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Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce is going to be on my Sunday Sauce rotation from now on! Hearty, flavorful and lean, this is a dish that makes everyone happy!

My Favorite Homemade Bolognese Sauce Recipe

My Mother-in-Law is Italian, which means my husband grew up on a very steady diet of pasta and “gravy”. When we got married I quickly learned that Sunday Sauce was a whole thing in his world… so of course, I wanted to be part of his tradition. (I actually included the recipe that we make in our house, that originated in his mother’s kitchen in my book!) Unfortunately as my kids have gotten older, our Sundays have gone from lazy, lounge days to full blown travel sports days. It’s the season of life I am in right now.

So, my answer to Sunday Sauce on days when I don’t have a few hours to spend at home is this Slow Cooker Bolognese. You can prep it in the morning before sports, church, work, school… and then when you come home, not only will the house smell amazing, but you will have a healthy (and delicious) dinner waiting for you!

How to Make Bolognese Sauce in the Slow Cooker

The base of this bolognese recipe is a mixture of onion, carrots, celery, and pancetta (I actually used bacon, but of course pancetta is leaner). I added a little garlic in too…why not, right?

Veggies and Meat ready to cook

Go ahead and cook your pancetta (or bacon) until the fat renders. Then sauté your vegetables to soften them up. I sautéed my veggies in the bacon grease, but as the recipe is written you will be using pancetta, which isn’t as fatty…so you will need to add 1 tablespoon of butter. Either way it will be great!

Once the veggies are soft add in lean ground beef and cook that, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Next add some white wine, and cook until it reduces slightly…and then of course crushed tomatoes. Place a few Bay Leaves into the sauce and then cover to cook on high heat for 3-4 hours.

Dried basil leaf in bolognese sauce

When it’s done it will look like this…

Bolognese sauce in a slow cooker

Add in a little half and half to add to its richness and then dig in!

Of course you can serve it over pasta…

Topping pasta with bolognese sauce

With some Parmesan cheese, of course!

Parmesan cheese topping pasta

This is good on zucchini noodles as well as spaghetti squash for a great low carb option!

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Easy Bolognese sauce ready in less than a hour

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

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  • Author: Cookies & Cups
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: serves 15 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Dinner


This easy Bolognese Sauce is made right in the slow cooker!


  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 (28- ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley


  1. Heat a large, deep, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. (Alternately if your slow cooker has a saute setting you can do these steps using that feature.) Add the pancetta and cook, stirring until the fat renders, 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, onion, celery, and carrots and cook until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the garlic and ground beef, and season it with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper to taste.
  4. Cook, using a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces as it browns, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and cook 3 to 4 minutes to reduce slightly.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and more pepper to taste.
  7. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, or on low heat for 6 to 8 hours. Discard bay leaves.
  8. Stir in half and half, and parsley and serve.


Slight adaptations I made:
* I used bacon instead of pancetta and omitted the butter, using the bacon grease to saute the vegetables.
*I added 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper when I added the tomato sauce.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 132
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Sodium: 478.4 mg
  • Fat: 3.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10.9 g
  • Protein: 15.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 38.9 mg

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15 comments on “Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce”

  1. Love! Love! Have made this a dozen times if not more! Going into a college care package drop off, along with stuffed Oreos for all!

  2. I made this today and served it over spaghetti squash…it was amazing! To lower the calories, I skipped the half and half and used thin sliced cut up ham instead of bacon. This recipe is a keeper, and it got saved on my Pinterest. Thank you!

  3. I made this recipe this morning – got to the end and noticed no mention of garlic or half&half. I added them at the end once I put everything into the crock pot. Seeing the article attached I see the half&half should have been added last. And the garlic? Would that have been sautéed at the start with the veggies? I am sure my mixture will be delicious, as is all the other recipes I’ve tried on your website! Thanks!

    1. Looks like I forgot the step on when to use the garlic! Thanks for the catch! The half and half is added in step #4, you probably just missed that one 🙂 Fixing the garlic step now! Hope you liked it!!

      1. It was Ahmazing! It made so much too so I froze it and used the leftovers about 10 days later since pasta is a favorite and this sauce was so good. You are the best! Love your recipes, your humor and of course, your book!

  4. Jeanne Zamutt

    In step 4, the recipe says to stir in half and half; however, in the ingredients there is no half and half listed. How much half and half??

    1. What is half and half? Sorry if that’s a stupid question, i am a non US reader..
      Googled it and I suppose it’s a cooking cream?
      Thanks in advance, the recipe looks great!

  5. This looks delicious ! My hubby is Italian I swear his family can eat pasta and gravy ( sauce) every day and not get tired of it lol !

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