Usually I’m a huge fan of a simple tomato basil sauce. It requires very little prep, just toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and voila! A nice simple pasta sauce ready when you get home from work.
Bolognese sauce on the other hand, requires a bit more prep time to really develop the different flavors going on in this dish, and give them the attention they need to turn into something really special. My first time making bolognese sauce took about 90 minutes of prep before it was ready to simmer in the slow cooker for the afternoon, so this is a great dish to try on a day when you have a little more time. The good news is, it makes a huge batch, so there will be plenty of leftovers for a few other meals. 100% worth the effort in my opinion for what Dan called his “favorite pasta sauce ever”.
The original inspiration for this recipe came from Michael Pollan’s book called “Cooked”, which is fantastic read for anyone who loves food. It’s also been made into a nice Netflix documentary series. I modified things a bit for simplicity and to suit my own taste, but that’s the wonderful thing about cooking isn’t it? You can take a dish and make it completely your own!
Classic Bolognese Sauce
- Prep time: 90 minutes
- Cook time: 4+ hours (simmering)
- 3 medium white onions, minced
- 4 medium carrots, minced
- 4 medium celery stalks, minced
Mince these ingredients very very finely. You don’t want to have large chunks of vegetables noticeable in the final dish
- 2lbs lean ground beef or pork (or a combination of both)
- 1 cup Olive oil (or canola oil)
- 2 large cans crushed tomatoes (or 1 bottle red wine). You could also do a combination of the two as well, 1 can tomatoes, and 1/2 bottle of wine
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 cup milk
- 3-4 cups beef broth
- 4 bay leaves
- Salt to taste
- Spice sachet: use a small amount of cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or loose tea bag to make your spice sachet. Inside the sachet goes:
- 1- inch piece cinnamon stick
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg (ground or grated)
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp allspice (whole or ground)
- Coat a large pot with olive oil, heat over medium heat and cook ground beef/pork in batches to avoid over-crowding the pan. Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked meat before adding the next batch to leave the excess oil in the pot.
- After all of the meat is cooked, add the rest of the oil to the same heated pot and add the minced carrot, celery, and onion. Turn the heat down to medium and slowly cook the vegetables until they are soft and most of the water has been cooked out (about 50 minutes… Take your time with this step!). If the bottom of your pot is starting to brown, deglaze it with a little wine or broth and scrape all of the brown bits off of the bottom of the pot.
- Once your vegetables are adequately cooked (their volume should be reduced by about half), add your cooked meat back into the vegetable mix, and continue to cook over medium heat. After about 5 minutes there should be some browning on the bottom of the pot. Deglaze again with either your wine or broth and scrape all of the browned bits off of the bottom of the pot with your spoon (that is where much of the flavor of the dish is developing!)
- If you are using a slow cooker, transfer the vegetables and meat mixture into the slow cooker pot, otherwise continue with the recipe on the stovetop in your large pot
- Add your tomato sauce/wine, tomato paste, milk, spice sachet, bay leaves, and 3 cups of beef broth to pot. Mix everything together, being careful not to break open spice sachet. Taste your sauce and add salt as needed.
- Let your sauce simmer on stovetop or in slow cooker for at least 4 hours. Taste test as you go and adjust the flavors as needed (ie more salt, tomato paste, etc). If more liquid is required add more beef broth, crushed tomatoes, or wine.
- Serve over pasta (I garnished mine with a little fresh basil and parmesan cheese), or you can use this sauce in dishes like a lasagna. This sauce freezes great, so you can save some for another day.
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