the instant pot so I can’t say for sure.
Can I freeze it
Hi Janette, yes this recipe freezes and reheats really well!
Ok!! Just transferred all the ingredients into the crock pot!! I am so excited for the finished product. 8 hours to go!!
Its going to smell so good in your home! I can’t wait for you to try it! We look forward to your feedback!
My Ukrainian boys don’t like “tomato sauce”. Bolognese in Ukraine seems to have very little tomato. How do you recommend lowering tomato content?
Hi Wayne, I would suggest trying our classic bolognese sauce and using a little less marinara. You might enjoy that better with marinara versus diced tomatoes.
What size slow cooker does this need (I have a 5 quart). I would hate to end up it not fitting.
Hi Norma, we used this Slow Cooker here. It is a 6 quart one.
Hi Natasha, have you tried making this in an instapot? Wonder how long would I cook in it?
Hi Olya, I haven’t not and now I’m curious if it will work. If you experiment – please let me know how you like the recipe!
I followed your recipe word for word but after 8 hours of cooking on low and cooking with lid off for the last 3o minutes the sauce was quite watery. What could i have done wrong?
Hi Fatima, 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?
Love Bolognese sauce so I’m very excited to try making this! Is there anything I can use instead of the wine?
I think the wine adds a great depth of flavor but you could just add broth instead if you need to substitute.
Why do you add milk? Is it necessary to add it? I don’t like the color milk gives the sauce.
Hi Denise, it tones down the acidity but you could still make this recipe without the milk.
Will I be able to make this recipe in my instant pot? What would the coooking time be?
Your recipes are fantastic😁
What a great idea, Julie! I haven’t tested that but I think it could work. If you experiment, let me know how you liked the recipe
I just tried it (without adding the milk. I was gonna add it at the end and then simmer it some so it didn’t curdle) and got the dreaded burn message. I think it would work if you added around 1 cup of broth/stock but I didn’t want the flavor to be changed at all so I’m currently finishing it on the stove.
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 🙂
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! 🙂
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.
Great tip Neal, thanks for sharing!
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.
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.
I think that could work Chris! I’d love to know how you like it with red!
Can I use jarred marinara sauce instead of crushed tomatoes? That’s all I have!
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!
Thank you James!
Hi! My Sicilian husband only eats poultry. Ugh! Can the recipe be modified with ground turkey and or chicken? I know it’s sad. 🙁
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 🙂
We have a winner! After trying many recipes, this one came close to the real thing! Used organic ground turkey. Yum!
Yay! I’m glad you love it Corey! Thanks for sharing your great review!
Is the sugar absolutely necessary? I’ve never been a fan of sweet sauces.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
It’s my pleasure Don! Please let me know what you think of the recipe. Thanks so much for following!
Wondering if you could leave out the wine?
Hi Heather, I think the wine adds great depth of flavor but you could just add broth instead if you need to substitute.
Thank you for all your recipes, they are the way you should eat honest, down home and not complicated, just like you are.
My pleasure Kathy! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the recipes. Thanks for following and sharing your thoughtful comments!
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.
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.
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.
If we don’t use dairy, is there something that can be substituted for the milk?
Hi Shelly, you could just add broth instead 🙂
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!
My pleasure Eri! I’m happy you enjoy the recipe so much! Thanks for sharing your great review with other readers!
I have to try this. It looks so delicious as all of your dishes do.
It’s easy AND so good! Please let me know what you think Caroline!
I made this for my family tonight and it was so good! Thank you for sharing your talent with us!
My pleasure Candice! I’m glad to hear that! Thanks for sharing your great review!
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.
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.
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.
My pleasure! I’m glad to hear that! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Unfortunately this recipe is not good. Was way to watery and had no flavor .
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?
Hi Natasha, how many packeges of pasta you used for this recipe.Thanks
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 🙂
Will it be okay to skip the wine? Does it change the taste much?
Hi Viktoriya, I like the flavor it adds, but yes you can definitely omit it if you prefer.
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 ?
Hi Liza, I think that would be ok as long as it’s properly refrigerated overnight. 🙂
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!!
Oh wow that sounds so amazing!!! Thank you for sharing! 🙂
Can I prepare at night, put it in the fridge and turn it on in the morning before going to work?
Hi Raquel, yes that would work fine 🙂
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.
That is awesome!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful review 🙂
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!
Ksusha, thank you for the nice review 😄.
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 🙂
My pleasure! I’m happy to hear how much your family enjoys the recipe. Thanks for sharing your fantastic review!
Hi Natahsa, would fresh tomatoes work for this recipe? I have lots of them and need to find a good use for them
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.
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!
Is it necessary to use the slow cooker liner bag?
Hi Anna, it can be done without the bag. The bag just makes it easier to clean up 🙂
With all due respect, I wouldn’t use any plastic in cooking.
Being careful not to asurb any chemicals in my cooking.
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!
I’m so happy to hear that! 🙂
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/
Thanks for the tip! 🙂
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!
Leanne, welcome to the site and thank you for the nice review on the recipe 😀.
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! 😊
Yes! I love that they made an easy process even easier with the Reynolds crockpot liners! It really is a time saver! 🙂
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!
You are welcome Sabrina 😁.
What type of olive oil would you recommend? Regular, light or extra-virgin?
Hi Marlene, regular or light would work fine 🙂
I don’t think the instructions state how to cut the garlic. Mince?
Yes, you are absolutely right! Sorry I missed that. The garlic is minced. 🙂 I updated the recipe
Try to get San Marzano tomatoes… they are the best 😀
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. 🙂
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.
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).
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.
Vicki, I’m so inspired reading your review. Thank you! Blessings to you and your family 😀.
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:)
That’s awesome!! I’m so happy you loved it 🙂 Thank you for sharing your wonderful review!
Sounds yummy:) is it OK to freeze it? 8-10 servings for 2 seems too much 😉
Hi Lena, yes this recipe freezes and reheats really well! 🙂
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
Thank you for sharing your version with us 😀.