Make a big batch of this slow-cooker bolognese sauce and freeze it for an easy supper for those nights when you don't feel like cooking. This is a super-simple recipe but it tastes so good - I've even managed to hide some vegetables in it to fool your picky eaters!
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Easy bolognese sauce
Bolognese has to be one of the most popular spaghetti sauces ever. Who doesn't love a plate of pasta, covered with a deliciously beefy tomato-flavoured sauce!
The traditional way to make proper Italian bolognese is to simmer the sauce for 3 to 4 hours to allow the flavours to merge into the glorious bolognese flavour that we all love.
This is why this recipe for slow-cooker bolognese sauce works so well. The long slow cooking time in the slow-cooker is perfect for cooking this sauce, and what's great about it is that you can just throw all the ingredients into the slow-cooker and forget about it until you are ready to eat.
You don't have to keep checking to see whether it is boiling dry, and you don't have to top up the pan with extra water (which to my mind dilutes the flavour somewhat). Just turn on the slow-cooker and then leave it to work its magic.
And what you end up with is rich bolognese sauce, liberally flavoured with tomatoes and onions, with the softest meat that practically melts in your mouth.
I've added finely grated carrots for extra sweetness. You can add other vegetables such as grated courgettes, or even grated potato, which will cook away to almost nothing but will help to thicken the sauce. If you want to add celery, I would fry it with the onions first. My daughter swears by adding a grated apple to her bolognese sauce.
I'm giving you the basic recipe today, what you do with it is up to you!
What you will need
Of course, you will need a slow-cooker! This is the one that I have, which has settings for low, medium and high. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a timer so it doesn't switch itself off. I'll probably go for this slow-cooker with timer once mine comes to the end of its days.
You will also need a frying pan for browning the meat and softening the onions.
**You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making this slow-cooker bolognese sauce on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
This recipe will make enough bolognese sauce for 4 people, but you can double up the recipe to make a larger batch and freeze some for another meal.
Beef mince - use good quality low-fat content beef mince. I like to use 5% fat content. You can use a higher fat content, but then you should discard the fat that renders out while you are browning the mince. If you prefer, you can use a mixture of pork and beef mince.
Tinned tomatoes - I buy chopped tomatoes. If you buy canned whole tomatoes you should chop them up before adding them to the sauce. If you prefer you could use the equivalent amount of tomato passata instead of canned tomatoes - it will give you a smoother sauce.
Onions - these should be chopped as finely as you can get them - you don't want large pieces of onion in your bolognese sauce.
Carrots - the carrots cook away to nothing, leaving just their sweetness. They should be grated on the smallest holes of a box grater.
Fresh tomatoes - even though we've got tinned tomatoes in the bolognese, I like to add a few chopped fresh tomatoes too. If you want to skin the tomatoes before adding them to the sauce, just put them in a bowl, cover them with boiling water and leave for 2 minutes (no longer). Rinse under cold water (so that you can handle the tomatoes) and the skins will just slide off.
Italian herbs - this is a mixture of dried oregano, basil and marjoram - you may know it as mixed herbs.
Garlic - I remember reading somewhere that authentic bolognese as made by the Italians doesn't contain garlic. Well, this is my version and I'm adding it. Feel free to leave it out if you prefer.
Salt, black pepper and sugar - for seasoning. I always add a little sugar when I'm cooking with tomatoes as I think it enhances the flavour of the tomatoes and cuts through the tartness. Salt and black pepper are to your own taste.
Olive oil - this is used for browning the mince and onions before they get added to the slow cooker. You can get away with just dumping everything in the slow-cooker, but browned mince and caramelised onions add a whole depth of flavour to the bolognese sauce.
Cornflour (cornstarch) - this is optional. The cornflour is used only if the bolognese sauce hasn't thickened sufficiently once it has been cooked.
What to do
In a nutshell, you brown the meat and onions and then just throw everything into the slow-cooker and leave it for a few hours.
Brown the mince in a frying pan in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil until it is crumbly and separated.
Transfer the mince into your slow-cooker, leaving any fat behind in the frying pan.
