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!!
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.
How to Make Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese
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Or maybe Spaghetti Bolognese was made for slow cookers. Doesn’t really matter. They’re a match made in heaven! :-)
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!
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!
- 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
- 1/2 lb spaghetti , dried
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.
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.
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.
Add remaining ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6 hours.
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.
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)
Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.
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 provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)