Ragu Alla Bolognese, Slow Cooker & Stovetop

This very traditional and delicious Italian Ragu Alla Bolognese recipe contains instructions for both slow cooker and stovetop preparation.

Portrait image of pasta served with a ragu bolognese meat sauce served in a white bowl with basil and grated Parmesan cheese

The Italian Bolognese Sauce.

Regular readers will know that I put very little stick in the notions of either traditional or authentic when it comes to cooking.

It is nice to know where food comes from and to understand traditions. But I do not think we should be a slave to those traditions.

This recipe however very much errs towards the side of tradition. This is not the bolognese you get in your local pub or out of a jar from the supermarket!

It is an exceptionally meat-rich ragu that contains very little tomato and has quite a lot in common with my duck ragu recipe!

It is given a smooth and round finish with milk… Yes, milk!

It is fantastic as pushed through a little pasta or as the meat component of a traditional Lasagna Bolognese.

A bonus of making so much of this recipe is that you get to try it at its best. The flavours mature with time, so eating this on day 2 or 3 is a real treat!

Portrait close up image of a traditional ragu bolognese in a spoon showing texture

Cooking Ragu Bolognese in the Slow Cooker.

I have provided instructions for cooking this recipe on both the stovetop and in the slow cooker.

I almost always cook this in the crockpot, for no other reason than it is a much more energy-efficient way of cooking.

Stovetop cooking for me consists of an induction hob. Whilst they are great at quick and hot cooking, they are distinctly average at low and slow.

It is however not a dump and run recipe, the meat still needs browning and your vegetables still need softening.

Slow cookers do have their drawbacks and cooking smaller portions is a challenge.

As a result of this, I always cook lots of this recipe and freeze in individual portions for two.

It will last for 6 months in the freezer and you can heat from frozen by dropping a bag of the ragu in gently simmering water until piping hot.

If you fancy taking a bit of a food journey, I have a vegetarian lentil bolognese sauce that is just as good as this one!

Portrait close up image of pasta served with a ragu bolognese meat sauce served in a white bowl with basil and grated Parmesan cheese

How to Serve Pasta Bolognese.

A bolognese sauce is very closely associated with pasta. We all know spaghetti bolognese right?

Well, traditionally it would not be served with spaghetti. This is because it does not offer enough surface area for the sauce to cling to.

Now if you have a really saucy tomato bolognese then you are good to go with your spag bol!

This, however, needs more “real estate”, traditionally that would be fettucini or tagliatelli. It also should be combined with the pasta.

I usually run with tagliatelli and use a single serving size of 125g of dried pasta and 100-125g of the ragu per person.

I also usually add basil and freshly grated parmesan because I can!

Portrait image of a classic Lasagna Bolognese served as a slice on a plate with side salad

A Guide to Ingredients.

The first thing that you will notice about this classic recipe is the omissions!

Garlic, tomatoes and oregano form no part of a trad bolognese sauce.

Once you try this you understand why this is an unashamedly rich meaty ragu and they do not really add anything.

Next up, the meat! I say this a lot but do not go for lean minced meat. It needs a fat content to keep it moist and rich, lean minced meat turns into polystyrene!

I always mince my own meat and use shin for the beef and collar for the pork and mince through a medium plate.

But if you are going to the butchers or supermarkets, you want meat with a fat content of 15-20%.

The bacon is unsliced, smoked, streaky bacon and whilst not traditional in some quarters it is a flavour I love added into this classic ragu.

Ragu Alla Bolognese Recipe

Ragu Alla Bolognese Recipe

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 40 minutes

I always make this pretty traditional Italian Ragu Alla Bolognese Sauce in my slow cooker with plenty of extras to freeze!


