Before I get shamed by your Italian grandmother, I know, Slow Cooker Bolognese, what am I thinking? Well, do not kick it until you try it.
As a past culinary professional, I know that great food (especially Italian cuisine) is made with love from the heart. The long hours of taking time to precisely cut each vegetable and cook a sauce long and slow in a pot is an Italian’s labor of love in the kitchen.
However, now that I am a full-time mom, I understand that sometimes we need a little help from modern technology. That does not mean this Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce is not made with love from the heart. It is still cooked long and slow – it just does not need a babysitter all day long. You do the leg work initially, put everything in the slow cooker, and kick back and relax (or if you are a mom, you go back to your work).
Moreover, this Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce with Tagliatelle is inspired by traditional methods and ingredients passed down from my friends in Italy and my father’s mother. You will not find a more authentic Italian (Slow Cooker) Bolognese Sauce made with heart and love than right here.
Enjoying Bolognese Sauce in Bologna
In my two months abroad in Italy, I had my fair share of delicious bolognese sauce. From the city that started it all, Bologna, to the Amalfi Coast, Brescia, and beyond – every bowl of bolognese sauce tasted absolutely perfecto.
My favorite memory of enjoying bolognese sauce in Italy was during our one day in Bologna. My family and I dined on the steps of the Piazza Maggiore.
Like all Italian food, the menu was simple. It included Emilia Romagna region classics such as tagliatelle pasta with bolognese ragu and traditional lasagna verdi alla bolognese (green lasagna with bolognese sauce).
I remember it like it was yesterday. Every bite of my tagliatelle pasta with bolognese ragu was divine. The sauce was simple, yet there was so much flavor.
If you visit Bologna, you MUST have a bowl of tagliatelle pasta with bolognese ragu.
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Bolognese Sauce, also referred to as ragù, is a meat-based sauce original from Bologna, Italy – and yes, it is different than spaghetti sauce.
The authenticity of Bolognese Sauce comes from its ingredients – beef chuck, pancetta, onion, carrot, celery, milk, wine, and tomato sauce. Moreover, it is also always cooked long and slow in a stockpot for at least 3 hours.
Today, Bolognese Sauce has evolved from one Italian grandmother’s kitchen to the next by adding other ingredients that may help enhance the flavor per grandmother’s taste buds. Rest assured, the foundation of ingredients and method of cooking always remain the same.
Bolognese Sauce is traditionally served on a bed of tagliatelle pasta and lasagne alla bolognese – two of the most popular dishes in the Emilia Romagna region. However, this Ragù is so delicious; you can honestly add it to anything you desire, such as gnocchi or penne pasta – it is that perfect.
Bolognese Sauce vs. Spaghetti Sauce
First and foremost, Bolognese Sauce is a thicker and creamier meat sauce than a typical American spaghetti sauce. Moreover, spaghetti sauce is a tomato sauce with the addition of beef and other ingredients. It is also typically cooked very quickly – no more than an hour.
Why Cook Bolognese Sauce in a Slow Cooker?
I will always be the first one to cook something all day long, but sometimes you just need a little help from modern technology.
Even though cooking Bolognese Sauce in a stockpot is straightforward, you must have the time to tend to it. You need to stir the sauce every 20 – 30 minutes for at least 3 hours.
Whereas, if you cook the Bolognese Sauce in a slow cooker, it will still cook long and slow without the need to tend to it. The cooking process is the same until the Bolognese Sauce needs to cook for a long time.
Yes, the Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce cooks for 6 hours instead of 3 hours, but the longer it cooks, the tastier the Ragù. Furthermore, most Bolognese Sauces cook for at least 3 hours.
I lived with three different hosts in Italy, and each one had a pressure cooker/Instant Pot – which they used almost every day. Times have changed even in Italy, and I think if they saw my recipe, they would be delighted to use it!
List of Ingredients for Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce with Tagliatelle Pasta
Two of the most important ingredients for the Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce are the beef and cans of crushed tomatoes.
The beef should be ground chuck because it has more fat and a sweeter taste. Yes, you can use a lean cut of meat, but go with the ground chuck if you want the best result.
As for the tomatoes, the best can of tomatoes you can buy is San Marzano. San Marzano tomatoes get their origin in Italy and are known for their sweet, rich, and flavorful tomatoes. Hands down, the best tomatoes you can ever use for pasta or pizza sauce.
Lastly, the “secret” ingredient for my Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce is ground nutmeg. My dad’s mother would always add ground or grated nutmeg to her Bolognese Sauce. Moreover, in my research of reading authentic Italian cookbooks, I also found chefs using nutmeg. A little nutmeg will go a long way to enhance the Ragù’s flavor.
This is a brief overview. Please refer to the ingredient measurements at the end of this post.
- Olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- White onion
- Celery stalk
- Ground beef chuck
- Whole milk
- Dry red wine
- Cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- Ground nutmeg
- Italian seasoning
- Tagliatelle pasta
How to Make Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce with Tagliatelle Pasta
This is a brief overview. Please refer to the full recipe description at the end of this post.
Brown the Beef – add the olive oil into a pan and cook the ground beef chuck until the meat has just turned brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to the slow cooker (you do not want the grease in your Bolognese Sauce).
Cook the Pancetta and Vegetables – in the same pan, add the diced pancetta, and cook until almost crisp. Add the butter and onion until it becomes translucent. Then add the garlic, carrot, and celery. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and cook until all the vegetables are softened. Strain the pancetta and vegetables from the pan and add to the slow cooker.
Add Remaining Ingredients – pour the milk, dry red wine, and cans of crushed tomatoes into the slow cooker. Add ground nutmeg, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir all of the ingredients together.
Cook Long and Slow – cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours.
Cook the Pasta – bring a pot of water with a sprinkle of salt to a boil. Add the tagliatelle pasta and cook as directed. Strain pasta.
Serve – spoon the slow cooker Bolognese sauce over tagliatelle pasta and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
More Italian Pasta Recipes
- Easy and Delicious Spaghetti Carbonara
- Authentic Seafood Risotto from Southern Italy
- Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers
- Classic Pesto Orecchiette – A Homemade Pesto Recipe
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/3 cup white onion, diced
- 2/3 cup celery, diced
- 2/3 cup carrot, diced
- 10 oz. pancetta (sliced thick), diced
- 2 lb. ground beef chuck
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 - 28 oz. cans of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lb. tagliatelle pasta
- Add the olive oil into a pan and cook the ground beef chuck over medium heat until the meat has just turned brown, about 8 - 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to the slow cooker (use the slotted spoon to help remove grease from the beef).
- In the same pan with the leftover grease, add the diced pancetta and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the butter and diced onion until it becomes translucent, about 3 - 4 minutes. Then add the minced garlic, and diced carrot and celery. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes until all the vegetables are softened. Strain the pancetta and vegetables from the pan and add into the slow cooker.
- Pour the milk, dry red wine, and cans of crushed tomatoes into the slow cooker. Add ground nutmeg, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir all of the ingredients together.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours.
- When you are ready, bring a pot of water with a sprinkle of salt to a boil. Add the tagliatelle pasta and cook as directed. Strain pasta.
- Serve slow cooker bologense sauce over tagliatelle pasta with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.
Tagliatelle pasta can be hard to find in grocery stores. So I recommend going to a speciality grocery store or purchase from Amazon below. If you want, you can use pappardelle or fettuccine pasta.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, when you click on the link you will have the option to purchase a product at no extra cost to you, but I would receive a small commission. I want to thank everyone for following and supporting us on all of “Our Sweet Adventures” and for cooking with my recipes on "Christina's Culinary Creations".