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Slow-Cooker Bolognese Sauce
  • 12 cups
  • Mins
    Prep Time
  • Mins
    Cook Time

Bolognese sauce is a hearty Italian pasta sauce in which ground beef and pork are simmered for hours in milk, wine, tomatoes, and vegetables. While it sounds a little odd, the sweet, deep-tasting sauce is a classic for good reason. This recipe comes from Cook's Country (Cook's Illustrated). There's a little bit of fussiness involved, where vegetables are sauteed in butter, and a meatloaf mixture of pork & beef (and veal) is added. Once all the ingredients have been boiled a bit, it's added to a slow cooker (lid off) to evaporate excess liquid and to concentrate the flavor. This makes a lot of sauce, which I froze into three portions. I also made homemade pasta, which made this recipe even better! Commercial pasta works just as well, though. What makes this different than classic marinara (spaghetti) sauce is that the flavor of the wine comes through in a subtle way. Excellent recipe!


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ small onion , chopped fine
1 small carrot , peeled and chopped fine
½ rib celery , chopped fine
3 cloves garlic , minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 pounds meatloaf mix , or 1½ pounds ground chuck and 1½ pounds ground pork
3 cups whole milk
3 cups dry white wine
2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes , ground in blender until smooth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
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Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook until softened but not colored, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add meat, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up meat, until crumbled into tiny pieces and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add milk, bring to vigorous simmer, and cook until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, 10 to 15 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, and thyme; cover and bring to boil. Transfer mixture to slow cooker, cover, set temperature to high, and bring to boil. Once mixture comes to boil, remove lid and simmer until sauce is very thick, 7 to 8 hours. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. Make Ahead This recipe can be partially made the night before so that its ready to place in the slow cooker in the morning. Complete steps 1 and 2 and refrigerate the mixture in the Dutch oven. The next morning, bring the mixture back to a boil, transfer it to the slow cooker, and proceed as directed. Because steam rises from the sauce as it cooks, its best to place the slow cooker on a counter with no cabinetry overhead. If you need more than the 7 or 8 hours of cooking time called for in the recipe, in step 3 set the lid halfway off the cooker rather than removing it, then simmer the sauce for 10 to 11 hours. Freeze leftover sauce in airtight containers for up to 2 months.

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