Bolognese sauce is a hearty Italian pasta sauce in which ground beef and pork are simmered for hours in milk, wine, tomatoes, and vegetables. But most slow-cooker Bolognese recipes yield watery, bland results—more soup than sauce. To avoid this, we started the sauce on the stove and then transferred the mixture to the slow cooker to simmer away. Softening the vegetables in butter, then browning the meat and simmering the vegetables and meat in milk were crucial to developing the fullest flavor and softest texture. We cooked the dish on the “high” setting with the lid off to evaporate excess liquid, which concentrated the flavor. Finally, we chose a fruity, dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris; oaky-tasting Chardonnay is too strong and would affect the flavor of the sauce.
MAKES 12 CUPS-ENOUGH TO SAUCE 4 POUNDS OF PASTA
Because steam rises from the sauce as it cooks, it’s 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.
- 3tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2small onion, chopped fine
- 1small carrot, peeled and chopped fine
- 1/2rib celery, chopped fine
- 3cloves garlic, minced
- 3tablespoons tomato paste
- 3pounds meatloaf mix, or 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck and 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 TSP red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 3cups whole milk
- 3cups dry white wine
- 2(28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, ground in blender until smooth
- 1teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Tomato juice, if sauce becomes too thick
1. 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, red pepper flakes, dried basil and cook, breaking up meat, until crumbled into tiny pieces and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
2. 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.
3. 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 it’s 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.
Adapted from a Recipe from Cook’s Country.