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!!

taking a scoop of Spaghetti Bolognese

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 in a white bowl

Now I have to tell you, this is a real proper authentic Bolognese recipe. 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

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!

twirling Spaghetti Bolognese on a fork

taking a scoop of Spaghetti Bolognese
4.93 from 156 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
Classic Spaghetti Bolognese made in the slow cooker is extra rich and luscious, with beef that literally melts in your mouth!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons 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 28oz cans crushed tomato
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
Pasta
  • ½ lb spaghetti dried

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Instructions

  • Heat 1 tablespoon 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.
Spaghetti
  • 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 ½ - 3 cups of Bolognese Sauce, plus ½ 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.

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, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 816mg, Potassium: 653mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 285IU, Vitamin C: 4.8mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 3.9mg

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

Keyword Slow cooker spaghetti bolognese
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian

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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. Made this yesterday and it was glorious! I did add chopped carrot and mushrooms from the start and they came out yum. Halfs in the freezer for another time :)

    Today im trying the crockpot pork ribs, hope theyre half as good!!5 stars

  2. Thank you for this. Over the years I’ve just made my own Bolognese for the freezer and became complacent, not cooking the mince for very long. Reading recipes again recently I realised my mistake and it’s great to pop it all in the slow cooker. To extend it a bit I add a tin of baked beans and a tin of kidney beans too (drained). I know it’s not exactly authentic but it adds non-meat protein.

  3. This is absolutely delicious! Who needs pasta? Just give me a bowl and a piece of bread! I’ll definitely be making this from now on!5 stars

  4. This was delicious!! I did not add the cup of water the crock pot made parts watery already. Made lots going to freeze the extra. Needed my largest crockpot!5 stars

  5. Having been guilty for many years of cooking to date a pseudo English quickie 1.5 hr version of spag bol, I’ve just stumbled across your slow cooker variant. So very much looking forward in resurrecting our slow cooker pot and attempting a true ‘authentic bolognese sauce ” We usually use ingredients to accommodate just 2 servings which is pro rata to the ingredients you suggest for 8-10 servings. In going for batch cooking with your recipe ingredients we would  freeze 75% of the sauce.  To preserve the quality of this recipe can you advise the procedure and cooking of the  frozen sauce. Presumably the pasta would be cooked along side of the  frozen/defrosted sauce

    1. I would freeze just the meat mixture and warm in the microwave or stove top until hot. Enjoy Len!

  6. OOPS!!
    I wish I had seen the comment about the size of the crock pot before starting making it!!!

    I have a 3,5L one (which I believe is equivalent to 4quart), and once I poured the diced tomatoes, I realized my mistake… It was a little bit too small. It reached the top of the crock pot and I think it would have flowed out if I let it like this.
    So I removed 1,5L of the ingredients and I guess I’ll cook it later then mix it the leftovers.

    It’s cooking right now and can’t wait to try it tonight!!!
    .

    See you in 6h!

  7. This was very good! I made some tweaks because I had some things to use up.

    Instead of ground beef I used a mix of ground turkey and hot Italian sausage, so omitted the salt and red pepper flakes.

    At the end, I threw in a couple handfuls of baby spinach, a health bump and added color.5 stars

  8. Do you know if the cooking water from gluten free pastas would create the same magic as wheat based pastas does?

  9. My husband made this for us for the very first time today. Hands down THE best spaghetti sauce I ever had! No more ragu and prego for us!

  10. Made according to recipe except I used one pound of of ground beef and one pound of ground pork. I also added 2 tbspn of balsamic vinegar and used Better Than Bouillon instead of bouillon cubes. Most Excellent!5 stars

  11. Hi

    I feel this is probably a daft question but if I’m halving the beef quantity, do I halve all others too? Just I know some recipes if you’re halving the meat quantity some others stay the same.

    Thanks in advance! X

    1. You can half all of the ingredients but that would make a smaller amount of sauce so you’ll want to ensure you’re using a small slow cooker. You can also just make it with half of the meat to have more sauce (it will just have less meat in it).

    1. Hi Andrea, you could add the green peppers in step 4 but I would wait till closer to serving to add the mushrooms as they won’t need as much time to cook. You can definitely add them during step 4 thought, they will just be much softer.

  12. Another delicious recipe from Nagi at RecipeTInEats! I followed it as written, except also added very finely chopped carrots (2) and 2 sticks of celery at the beginning. After about 4 hours it looked dry and was catching on the sides a bit, so added in 700ml of sugo/passata/tomato puree , cooked for another two hours and it was magic. Excellent!5 stars

  13. I apologize if I missed this somewhere but what size crock pot is required. Im a little nervous mine is a bit small for as full batch. Mine is 3.5Q has anyone tried full batch with this size?

    1. It might be a “tiny” bit tight for 3.5 quarts, but may just fit Lauren. Let us know if you try it!

      1. I decided to half the recipe since it’s better to be safe than sorry. The beef is browning right now! :D I will come back with a rating and anything I notice about slow cooking times etc while do said half batch.

      2. Update on half batch. I cooked it for 5 hours on low keeping a eye on the meat and it turned out wonderfully. Probably could have done 6 hours but I was hungry and this smelled divine. This sauce is amazing and I’ll be adding it to my staples. thank you!5 stars

      3. Thanks so much for coming back and letting us know how it turned out, I’m glad you enjoyed it!