Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese


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This Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese will make Italian Mamas proud. It’s rich, luscious, the sauce is silky and the meat is so tender it melts in your mouth. And the slow cooker does all the hard work!!

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese is extra rich and luscious with beef so tender it melts in your mouth!

Long and slow is how real Italian Mamas make proper Spaghetti Bolognese. It’s when the magic happens, the sauce thickens and infuses with incredible flavour that you simply can’t achieve in 30 minutes on the stove. The meat becomes so tender and soft, it literally melts in your mouth. The sauce is silky and rich, and clings lovingly to the pasta, staining the long strands a deep red.

So basically, slow cookers were made for Bolognese sauce. Or maybe Spaghetti Bolognese was made for slow cookers. Doesn’t really matter. They’re a match made in heaven! :-)

Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious with beef so tender it melts in your mouth!

Now I have to tell you, this is a real proper Bolognese. So it’s not a “chuck it all in the slow cooker” recipe. Softening the onion and browning the beef before transferring it to the slow cooker is a key step, it can’t be skipped!

It just so happens that my slow cooker has a sauté setting – very handy for browning before slow cooking. However, when I make Bolognese Sauce in the slow cooker, I always make a double batch using 2 lb of ground beef. So if I were to brown the beef in the slow cooker, I’d have to do it in batches anyway because otherwise it would be (very!) overcrowded and the beef would end up stewing instead.

So I just brown the beef in a large skillet then transfer to the slow cooker. Well actually, I brown the onion first then transfer that into the slow cooker, then I brown the beef. Simply because of sheer volume – I don’t have a skillet large enough!

Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious with beef so tender it melts in your mouth!

I am very particular about recipes I make in a slow cooker. I strongly believe that things should only be made in a slow cooker if it either enhances the recipe or the sheer convenience far outweighs a small compromise in the food.

As for Spaghetti Bolognese? It absolutely enhances it. Slow cookers on low cook maintain an even temperature lower than most stoves can manage. I truly believe to my very core that Bolognese Sauce made in the slow cooker is better.

This recipe makes a double batch but you could even triple it if you want! Because not only is Bolognese made for making in a slow cooker, it’s also made for freezing!

Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious with beef so tender it melts in your mouth!

Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious with beef so tender it melts in your mouth!
4.79 from 19 votes
Review Recipe

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 - 10
Author Nagi from RecipeTin Eats for Spend With Pennies
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Classic Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious, with beef that literally melts in your mouth!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves , crushed
  • 2 onions , diced
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot (or chicken or beef broth)
  • 2 x 28oz canned crushed tomato
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes , crushed
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Pasta
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti , dried

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Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook until translucent and sweet - around 7 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the same skillet and increase heat to high. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned. Cook in 2 batches if your skillet is not large enough. Transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Return skillet to the stove, turn the stove down to medium and add red wine. Bring to simmer and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet into the wine, then pour the mixture into the slow cooker.
  4. Add remaining ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6 hours.
Spaghetti
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti until just before al dente (still slightly firm). Remove 1 mug of the water from the pot, then drain the pasta.
  2. Return the pasta to the pot and add 2 1/2 - 3 cups of Bolognese Sauce, plus 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water. Toss gently over medium high heat for 2 minutes, or until the Sauce has thickened and coats the spaghetti. (Note 3)
  3. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Notes

1. Bolognese Sauce freezes wonderfully! Allow to cool overnight then freeze in serving size portions.
2. This recipe is a double batch and makes enough for 8 to 10 servings.
3. This step of tossing the pasta with the sauce and some of the pasta water is called "emulsifying" and it's when the magic happens. The oil in the sauce and the starch in the pasta water come together to make the Bolognese Sauce thicker so it clings to every strand of the pasta. This is the proper Italian way of making pasta!
*Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 343, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 816mg, Potassium: 653mg, Carbohydrates: 27g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Protein: 29g, Vitamin A: 5.7%, Vitamin C: 5.8%, Calcium: 4%, Iron: 21.7%

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword Slow cooker spaghetti bolognese

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Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious with beef so tender it melts in your mouth!

