This easy Creamy Bolognese sauce is loaded with three kinds of meat, parmesan cheese, and half and half. The meat sauce starts on the stove and then is finished in the slow cooker. This helps the sauce develop tons of flavor!
Slow cooker creamy bolognese is one of my favorite comfort foods. And a side of bread is a must. Try my Rosemary Parmesan Bread, Air Fryer Garlic Bread, or Texas Toast Garlic Bread.
A simple salad, like my Kale Crunch Salad Recipe, or Copycat Panera Greek Salad are also great lighter side options.
For a vegetarian creamy tomato pasta dish, try my Pink Sauce Pasta. For a heartier dish, try this Easy Sausage & Peppers Pasta, Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, or Penne Alla Vodka with Chicken. It is delicious!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe & What You’ll Learn
- This creamy bolognese is thick, hearty, and rich. Both tomato paste and crushed tomatoes help deepen the flavor.
- A combination of spicy italian sausage, ground beef, and pancetta are used to make the best creamy bolognese reicpe.
- The red wine, dried herbs, and fresh garlic add so much flavor to the sauce. This is not your average spaghetti sauce!
- The sauce is finished with half and half and parmesan cheese to make it creamy.
- This creamy bolognese is slow cooked for hours. Transfer it to the slow cooker and forget about it!
- Bolognese is loaded with carrot, onion, and celery. It is a great way to incorporate veggies into dinner especially for kids.
- Bolognese is perfect for date night at home or a weeknight family dinner.
- If you have leftovers, this meat sauce reheats perfectly in the microwave or stove. I think it tastes even better the next day.
- You can serve this sauce over your favorite shape of pasta and dinner is read
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Dry Red Wine: Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, and lighter style Cabernets will all work. White wine, like Sauvignon Blanc can also be used if this is all you have on hand. You can also swap the wine for beef broth, but wine gives the sauce more flavor.
- Red Chili Flakes: These add a bit of mild heat to the sauce. Omit if you are sensitive to spice.
- Half and Half: I like to use half and half instead of heavy cream because I don’t think the sauce needs the additional fat. Heavy cream can be used, it will be even richer.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts is located on the recipe card below.
How to Make Creamy Bolognese
- Brown meat.
- Toast spices.
- Deglaze with red wine.
- Slow cook.
- Stir in half and half and parmesan cheese.
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Over medium high heat, sauté the sausage, beef, and pancetta, until cooked through and browned.
Step 2: Turn the heat down to medium. Stir in the oregano, basil. thyme, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
Step 3: Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Add the meat mixture, crushed tomatoes, water, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic into a slow cooker.
The meat should be completely browned.
Step 5: Stir until all of the ingredients are combined. The mixture should be thick.
Step 6: Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
Step 7: Turn off the slow cooker and stir the sauce.
Step 8: Stir in the half and half and parmesan cheese. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
The sauce should be thick before it simmers in the slow cooker.
Make Ahead & Storage
- Refrigerator: Store leftover creamy bolognese in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: Reheat in the microwave covered in 30 second intervals or on the stove covered over medium heat, stirring frequently until heated through.
- Freezer: This bolognese freezes great. Let it cool overnight in the fridge. Portion the sauce in airtight freezer bags or containers. Store in the freezer for 2-3 months.
- Reheating: Follow the same instructions above. If frozen in a plastic bag, transfer to a bowl or pot. I prefer reheating frozen bolognese on the stove. Add a splash of water if needed to loosen the sauce.
- Brown the meat. Let the meat cook until it begins to caramelize and brown a bit. This adds so much flavor to the sauce. This also allows the fat to render.
- Don’t skip the pork or wine. The combination of the beef, italian sausage, and pancetta is unbeatable. The sauce is not the same with just ground beef. The red wine also adds so much depth to the sauce. I highly recommend using it.
- Mince the veggies finely. The smaller the vegetables are cut, the faster they will cook. If you are short on time, be sure to cut them pretty small. You do not want large chunks of celery or carrots in the bolognese.
- Simmer. Allowing the sauce to cook for hours gives it the best flavor. I highly recommend transferring it to a slow cooker to simmer all day.
- Use high quality parmesan cheese. Parmesan reggiano has the best flavor, but it is pricey. Use any fresh parmesan found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.
- Serve over pasta. I like to serve this bolognese over pappardelle, tagliatelle, penne, or rigatoni.
- This recipe makes enough bolognese for about 1 pound of pasta. This depends on how much sauce you serve with each bowl of pasta.
- The sauce has a mild spice level. If you use both red chili flakes and spicy italian sausage the sauce will be noticeably spicy. Use one or the other or neither. Customize the spice level to your taste.
- Stovetop: After Step 3, add the garlic, carrots, and celery. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the half and half and cheese. Bring to a light boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving. I recommend simmering for 2-3 hours. Stir in the half and half and parmesan after you have removed the pot from the heat.
- Instant Pot: Use the Sauté setting for Steps 1-3. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the half and half and cheese. Pressure cook on High for 25 minutes. Quick release the pressure after cooking and stir in the half and half and parmesan.
Yes. Traditionally milk or cream is added to bolognese. This helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes and adds richness.
- 1 pound mild or hot italian sausage
- 1 pound ground beef, 85-15
- 4 ounces diced pancetta or bacon
- ¾ cup dry red wine*
- 2 Tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes*
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water or beef broth
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 1 cup minced carrot
- 1 cup minced celery
- 8-10 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ⅔ cup half and half*
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- pasta for serving
- Over medium high heat, sauté the sausage, beef, and pancetta, until cooked through and browned.
- Turn the heat down to medium. Stir in the oregano, basil. thyme, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the meat mixture, crushed tomatoes, water, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic into a slow cooker.
- Stir until all of the ingredients are combined. The mixture should be thick.
- Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
- Turn off the slow cooker and stir the sauce.
- Stir in the half and half and parmesan cheese. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
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