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Crock Pot Beef Bolognese is a hearty ragu sauce perfect for any pasta! This comforting sauce gains all its flavor by cooking low and slow and letting the crock pot do all the work!
Traditional bolognese sauce is made long and slow on the stove. It's how the sauce becomes nice and thick and the meat so tender it melts in your mouth. And that my friends is why the crock pot was invented! To make bolognese sauce! In all seriousness, I have no clue what the main reason was for inventing the crock pot, but it is the perfect appliance to make crock pot beef bolognese in.
This sauce will make you feel like you are in Italy! I've never been, yet... but I imagine that the way I feel when I eat this silky and luscious meat sauce over my favorite rigatoni pasta is how it feels to be in Italy. Some day I'll get there, until then I will keep making my Grandma and family, proud and happy, by continuing to make Italian food at home, just like Grandma taught me.
This post was originally posted on 04/04/2020 and updated on 03/01/2021.
Crock Pot Beef Bolognese Ingredients
- Ground Beef
- Olive Oil
- Water, Beef Broth or Dry White Wine
- Tomato Paste
- Crushed Tomatoes in a can
- Italian Seasoning
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Salt and Pepper
- Parmesan Rind (optional)
- Pasta for serving
Substitution Options for Bolognese Ragu
- Ground Beef: Substitute half ground pork with half ground beef or use all ground turkey or ground Italian sausage or a mixture.
- Olive Oil: The oil is used to sauté the veggies and keeps this dish more authentic, but it can be substituted with canola oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil.
- Water, Beef Broth or Dry White Wine: Any one of these liquids will work. If you choose wine, buy a dry wine you also like to drink. When the wine cooks down the flavor will be enhanced. A dry wine good for cooking is: Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes add extra texture to the ragu, but they can be substituted with canned tomato sauce or your favorite jar of pasta or marinara sauce.
- Milk: Adding milk to the ragu is what helps the meat become super tender so you don't want to leave it out. It can be substituted with cream, half and half, or an unsweetened dairy free milk of choice.
- Parmesan Rind: This is totally optional, however it adds such an extra depth of flavor that is nutty and salty. I recommend you try it!
How to Make Beef Bolognese in the Slow Cooker
- In a large skillet cook and brown the ground beef until no longer pink. Drain any grease.
- In that same skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Once the oil starts to ripple it is ready. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in the minced garlic and sauté another minute until the garlic is really fragrant.
- Add water, broth or wine and let simmer for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and then remove from heat.
- Add the veggies to the crock pot with the beef.
- Next, add the crushed tomatoes, milk and seasonings to the crock pot and stir to combine everything.
- If using a Parmesan rind, push it into the middle of the sauce.
- Cook on low for 6 hours.
Tips for Slow Cooked Beef Bolognese
- Use a crock pot liner. It makes clean up so much easier.
- It is essential to start this recipe in a skillet first, it makes this classic recipe authentic. The beef needs to be browned and the veggies need to start cooking to let all the natural sugars cook properly. Along with that, if you are using wine you'll need to cook the alcohol out. After that it is a dump and go recipe and the crock pot does all the work!
- Do not skip the milk. The milk in this dish is what helps break down the meat and make it extra tender.
How to Serve Crock Pot Beef Bolognese
Serve the crock pot beef bolognese over your favorite pasta. My favorite is rigatoni, other great pastas that will hold this hearty sauce are pappardelle, bucatini, penne, fusilli or rotini. All these pastas have either lines or holes to help hold on to the sauce better. Spaghetti will work but it doesn't hold has much of this sauce because bolognese is thicker than a traditional spaghetti meat sauce.
How to Freeze Extra Bolognese Ragu
This recipe makes a large batch of bolognese sauce, and the leftovers freeze perfectly. Let the sauce cool completely and then put it in a freezer safe air tight container or zip top bag. I like to use a bag and lay it flat to freeze. It helps with freezer space. Don't forget to label and date the bag.
FAQ on Crock Pot Beef Bolognese
With this recipe there should be no reason to thicken it because it ends up thick after cooking on low for 6 hours. However, if you want it to be even thicker you can add a cornstarch slurry made from 2 tablespoons cornstarch and ¼ cup of water. Stir it into the sauce when there is 30 minutes left of cooking.
Typically, yes. For this recipe though it is an essential step to brown and cook the beef ahead of time. It not only adds flavor but it also helps with making the meat super tender in the crock pot.
More Crock Pot & Slow Cooker Recipes to Try:
- Crock Pot Beef Stew
- Split Pea Soup
- Iowa Maid Rites
- Busy Day Steak with Gravy
- Ham & Potato Soup
- White Chicken Chili
- Easy 3 Bean Chili
- Crock Pot Whole Chicken
Crock Pot Beef Bolognese
- 1½ lb ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 large carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (heaping tablespoon)
- ½ cup water , or beef broth or dry white wine
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 56 oz crushed tomatoes, Two 28 oz cans
- 1 cup milk, any type, or cream, half & half
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 Parmesan rind, optional
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large skillet, brown beef until no longer pink. Drain any grease and add beef to crock pot.
- In the same skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook onions, carrots, and celery for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.
- Add garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
- Add water, broth or wine and let simmer 2 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and remove from heat.
- Add vegetable mix to the crock pot.
- To the crock pot add crushed tomatoes, milk, Italian seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Stir to combine everything.
- Place Parmesan rind in the middle of crock pot and push down until covered by sauce.
- Cover and cook on low 6 hours.
- Serve over your favorite pasta (mine is rigatoni) and enjoy!