Crock It! Bolognese Sauce


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I love a good Bolognese sauce, especially in the winter. Historically I’ve always made it on the stove. This involved cooking ground meat, adding a little homemade sauce and throwing it on pasta.

Only recently have I learned that there are actually recipes for it and even some for the slow cooker. So, as my Crock Pot has become more and more my saving grace on busy days I thought these recipes were worth exploring. My challenge: each recipe I looked at used different meats, different cooking times and slight variations in the other ingredients like red versus white wine or milk versus cheese.

Thus began my journey into the world of better Bolognese. I used three different recipes to start my experiment and a combination of these gave us a family friendly easy to make dinner!

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Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce


1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground veal

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

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1 large onion

2 large carrots

4 cloves garlic

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1 quart plum tomatoes with liquid

2 cups red wine

1 4oz. can tomato paste

4 oz. cream cheese

Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning

What’s Next
Coarsely chop onion, carrots, and garlic and then finely chop them in a food processor for about 12-15 pulses and set aside.
Brown meats (breaking up with a spoon as it cooks) in a large Dutch oven until no longer pink. Drain on paper towels to remove grease. Place in slow cooker.

If necessary, add a little olive oil to the Dutch oven and brown vegetables with a healthy dose of Kosher salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. When vegetables are lightly browned and soft, add to slow cooker.

Pulse tomatoes with liquid in a food processor until smooth. Add to slow cooker and stir all together.

Add red wine and tomato paste to slow cooker. Stir all ingredients together. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours.
About 30 minutes prior to serving, stir in cream cheese . Cover and cook for another 30 minutes on low.

Serve over pasta. I used fettuccine.

Notes from my experience

  • The first time I made this, I did not include tomato paste, for no other reason than I didn’t have any. The sauce smelled delicious, but was lacking in flavor.
  • My original combination of meats (beef, pork and veal) made it interesting, but I wondered how much more flavor sweet (or spicy) sausage would add. So round two of sauce included both sweet sausage (I wanted my kids to eat it) and tomato paste.
  • Draining the meat before placing in slow cooker greatly reduces the amount of oil that will float to the top of the sauce. Since I don’t like the whole tilt-the-pot-and-remove-the-grease thing, I opted to get rid of as much of the grease as I could before placing the meat in my Crock Pot. It made all the difference in the world.
  • When comparing three different recipes, one (from America’s Test Kitchen Slow & Easy Recipes) called for 3 cups of milk and cooking the sauce without the top on for 7 hours, and another (from Williams-Sonoma) called for only ½ cup of milk. In round one I used ½ cup of milk, but the sauce did not have the velvety texture for which Bolognese is known. So, for my second round I used 1/2 cup of cream cheese as suggested by this recipe from Cuisine. That was the way to go.
  • The recipe makes a lot of sauce. I was able to freeze a good amount to save for another cold, snowy day which I’m sure we’ll have before this winter is over.

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