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About the author

Nagi

Nagi is the voice, cook and photographer behind RecipeTin Eats, [Australia’s top food blog]. She believes that anyone can make amazing food with everyday ingredients, even if you’re short on time and cost conscious.

Nagi walked away from a corporate career to follow her passion for food. She truly believes that great food brings family and friends together, and more smiles into your life. She also firmly believes that whoever invented cheese deserves a Nobel Prize.

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Comments

  1. Hi there, when you add the 3 cups of sauce at the end to the pasta, should that be the entire amount of sauce left in the slow cooker. This is the only step that confused me.

  2. Cut up turkey patties I had in freezer vs beef and it still had a great depth of flavor. This will be my go to sauce recipe. Thank you

  3. I won’t be making this again. I expected a better result after reading good reviews,  but I was disappointed. I followed recipe exactly, as I usually do on trying a recipe for the first time (left out the red pepper flakes, which were optional). I can’t say exactly what was off, just not the delicious sauce I was expecting. 

  4. Hi Nagi!
    I’m Italian and I ends up on your receipt and… yes!!! that is a good bolognese sauce :D
    however I would like to give you a tips (but I believe you know that already xD):
    Is much better if you use proper beef stock instead of the beef bouillon cubes. Do a stock required just a pot on the stove and forget about it for few hours and you’ll get a much better result.
    And to give it my mum twist: Add carrots and celery with the onion before to add the meat, and after the meat add Green Peas (so yummy!!! :Q____)
    In the end this is a gorgeous receipt!!!
    ITALIANS APPROVE!!! :D :D :D

  5. 3 bullion cubes and a teaspoon of salt is quite a lot of sodium. I wonder if I could add some sodium free stock, or would that make it too thin? I add pasta water and it makes my sauce taste like tomato soup! I can’t wait to try this tho…any suggestions anyone?

  6. Found this recipe a year ago and it’s been our go-to sauce ever since! I do cut way back on the pepper flakes. So good, we’re craving it over using the grill today!

  7. This sauce is absolutely delicious! Easy to make, and only takes a few minutes to prep. Couple of things, I made this recipe as per instructions, but when it came to adding the wine to deglaze the pan, there wasn’t anything to deglaze. Maybe because I use a nonstick pan or maybe my beef wasn’t as lean, I don’t know. But I simmered the wine as it said to, and then added it to the slow cooker. Also, I thought I had beef bouillon cubes, turns out I was wrong LOL. I just left them out. The end result was fabulous as I had expected. No one missed the cubes, and no one knew I had nothing in the pan to deglaze LOL. I did have to add more salt. I checked the sauce when it had 2 hours left to go, to check seasonings. It did need more salt, and maybe that’s because I didn’t have the bouillon cubes. But you know what I always say about salt & pepper, you really just need to add that to your tastes. My whole family loved this sauce, and we are having it for left overs again tonight. I served it with some garlic & cheese ciabatta rolls.

  8. Hi There.

    The recipe sounds AMAZING, however, I do have one simple (maybe silly) question.

    As this recipe serves 8-10 people, if i wanted to half this recipe, would i only half the 2 lb ground beef portion? Is there anything else you suggest to half?

    1. Great question Kerri! I suggest you halve all ingredients to make a half portion. That said, the leftovers of this Bolognese taste even better, so you may want to make the whole recipe and keep the other half for another day :)

    1. You could thicken it with a bit of cornstarch or flour slurry. You mix cornstarch (or flour) with water, then add it to the sauce and let it heat up and thicken.

  9. I did not realize how spicy this recipe would be with the two teaspoons of red pepper flakes. It’s crazy spicy and my throat is burning every time I swallow and I love spicy food. I would like to avoid wasting the big pot of it. What should I do to cut the spice to avoid tossing the whole pot? Simply writing “optional” is not enough information in the recipe. For those who don’t cook with red pepper flakes often it’s misleading. I’m very sorry to report, but this recipe was awful awful!!!

