Bolognese is probably easy enough to make on the stove top. But why not let the slow cooker do most of the work?
I come from a long line of amazing Italian cooks. Most of the older women in my family are natural cooks and they like to cook everything from scratch. I’m not as natural as they are in the kitchen, I work full time, and I have a one hour daily commute. I love authentic Italian food and treasure their recipes, but sometimes I like to find my own recipes and my slow cooker is a savior on busy work/school nights. We don’t have one cherished family Bolognese recipe anyway, so I set out to find the perfect one for my family – and I think I did!
I’ve learned that the best spaghetti Bolognese is cooked slowly for hours. This is what the slow cooker was made for, so using it helps you to achieve authentic Bolognese! Other recipes call for a longer cook time but I have found that four hours on high is enough. I’ve also figured out that it’s best to brown the ground meat before adding it to the slow cooker. The extra step is worth it. Trust me. You’re going to love this slow-cooker recipe.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours and 15 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
- 1 pound (16 ounces) dry spaghetti
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (or 4 garlic cloves, minced)
- 1/2 cup red wine or beef broth (optional)
- 2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes (My mom and I are partial to Contadina)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon crushed beef bouillon cubes
- 2 – 3 teaspoons salt (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- black pepper, to taste
- 1 large carrot, chopped (optional, for sweetness)
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley plus more for serving
- grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Here’s how to make it:
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Sauté chopped onions until softened. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
- Brown the meat, breaking it apart with a wooden spatula or spoon, until it just begins to brown (about 2 to 3 minutes). Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Return skillet to the stove. Pour in the wine/beef broth, if desired, while scraping any bits of fried meat from the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer and transfer to the slow cooker.
- Add the following to the slow cooker: crushed tomatoes, 1 cup beef broth, tomato paste, crushed bouillon cubes, salt, oregano, basil, sugar, pepper and carrot (if desired). Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 7 hours. Add in the chopped parsley shortly before boiling the spaghetti. Stir.
- In the last 12 to 15 minutes or so of cooking time, boil spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Pour the reserved water back into the pasta along with 2 cups cooked Bolognese sauce. Stir until the sauce is thick enough to coat the pasta. Serve with Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, if desired.
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