Best Beef Bolognese Sauce made in the slow cooker because you have better things to do. 😉
I had pretty ambitious plans for my Thursday. A trip to a grocery store was one of them, but when I looked outside storm Doris was just picking up speed, and that got me doubting I wanted to leave the house at all. A few minutes later I heard a rattling sound of our rubbish bins outside followed by a loud thud. That’s it, I thought, I am definitely not going shopping today. Instead, I went to the kitchen, put the kettle on, chose a mellow playlist on Spotify, and quickly revised my dinner plans.
Nothing seemed as satisfying as my rich and robust beef bolognese sauce over spaghetti. It’s one of those cozy dinners you always want to have at the end of a long and cold day. Somehow it gives you comfort to know that no matter what storm is raging outside, there is always comfort found at home.
My usual way of cooking beef bolognese sauce is low and slow in my trusty cast iron pot. The magic trick to making the best beef bolognese is patience. Just when you think it’s done and want to take it off the heat, keep it on for another hour or two. Through many trials I learned, what makes beef bolognese sauce is time. And best quality tomatoes! So when you go shopping for your ingredients, do choose best canned tomatoes you can afford. You will be surprised how sweet and flavourful beef bolognese sauce will taste made with perfectly ripe tomatoes!
The usual suspects in almost every beef bolognese sauce are beef, tomatoes, basil, oregano as well as diced onions, carrots, celery and some garlic. I also add just a small amount of smoked pancetta or bacon for flavour, and that little addition makes a world of difference, as was once pointed out by my father-in-law! I usually start by frying the pancetta and then add all diced vegetables and saute everything for a few minutes. I always believed that step was crucial for the flavour development until a couple of days ago.
When I set out to develop a slow cooker beef bolognese sauce recipe, I naturally wanted to simplify the process. What is the point of a slow cooker if you cook everything in the pan first?!? So I took the risk and added all the vegetable raw. The only things I pre-cooked were bacon and beef. I was curious if that method would yield the same flavour.
Well as soon as my son finished his first helping, he said, “I don’t know why but this beef bolognese sauce tastes better than what you usually make”. Woah! The magic of a slow cooker!!
Right, let’s get to it! Below you will see the stages of cooking this wonderful beef bolognese sauce. In the second row of photos you can see what the sauce will look like at the beginning, 5 hours later and 8 hours later. A pretty significant transformation is you ask me. While no thickeners and minimal human effort have been used! All natural ingredients, healthy and delicious! This beef bolognese sauce recipe produces A LOT OF sauce. I usually divide it and freeze half of it, which saved me many, many times from cooking when I had nothing left in me at the end of a day.
If you prefer a less chunky sauce, I would recommend adding all the vegetables to a food processor first and pulsing them for a few seconds. With this method you will have the same flavour, quicker and a smoother sauce. I often do that to speed up the process and eliminate all the dicing!
- 3 strips of bacon/50g bacon or pancetta, cut
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 X 14oz/400g cans of chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups/500 ml water
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp salt
- 1lbs extra-lean ground beef
- In a frying pan cook cubed pancetta or bacon until crispy. Remove to a plate.
- In the same frying pan brown ground beef over medium heat with salt and pepper until cooked all the way through.
- To the slow cooker add diced onion, carrot, celery, minced garlic, bacon, canned tomatoes, water, basil and oregano, 1 tsp salt and cooked ground beef. Stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 8 hours. At the end of cooking time taste and add more salt if necessary.
- Serve with pasta and parmesan cheese.