Slow Cooker Bolognese

DisneySMMC Gift

So, this is happening real soon! I am so excited to be attending the Disney Social Media Moms Conference (#DisneySMMC) in Walt Disney World. I still have to get through a birthday party, a Feis, an Honors Breakfast, a blood draw and a dance class before we leave in a few days but it is slowly coming together. I realized today I was packing everything I could into one day to finish everything before the trip and decided that may not be a good idea so I have gone back and tried to move a few things around but you can’t move a birthday, a Feis, an Honors Breakfast and a dance class. The blood draw was the only thing moveable other than the grocery shop I need to do for the rest of my family before my daughter and I leave.

Slow Cooker Bolognese

My family still needs to eat despite my being busy so I am once again depending on my slow cooker. I had a pound and a half of ground beef to use and my family loves pasta. For my kids it is their comfort food. So, I decided to try a sauce in the slow cooker.

This recipe does not include pancetta but the texture and flavor were similar to what I think of a Bolognese sauce being. Plus it is sitting in the slow cooker all day so you really don’t have to watch it and stir it like a normal sauce.


The preparation of this dish is a bit more than I am used to with a slow cooker. It has about a 30 minutes preparation time before going in the slow cooker. Most people like to just dump things in the slow cooker, turn it on and walk away. This takes more preparation than that but allowing the flavors and texture to continue to cook while you are busy at work or running errands is invaluable to me.

To make this for my mostly gluten-free son I used his gluten-free pasta when serving him and the sauce is gluten-free. It is also good over polenta which the whole family may like. Remember to check your spices! Sometimes spices, especially cheaper ones, can add ingredients to prevent clumping that are not gluten-free.

Slow Cooker Bolognese (plated)


  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup red wine (use a good wine that you would drink not a cooking wine or a cheap wine that you would not drink)
  • 4 (14 oz.) cans of petite diced tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
  • 2 bay leaves

For Serving:

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • parsley for garnish
  • cooked spaghetti or polenta


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots, and cook until the onion is translucent and all the vegetables have softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and the tomato paste, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the beef, breaking it apart with your spoon and cooking until it is just browned.
  4. Stir in thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  5. Mix in the milk and bring it to a rapid simmer. Continue simmering until the milk has reduced by at least half. Then pour in the wine and simmer again until all the liquid has just about reduced completely, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon to leave behind any extra liquid, transfer the beef mixture to the bowl of a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker.
  6. Add the tomatoes (reserving the tomato juice) and bay leaves to the slow cooker and stir until well combined. The mixture should have a thick, saucy consistency.  If it looks dry, mix in a little of the reserved tomato juices until it looks sauce-like. If it is to soupy, 30 minutes before serving remove the cover of the slow cooker and let the liquid evaporate.
  7. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  8. In the last half hour before you are ready to serve, check the sauce. If it looks thin, remove the lid to allow any excess liquid to evaporate and reduce the sauce. If it looks a little dry, stir in some of the reserved tomato juices. The finished sauce should be thick and creamy. Also, taste for spices. Remove a tablespoon or two and let cool. Adjust spices as needed.
  9. Serve the sauce over pasta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.



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