    1. Sorry you found it spicy, we do love the pepper flakes in our family and find it has a kick but isn’t super spicy to our tastes. If you’d like to tame down the spice in the pot you’ve already made, perhaps you can create another recipe of the ingredients without the flakes and combine the two.

  10. Made this today. I added to it a pound of mild Italian sausage [brouned]. I also added a little more of spices, onion, garlic and wine because I added sausage. It was totally awesome. My husband overate and wants it again tomorrow night. 

  11. Could I make this recipe in my three quart slow cooker? Looks so great and I’m so excited to try it but I live in a Tony place and can only fit a 3 quart slow cooker :/

  12. Deborah

    I followed the recipe to the tee. The sauce was watery due to the use of canned crushed tomatoes. I prefer sauce as pictured, thick and hardy. The flavor was good, however l’ll be using 3 – 14 oz. cans of tomato sauce and 1- 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes (drained). To help stretch the dollar alittle as some of us need to do, you can use 1 1/2 pounds ground beef and 8 to 10 oz’s. lentals soaked over night.

  13. Morning! This was a HIT… a huge hit! Even with the picky eaters!! Found your recipe via Pinterest and had just been waiting to make it. So yummy! I used 2.5# of ground bison and 1# of chorizo as my protein, definitely added the 2 tsp of red pepper flake but ‘tripled’ everything else and made a nice full crockpot! I also served it over spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Perfect dinner! Might have to have a bowl for breakfast…yummmmm! 

  14. This is the best bolognese I’ve ever had and we make a big batch at least once a month and freeze the leftovers or make lasagna. It makes the absolutely best lasagna. 

  15. This was sooooooooo good! I used this as the sauce in my Christmas lasagna and everyone loved it. This recipe has won a spot in my recipe binder, and it being shared with several family members that needed to have it. :)

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe! Thanks so much for the kind words and the spot in your recipe binder!

    1. Yes, 80/20 is fine. If you find you have a lot of fat in the bottom, you can drain the beef before continuing with the recipe.

    1. The beef I use is fairly lean so there isn’t much to drain so I don’t bother. I don’t get really lean, I get “normal” but not one that is super fatty i.e. pink colour which = lots of fat. Hope that helps! If yours is very fatty you can certainly drain it.

  16. I want to make this next week. Do you add the pasta water to the full pot of sauce, and then add some sauce to the noodles? I plan to freeze the extra sauce, if we don’t devour it all. :)

  17. I was wondering why you suggest a full bodied wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot? 
    I only have a Shiraz Cabernet would this work or would I be better off using beef stock?
    Can’t wait to cook this today 

  18. Beautiful! Adding the sauce to the spaghetti really takes this to another level. Will never spoon sauce on top of plain  spaghetti again!

  19. Really wonderful recipe with deep, rich flavors developed during the slow cooking. I used red pepper flakes, but will reduce the amount to a scant teaspoon the next time – just to make it a tad less intense – but delicious nonetheless!

    I make spiral veggie noodles to cut the calories with this meal. Squash is great for this. It’s wonderful to come home after a long day at work and have a complete nourishing meal about 8 minutes – between cooking the veggie noodles and heating the frozen sauce. This will be one of my go-to recipes for the future!

  20. This is our go to pasta sauce for spaghetti, ziti, lasagna! Rich & flavorful! I add fresh, sauteed mushrooms. Thank you, Holly!

  21. Great recipe. The tastiest spag bol I have tried and the only one my partner will now eat! I halve the amount and it makes enough for 4/5 people. I also add some diced carrot (straight into the slow cooker) and chopped smoked bacon (which I fry first) to give a deeper flavour.

    1. I am so glad you two like the recipe Georgina! I love the idea of adding smoked bacon for an extra flavor dimension!

  22. Absolutely delicious!  I’m not sure if I misread the recipe, but 1/2 lb. of spaghetti noodles didn’t seem like enough.  I figured maybe the sauce was a double batch and you froze half of it? Anyway, I cooked another 1/2 lb. of spaghetti noodles and it was super yummy.  My husband said it was better than what we normally get at the Italian restaurant we go to. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  23. This looks amazing! Would I be able to brown the beef and cook the onion from the night before to make it easier? I start work really early so don’t want to wake up even earlier.

