An easy slow cooker bolognese sauce which is thick and richly flavoured, packed with vegetables too!
One of the family favourites I make over and over is my slow cooker bolognese.
It might vary slightly depending on what vegetables I have to use up in the fridge, but the basic elements are always the same.
My recipe makes a tasty thick sauce that my family will polish off with ease!
Now there are cold winds and the evenings are much darker, I am valuing my slow cookers even more. Coming home to a hot meal is a massive plus point for me.
When my children come home from school or go to after school activities, I love the fact I don’t have to start cooking then as I have already prepared the food earlier in the day.
Any extra family time without stress is great!
Traditional Italian bolognese sauce originates from Bologna and is known in Italy as ragù alla bolognese.
In Italy it would be served with tagliatelle or penne or other similar pasta shapes.
It is simmered over a long period to produce a delicious thick sauce. This makes it perfect to make in a slow cooker!
Spaghetti bolognese as we enjoy it is not an authentic Italian dish though, but is believed to have evolved in either the USA or Britain through the influences of immigration.
Why make this recipe?
✔️ Easy to prepare
✔️ Nice thick sauce, naturally
✔️ Family favourite
✔️ Easy to adapt
Here are the ingredients you will need for this recipe. For the quantities please see the recipe card at the end of the post. Use this list to get your ingredients together.
Feel free to vary the vegetable according to your preferences and what you have available.
- onion – makes the perfect base for your sauce
- pepper – red or yellow – adding in some peppers is a great way of getting in some extra vegetables
- carrots – diced carrots are typically used in sauce bases
- cherry tomatoes – another great way to add additional veggies
- beef mince (ground beef) – I tend to always have a pack of minced beef in the fridge, we normally buy steak mince which has slightly less fat content.
- garlic – traditionally adds flavour to Italian dishes.
- tin of chopped tomatoes – cheap and ideal for the base of the sauce
- tomato puree – thickens your sauce and adds more tomato flavour
- beef stock cube or stock melt/pot – enriches the meat sauce with added flavour.
- dried oregano – enhances the flavour of the sauce.
- dried thyme – another herb which adds a touch of earthy flavour.
- salt and pepper, to season
- Heat a frying pan, mist with a little oil or cooking spray, and brown off the beef mince.
- Add chopped garlic for the last minute of cooking.
- Slice the onions, peppers, carrots and put them in the slow cooker pot with the cherry tomatoes.
- Add the browned minced beef and garlic into the slow cooker pot, then pour in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube/pot and herbs, then season well. Stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
If I’m busy and going to be out all day, then I’ll pop this in my slow cooker in the morning and cook for 7-8 hours on low.
Or if I am busy in the morning I’ll start it going at lunch time and cook for 4-5 hours on high.
Both work well!
To make this dish vegetarian or vegan, you could replace the minced beef with 2 tins of green lentils.
To make it gluten-free, use a gluten-free stock cube and serve with gluten-free pasta.
Add one or more of these ingredients to make your bolognese even better:
- a splash of Worcestershire sauce
- a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- a few chopped anchovies
- diced mushrooms/aubergine (eggplant)/sweet potato/butternut squash
- a splash of milk
- use a mixture of minced beef and minced pork instead of all minced beef
Allow the bolognese sauce to cool then store in the fridge for 3 days in a covered container.
Vary the vegetables according to what you have to hand in the fridge.
Fresh herbs add flavour – add these on top just before serving. Basil works well.
Grate over some parmesan before serving.
Freezing – bolognese sauce freezes well and is perfect for batch cooking for the freezer. On busy days you can defrost a portion of sauce or as many portions as you need for a quick meal of spag bol along with some freshly boiled pasta.
Allow to cool after cooking and then transfer the sauce to Tupperware pots or freezer bags in the portions you will need.
When you get home or finish work, cooking a pan of pasta only takes ten to fifteen minutes and you are all set for a great family meal with this slow cooker spaghetti bolognese.
You can serve the bolognese sauce with spaghetti or any other pasta shape depending on what you have in the store cupboard.
I find it is best to cook your pasta separately in a pan rather than adding it in the slow cooker.
You’d have to add plenty of water to ensure the pasta would cook, which could result in making your sauce watery.
Add some garlic bread and green vegetables on the side and you’re done!
I also like to make a double batch of my slow cooker bolognese sauce and freeze a few portions for another day for an easy meal.
If you think the slow cooker can only produce thin watery sauces, think again.
My rich flavourful slow cooker bolognese recipe isn’t artificially thickened with cornflour at the end of cooking. No need for that!
Instead, remember to keep an eye on the amount of liquid you use (all done for you in this recipe).
Don’t forget either that you can’t reduce a sauce in the slow cooker, in fact you will gain liquid during cooking as the steam does not escape.
You could but the texture of the cooked dish is a lot better if you brown mince in a pan first before making up the sauce, as in the instructions for this recipe.
If you follow this recipe then you should end up with a nice thick bolognese sauce from your slow cooker. Causes of watery sauce could be using too much liquid, adding too much water, not following a slow cooker recipe (which will have reduced liquid amounts), using frozen vegetables.
Cook for 4-5 hours on the high setting or 7-8 hours on the low setting.
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Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
- 2 medium red onions
- 1 yellow pepper
- 200 g carrot batons
- 200 g cherry tomatoes
- 500 g lean beef steak mince
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 4 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 beef stock pot or your preferred stock cube
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to season
- Brown the mince in a pan misted with cooking spray or oil.500 g lean beef steak mince
- Add the garlic for the last minute.2 cloves garlic
- Place the onions, pepper, carrots and tomatoes in the slow cooker pot.2 medium red onions, 1 yellow pepper, 200 g carrot batons, 200 g cherry tomatoes
- Add the browned mince and garlic, then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, stock pot, and herbs. Season well.1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 4 tbsp tomato purée, 1 beef stock pot or your preferred stock cube, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp dried thyme, Salt and pepper to season
- Cook on low for 7-8 hours on or high for 4-5 hours.