Fry the finely chopped onions and garlic in the same pan until they start to soften. Don't allow them to brown. Stir often. This step should take about 5 minutes.
Add the onions to the mince in the slow-cooker, once again leaving any excess oil behind.
Now add the remaining ingredients.
Set the slow cooker to low and leave for 5 to 6 hours. You can also cook this on high for 3 to 4 hours.
If you find the sauce hasn't thickened enough, you can thicken it with a slurry made with one tablespoon of cornflour and 2 tablespoons of water and leave it on high power for 5 minutes until the cornflour has cooked and thickened.
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Serve this bolognese sauce on a bed of pasta. If you prefer you can sprinkle it with a little grated parmesan cheese. I like to serve it with a fresh green salad, and if I'm feeling particularly hungry, a slice of crunchy garlic bread.
I use any leftover bolognese sauce to make these bolognese sausage rolls. They make a great snack or light lunch and are perfect for popping into a lunch box.
The meat sauce is also delicious rolled in pancakes and covered in a tasty cheese sauce, as in this recipe for stuffed pancakes.
Tips and FAQ
Browning the meat in a frying pan before adding it to the slow-cooker helps render out any fat and also ensures the meat is nicely separated without any clumps.
You may find that bolognese sauce made in the slow-cooker is quite watery once it has been cooked. This is because the slow-cooker does not allow for much evaporation. For this reason, I do not add any extra water to this slow-cooker bolognese sauce recipe.
To thicken the sauce you can either use a mixture of cornflour and water (as described above) or remove the lid and allow the sauce to cook on high power until the excess liquid has evaporated.
You don't have to peel the tomatoes as long as they are finely chopped.
However, if you do want to peel them, place the tomatoes into a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Leave them for 2 minutes then rinse under cold water. You will find that the skins slip off easily.
Yes, any leftovers can be transferred to suitable containers and frozen for up to three months. To use, allow to defrost in the refrigerator (or use the microwave if you are in a hurry) and reheat in a saucepan on the stove.
Save for later
If you would like to make your own bolognese sauce in a slow-cooker, why not save the recipe to one of your Pinterest boards so you can find it easily? Just click on the image below.
Alternatively, you can save the recipe by clicking on the floating heart icon on the right-hand side of the screen.
You may also like these other recipes using beef mince:
- Minced beef hotpot
- Deconstructed cottage pie
- Spicy ground beef curry and rice
- Cheesy garlic bread pasta bake
- Cottage pie with a crispy potato filling
- Cheesy one pan pasta
- Meatloaf wrapped in bacon
Slow-cooker bolognese sauce
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 1 pound / 450 grams lean beef mince (ground beef)
- 14 ounce / 400 grams canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 cup finely grated carrots
- 1 teaspoon Italian herbs or mixed herbs
- 3 medium finely chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch) optional (for thickening)
- Brown the mince in a frying pan in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil until it is crumbly and separated.Transfer the mince into your slow-cooker, leaving any fat behind in the frying pan.1 pound / 450 grams lean beef mince (ground beef), 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Fry the finely chopped onions and garlic in the same pan until they start to soften. Don't allow them to brown. Stir often. This step should take about 5 minutes.Add the onions to the mince in the slow-cooker, once again leaving any excess oil behind.1 large onion, 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- Now add the remaining ingredients to the slow-cookerSet the slow cooker to low and leave for 5 to 6 hours. You can also cook this on high for 3 to 4 hours.14 ounce / 400 grams canned chopped tomatoes, 1 cup finely grated carrots, 1 teaspoon Italian herbs, 3 medium finely chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar
- If you find the sauce hasn't thickened enough, you can thicken it with a slurry made with one tablespoon of cornflour and 2 tablespoons of water and leave it on high power for 5 minutes until the cornflour has cooked and thickened.Alternatively, remove the lid from the slow-cooker, turn it up to high, and allow the sauce to simmer until the excess liquid has evaporated.1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
- Serve over pasta with a fresh green salad and slices of garlic bread.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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