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

Yield: Yields about 11 cups

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.

This recipe is excerpted from Year-Round Slow Cooker.


  • 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


  • 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.

    year-round slow cooker book


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.


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Reviews (9 reviews)

  • user-6417654 | 01/07/2018

    This was good but could be a little better. First, this is more like a meat sauce with some tomato. That's why my husband really liked it - he is not a tomato fan. I did not add all the mushrooms, there were just too many mushrooms for me. The flour is not needed, the sauce was very thick. I added some beef base for more depth of flavor. The biggest change would be the pancetta. In my opinion, it is the wrong ingredient for this sauce. The earthy mushrooms and heavy meat were screaming out for some smoke. Next time I will use bacon instead. I also think this sauce would be even better the next day. I'll find out today if I eat some leftovers for lunch. Oh, and I skipped the rosemary and doubled the garlic. Hubby asked to please make this again.

  • enaile0670 | 04/30/2015

    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.

  • danscrima | 11/11/2014

    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!

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