  24. You mentioned we could use chicken or beef broth instead of wine. Would you recommend chicken or beef broth to replace the wine?

  25. Since this recipe makes a double batch, if I want to cut it in half (meaning the serving size will be 4-5 instead of 8-10), what would be the cook time be? Should I halved that too? Thank you!

    1. The cooking time will remain the same if you half the recipe. You’ll want to ensure your slow cooker is 1/2 full for best results.

  26. HI, you have us reserve 1 cup of pasta water but only use 1/2- what happens to the other 1/2 cup-anything? Is it added to the unused sauce that’s going to be frozen?

  27. Hi, I Ann currently making this recipe! I made it a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with it, spaghetti bolonese being my favourite dish! I just wanted to know how many calories this dish is as I am currently keeping track of my Calorie intake? Thanks

  28. Hi,

    Two q’s:

    Do I drain the liquid/fat after browning the meat before transferring to the slow cooker?

    And, do I drain the liquid from the canned crushed tomatoes before transferring to the slow cooker?

    1. If using a fairly lean beef, there isn’t much to drain so I wouldn’t bother. Crushed tomatoes are different than diced tomatoes in that they’re almost like a sauce in a way so you wouldn’t want to drain it.

    1. If using a lean meat you shouldn’t have much to drain. If you find you have quite a bit of fat you could certainly drain some of it off.

  29. I have been making this recipe ever since I found your post. Its the best. It has such great flavor. I always make a lot so I can freeze it to have later. Tanks for sharing this.

  30. This looks delish! It’s cooking in my Instant Pot right now (slow cooker setting). I added some diced carrots. Will add some chopped mushrooms during the last 30 min along with chopped spinach (my husband loves plenty of veggies in every meal). Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  31. My husband is allergic to onions. Do you think it will greatly affect the taste if I leave them out? I love onions, it’s so hard to cook without them..

  32. Is half a pound of spaghetti enough?? Looks like it makes a lot of sauce. And my family loves pasta. Should I double the recipe?? Want to make this ASAP, I love Bolognese..
    Thanks for your help

    1. The sauce makes enough for 8-10 servings. 8oz spaghetti should give you 4 cups of cooked pasta. If you prefer a bigger portion of pasta, you can certainly increase the pasta.

  33. I made this a week or so ago, it was so good and the kidlets loved it too. We froze the leftover sauce and thawed it for dinner last night, and it was just as good if not better. New hit in our rotation and a new slow cooker recipe, win-win for us. Thank you for sharing.

  34. I cooked it today in our slow cooker exactly as you make it and it turned out to be fabulous !
    My son loved it and had 3 helpings . Thank you for a great recipe

    1. I was wondering the same thing! To be a traditional bolognese sauce, milk is usually added! Otherwise, it is just a meat sauce for spaghetti. But it still sound delicious, so I’m going to try it!

  35. Hi! Making this now…do I need to mix the items in the crockpot? My meat and onions are on the bottoms and all the seasonings are on top of the tomato sauce.

    Thanks!

  36. I’m not a fan of chunky tomatoes. Will this recipe work if i blended up the run tomatoes till smooth? Also how would fresh basil work? I only ask as I have some in my garden. Thanks a lot

  37. I just made this and it was wonderful! Once I had everything in the slow cooker we headed to the pool and boy did it smell amazing when we came home. My youngest daughter even loved it and she normally eats butter and parmesan only on her pasta. The wine that I used was a Lambrusco. I can’t thank you enough!

  38. My husband said it’s the best sauce I’ve made! Rich and flavorful. Mix in cavatappi pasta and loved it!

  39. I just cooked and assembled everything in my Crock Pot. Will update you with the results…my neighbor is waiting also!!

