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Slow-Cooker Bolognese Sauce with Pancetta, Porcini, and Rosemary


Yields about 11 cups

  • by from Year-Round Slow Cooker

This rich, complex sauce smells and tastes like fall—with its earthy mushrooms, smoky pancetta, and sweet woodsy rosemary. Serve it over pasta, ideally pappardelle, and freeze any extra (you'll have a lot of sauce). This recipe uses a smaller quantity of milk than is traditional, since milk can curdle in the slow cooker. Be sure to use high-quality pancetta and feel free to vary the kind of mushroom.

  • 1⁄4 cup dried porcini or other wild mushrooms
  • 3 slices white bread
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Scant 3 lb. ground beef chuck or meatloaf mix, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 15 grinds black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 lb. pancetta, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped porcini mushrooms (about 5 large)
  • 2 cups finely chopped carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onions (about 1 small)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1⁄2 cup tomato paste (about 5 oz.)
  • 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 3⁄4 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1⁄2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 lb. pappardelle pasta, cooked according to the package directions
To adapt a slow-cooker recipe to a conventional oven, follow these guidelines: add more liquid, to accommodate for greater evaporation; bring the dish to a boil over high heat in a Dutch oven, then cover the pot and put in a 350°F oven. Plan on the dish taking roughly half the time to cook in the oven as it would in the slow cooker.

Add the dried mushrooms to a small bowl and cover with very hot water; let sit for 15 minutes, then drain and finely chop. In a large bowl, mash the bread and milk together until a smooth paste forms. Gently knead in the beef, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Add the butter to a medium-size, heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. When melted, add the pancetta and sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but about 2 Tbs. of the fat. Add the meat mixture, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the fresh porcini and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the dried mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and nutmeg. Sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and flour, and cook until the flour is no longer visible, no more than 1 minute. With the pan off the heat, carefully add the wine. Then return the pan to high heat and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any food bits. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and stock, and cook for another minute. Pour into the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the meat has cooked through and the sauce is aromatic and very flavorful, about 6 hours. Spoon the fat off the surface, stir in the rosemary, break up the meat more with a fork, and serve with pasta.

Whilst authentic ragu from Bologna probably doesn't include dried and/or fresh mushrooms this was delicious. I wouldn't add the rosemary next time. The prep time for this took me slightly over an hour, but I chopped everything by hand. Next time, I'll haul out the food processor. That said, the vegetables looked nicer in the finished dish. Also, please serve this with a flat pasta. Spaghetti is from Sicily. Great recipe for the slow cooker.

I did this is a Dutch oven, and just wanted to mention that it's not just a tad more liquid needed than the slow cooker, it should be a significant amount more. Also I put it in the oven for only 2 hours when the slow cooker recipe said 6, and the outsides and bottom of the Dutch oven were so blacked out from being burnt that I need to soak it several times over night to try and get it off. So if you're using a conventional oven, probably double the liquid and only an hour in the oven, in my opinion! Was still very good, regardless!

It is very flavorful and makes a lot! I used ground chicken and spelt bread hoping to make it a bit healthier. In addition I used another reviewer's suggestion of adding red pepper flakes, at least 2 teaspoons, and 3 pieces of lemon zest. Being in a hurry, I cooked it on high for3 hrs, worked just fine, but seemed a bit dry so I added the remainder of the 15oz can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, another 15 oz can of tomatoes, the remaining liquid from soaking the mushrooms and about 1/3c more stock. I will definitely make it again!

Good....not great! To get great I suggest that you double the garlic from 1 to 2 Tbs and you make a paste out of it with a 1/4 tsp of the salt before adding it to the saucepan. Paste-ing fresh garlic adds an entirely different flavor to this type sauce (actually to most sauces). This is one of THE best tips taught by Jacques Pepin and I swear by it too! You get a nutty, buttery garlicky flavor without the harsh,assertive bite of garlic that can ruin many a slow cooker dish. I also suggest that you take this recipe even higher with the addition of lemon zest and red pepper flakes, to taste. You will be glad that you did! One more tip- try a good quality Merlot instead of a Cab. Enjoy!

I love Bolognese sauce, and this is easily one of the best I've ever made!


Very flavorful! I was not sure when to add the "bread paste" though? I ended up adding it to the already cooked meat. Also I did finish the sauce in the oven and the directions to "add more liquid" were not exactly helpful. I used 14oz of chicken broth and the same size can of diced tomatoes. I used fresh portabella mushrooms and sauteed the veggies first in the pancetta fat - set aside in a bowl then browned the meats, drained and added veggies back at the end. I added about half the amount of fresh rosemary and was glad I didn't add more - but that is my preference. I have eaten it as is, on pasta and with spaghetti squash. There are also two bags in the freezer!

I used Shitake mushrooms instead of Porcini. I also left out the Rosemary leaves. Still... it was a delicious and flavorful meat sauce enjoyed by a family of picky eaters. I'll make it again for certain.

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