If you’re wondering what to cook while in quarantine, today’s pantry recipe requires ground meat, herbs, crushed tomatoes, and milk to make a go-to-sauce for pasta, stuffed peppers, and even lasagna. Bolognese sauce is a meat sauce with tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Most of us aren’t used to adding dairy to tomatoey, meaty sauces, but adding milk to your bolognese adds such a richer depth of flavor, and results in much more tender meat. Add a little wine to the simmering meat; the alcohol will burn off but the wine adds another note of flavor.
You know I like to cook with lower fat for a healthier diet. Ground or minced chuck is traditionally used in bolognese sauce which has 15 to 20 % fat. You can use also use an 80/20 ground beef, a lean ground beef, or a combination of meats. Today I’m using lean beef and lean ground pork. There are many variations on the traditional Italian recipe but most call for the addition of Italian bacon (panchetta) and a mix of meat. My version tries to get the depth of flavor in the sauce without the addition of bacon. The vegetables and meat are browned on the stove and then put into a slow cooker to make the simmering easier. Broader pastas have been used in Italy with Bolognese sauce, but you can use the pasta of your choice or even use it on zucchini spirals or spaghetti squash. When you serve, sprinkle the dish with grated Parmesan cheese.
Feel free to adapt to meet your family’s taste. Left overs freeze well up to a month; plan ahead and make a double recipe for an easy meal later on.
Crock Pot Bolognese Sauce
- 1 lb ground chuck or lean ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 lb lean ground pork or other meat
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 minced onion
- 2 celery stalks minced
- 2 medium carrots minced
- 1/4 cup red wine (or white)
- 2 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes (about 28 oz each)
- 1 bay leaves
- 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- salt pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup shaved or grated Parmesan
- pasta of choice
- Heat olive oil over medium-high heat on stove
- Add onion, celery, carrots and cook for about 5 minutes until soft
- Add garlic and tomato paste and stir for about 30 seconds
- Add meat and break into larger chunks
- Add salt and pepper and cook until browned
- Drain fat and stir in Italian seasoning and nutmeg
- Add wine and cook until wine evaporates about 5 minutes
- Add milk and bring to a simmer on medium-low heat
- Simmer until the milk is absorbed about 15 minutes
- Move beef mixture to crock pot
- Drain canned tomatoes and reserve liquid
- Add tomatoes and bay leaf to crock pot and stir
- Cook on low 6 hours
- If too dry, add a tbsp of reserved tomato juice one at a time as needed
- Adjust salt and pepper
- If too much liquid, remove cover and cook 30 minutes
- Serve over favorite pasta or zucchini swirls or spaghetti squash
- Sprinkle shaved or grated Parmesan
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