  40. You are so correct about using the starchy water from cooking the pasta, that’s liquid gold, people! Makes all the difference in pasta dishes

  41. I’m making this today since it’s supposed to be over 100 degrees here today and I don’t wanna heat up the house. Only half of the recipe since I only have a pound of meat… and tomato sauce since I’m outta tomatoes and tomato paste but I’m sure it’ll be amazing anyway!!! Thanks for the recipe and the tips to go with it.

  42. When you say it freezes well, do you mean even after the spaghetti is added, or should you freeze jus the meat mixture?

  43. it doesn’t. Say to drain the ground beef before transferring it to the crockpot. I am assuming you need to drain the beef. What’s the best kind of ground beef really lean or some with more fat?

    1. Hi Kelly! The beef I use is fairly lean so there isn’t much to drain so I don’t bother. I don’t get really lean, I get “normal” but not one that is super fatty i.e. pink colour which = lots of fat. Hope that helps!

  44. I have 2 questions. When making the Bolognese sauce, you are draining the beef after browning and before adding to the slow cooker, right? And secondly, what slow cooker do you have that also sautes?? Would love to look into one! Thanks!

        1. It’s pricey for sure… it’s a slow cooker and pressure cooker all in one and definitely not required for this recipe. :)

  45. A discovery I made while doing something very similar to this; add about 1/2 pound of browned bulk Italian sausage to each pound of ground beef. Obviously it will be a bit thicker but it will make possible an awesome “Sloppy Giuseppe” sandwich.

    1. I use the slow cooker frequently when I’m not going to be home (either at work or at soccer practice etc). I love coming home to a ready meal! :)

    2. I use it so it won’t heat the house up. I live in West Texas and it frequently gets above 100 degrees here. ☺

  46. I made this Monday night. Everyone loved it. My son asked me, “Why has your food been so good this week?”

    1. Yes, you’re going to want a full bodied wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot (skip the pinot noir & shiraz in this recipe).

  47. If you wish to avoid pasta, try this with spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is very versatile and is a favorite of mine.

  48. Sounds delicious! I will definitely make this. I have not cooked with red wine before and wondering if you could suggest one that you like to use? Thanks!

    1. Yes, you’re going to want a full bodied wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot (skip the pinot noir & shiraz in this recipe).

    1. Yes, you’re going to want a full bodied wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot (skip the pinot noir & shiraz in this recipe).

  49. I do love a good slowly cooked ragu and agree that a slow cooker is such a useful tool for making them. It is also nigh on impossible to over cook a sauce like this in the slow cooker.

    1. My slow cooker is one of my favorite kitchen tools! It definitely keeps this recipe perfect, and not over cooked in the slightest! Thanks for stopping by Helen!

  50. Oh. . .spaghetti bolognese. . .you are such a favorite of the hubby’s. When we lived in Africa of all places. . .the Mr. developed a slight (okay maybe it was intense) addiction to spaghetti bolognese. It always seemed to magically appear on the table no matter the restaurant. I must admit that I rarely cook it (does that make me a bad wife?) because I try to avoid pasta in our house; however, the Mr. has been on assignment in Shanghai. . .so I think this would be a welcome surprise (he’s sick of the gobs of Chinese food he has been eating at every meal) during his visits home.

    1. No, that doesn’t make you a bad wife Lynn! Pasta is one of those foods that if you don’t have the willpower to avoid it, you almost can’t make it {that is the case here! HA!}

      1. Spaghetti squash or cauliflower are good alternatives too. I just got a spiralizer that is supposed to turn zucchini into ‘pasta’ – haven’t tried it yet. Lots of alternatives.

    2. There are gluten free flours or grain pastas which are much healthier and lighter. Such as spelt pasta. Quinoa pasta. Spaghetti squash is a great alternative also.

  51. Would this work in a rice cooker? I have setting for slow cooking, I will try and see because that looks soooooooo good!!!

    1. I haven’t tried it that way so I am not quite sure, but if you try it would you please come back and let us know how it turned out in a rice cooker?