Spaghetti bolognese slow cooker

Bolognese is one of our favorite recipes to make during the winter: It instantly warms you up and makes you feel sooo cozy.

Do I need to cook the meat on the stovetop before?

OK, so this is one step that some people will be like “Ugh, seriously?!”, but I firmly believe it just makes the sauce that much better. We start the recipe by sautéing onion, carrots, and celery (the holy trinity that’s mandatory in all bolognese) and then once that’s going add the ground beef to brown it. The vegetables will steam in the slow cooker, but they’ll never sauté, so we prefer to get them a little golden to help coax out some flavor before hitting the slow cooker.

The meat will brown on the stovetop—whereas it’ll just steam in the slow cooker—and you can drain its fat before it goes into the slow cooker, which is a huge bonus.

Will my milk curdle in the slow cooker?

Weirdly no—we were worried about this, too.

Can I also cook the pasta in the slow cooker?

You actually can—but this recipe makes so much bolognese sauce that we like to add some to pasta we cook separately before freezing the rest of the bolognese for later use.

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. 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!

4.82 from 38 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!

  • 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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  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.

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: 285%, Vitamin C: 4.8%, Calcium: 40%, Iron: 3.9%

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

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Slow-Cooker Bolognese

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots and onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute. Pour in the red wine and cook until it is mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Pour this mixture into a slow cooker.
  2. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the skillet, add the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up any lumps, until it is nicely browned, about 15 minutes. Drain off any excess fat. Stir in the milk and cook until it is mostly absorbed by the meat, about 5 minutes. Add this to the slow cooker along with the tomatoes, oregano, basil, thyme, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and Parmesan rind if using. Add some salt. Give it a good stir, cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  3. Skim off any fat on top and check the consistency. If it is too thick, add a bit of water. If it is too thin, cook for another 30 minutes with the cover off.
  4. Remove the rind and serve over spaghetti with lots of grated Parmesan and topped with fresh basil and parsley. Extra sauce can be frozen for later use.
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‘Spag Bol’ is a staple in our household. I try to vary up our weekday meals as much as I can but spaghetti Bolognese seems to feature more frequently than most. Especially when it’s made in a slow cooker.

The only thing that tastes better than Spaghetti Bolognese, is Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese 🙂

How Do You Make Spaghetti Bolognese In A Slow Cooker?

Making Bolognese in a slow cooker is really easy. You can either put it all in raw, or brown the mince off first. I talk about this more further down. I personally like to brown my mince before putting in the slow cooker for Bolognese, but it’s not mandatory 😉

I then add all the ingredients to the slow cooker; 750g mince (you can use 500g, it’ll taste as good and easily serve 4 people still), 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 3 cloves garlic, 3 bay leaves, 1 carton passata, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 3 tbsp. tomato puree, 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1tsp dried mixed herbs and 1 beef stock cube.

I love adding in Worcestershire sauce to my meals!

How Long Does Spaghetti Bolognese Take To Cook In A Slow Cooker?

I prefer to cook Bolognese on low in the slow cooker – it helps the meat turn really tender and full of flavour. I have been known to leave my Bolognese on low for as long as 10 hours, at a minimum I would leave it on low for 7 hours. If time isn’t on your side you can cook it on high in 4 to 5 hours.

Suggested Extras

You can add any extras you wish to a slow cooker Bolognese. Here are some suggestions;

  • red wine (about 100ml)
  • celery
  • carrots
  • chilli
  • bacon

Serve With

Aside from cooked spaghetti, it also tastes great with your favourite cheese grated on top. Oh and some garlic dough balls or garlic bread are also welcome!

Can You Put Raw Mince In A Slow Cooker?

Yes you can. You can put any raw meat in a slow cooker and it will cook just fine. But some recipes just taste better when the meat has been seared beforehand – but really it’s a matter of personal taste – and time! I tend to brown the mince (with the onions) in a pan before putting it in the slow cooker. Not only does it release some more flavour, it also allows me to skim off any excess fat. If you are short on time though you can just chuck it all in the slow cooker and it’ll still taste delicious.

Of course if you have one of those wonderful Morphy Richards Sear and Stew slow cookers you may as well go ahead and brown off that meat!

Can’t I Just Make It On The Hob?

Although this meal can be cooked in a pan on the hob, it has a much fuller flavour when it has been slow cooking all day long. Plus, nothing quite beats walking through the door at the end of the day to the smell of dinner waiting. Slow cooked meat is much softer and the juices are slowly released into the Bolognese sauce.

You can also make it in an electric pressure cooker. Check out my Instant Pot Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.

Let me know in the comments if you make this recipe – what extras do you add?

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g lean beef steak mince
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g passata
  • 3tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1tsp mixed dry herbs
  • 1 beef stock cube, crumbled

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and gently saute the chopped onions.
  2. Add the mince and brown off.
  3. Add all the ingredients, including the mince and onions, to your slow cooker and stir together.
  4. Set on low for 7 to 10 hours or high for 5 hours.

Notes

Serve with cooked spaghetti, grated cheese and garlic bread/dough balls!

Nutrition Information:

Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 509 Total Fat: 32g Saturated Fat: 11g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 16g Cholesterol: 146mg Sodium: 220mg Carbohydrates: 11g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 6g Protein: 43g