  • 500 g Minced Beef
  • 400g Minced Pork
  • 150 g Smoked Streaky Bacon
  • 100 g Onion
  • 100 g Carrot
  • 100 g Celery
  • 50 g Butter
  • 250 ml Red Wine
  • 75 g Tomato Puree
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Puree
  • Salt to Taste
  • Black Pepper to Taste
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 125 ml Whole Milk


  1. Begin by cutting your celery, carrot and onion into a uniform fine dice approximately 3mm in size.
  2. Cut the bacon into a 7-10mm dice.
  3. Heat a dry pan over a high heat and add the bacon and minced pork and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add the beef to the pork mix and cook until it starts to caramelise, stirring occasionally. This will take around 10-12 minutes.
  5. After cooking season well for with salt and pepper, then add the bay leaves and transfer to a slow cooker or to a bowl if cooking on a stove top.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and add the butter.
  7. When melted add the onion, carrot and celery and cook over a medium heat until softened, this will take about 10-12 minutes. Do not colour the vegetables.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add the tomato puree and red wine, then mix well.
  9. If you are cooking to a stovetop add the meat and stir, if you are cooking in a slow cooker mix all of the components in the slow cooker.
  10. For the slow cooker: Mix well and then add the lid and cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.
  11. For the stovetop cooking: Mix well and then add the lid and simmer on low for 2 hours.
  12. After the allotted cooking time, pour in the milk and continue to cook on for an hour in the slow cooker or 35-40 minutes on the stovetop.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 381Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 436mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 30g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

30 thoughts on this Recipe:

  1. I’ll let you into a wee secret, celeriac is there as we have failed to grow celery for the last 7 years so it came about by necessity but it works really really well!

  2. I’m making this very soon. I don’t know when I’ll have the energy to make a meal after vacation, so I love that it’s made in the slow cooker!

    • This is perfect for you then, 10 portions of bolognese sauce to do with what you wish whilst recovering from the post holiday slump πŸ˜‰

  3. Interesting question, I do lots of preserving but have never tried it with any meat based recipes… Do come back and let me know if you do any experimenting πŸ˜€

  4. Why thank you *whisper mode on*I never use a tripod despite singing their praises*whisper mode off*… I shoot with strobes so my shutter speed is irrelevant and I have my fearless stunt wifey as my able assistant πŸ˜€

  5. Thanks Shiho, I always add a little sweetness to anything that contains tomatoes and it is usually in the form of honey if we have some good stuff in the cupboards πŸ™‚

  6. My mouth started watering when I saw this post! Haha oh my. Definitely trying this in the near future, I use my crock pot for everything.

    • It is always celebration time when I can get back to some slow cooked loveliness in Autumn and Winter, slow cookers do it slow well, I’m with you on the admiration of my favourite piece of kitchen gadgetry πŸ˜€

  7. I love to use my slow cooker…it’s so great to come home to a meal already cooked! I cant wait to try this Bolognese! Now off to find fusilli…:)

    • Thanks Paige, I love cooking this it is my favourite ‘lazy’ day big pot cook up, you can do so much with the leftovers πŸ™‚

  8. This has to be the most amazing looking crockpot recipe I’ve ever laid eyes on— seriously gorgeous! I’ve pinned to make hopefully soon!

  9. This looks so delicious! Love the addition of the bacon! And especially love that’s it’s made in a slow cooker!!

  10. Batch cooking in the crock pot! That’s what I do too… since there’s just the two of us now. Problem is, I sometimes don’t think ahead to freezing part of it and we end up eating the same food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days!

    • Haha, I used to have the problem too but have started to get a little more disciplined with meal planning and it has definitely helped out on that front πŸ™‚

  11. I am so hungry looking at this…love that curly pasta. I need to try this recipe out. My son is a huge meat sauce eater.

    • The pasta is a new one on me too Sandi, but it has a great body so holds up really well to the rich meat sauce… The pasta is called Malfadine, definitely see if you can hunt some down I love it πŸ™‚

  12. Looks delicious! I’m always looking for meals that I can cook ahead and freeze for weeknight dinners. Definitely giving this a try πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Tara, this really is a great freezer meal, I find slow cooker meals are great for this, there is only the two of us so using a slow cooker for two can be a bind but by using it to create batch cooked bases for meals that can be frozen is perfect.

  13. I love using my slow cooker whenever I can. Looks like a beautiful, full bodied sauce. Love the Parmesan cheese action in the photo πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Stacey, I find the slow cook shin of beef adds so much body to the sauce as it cooks down and the slow cooker really adds to that πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Renz… It is usually me that say I have not tried something… After 8 years of living in the Hungarian countryside most new food trends pass me by, but bolognese is an ‘old skool’ classic and it is perfect from the slow cooker.

    • Thanks Johlene, slow cookers are great… Not the most practical at cooking for two but love them in winter for batch cooking recipe bases. Fish stew in a slow cooker sounds perfect, that light slow simmer is perfect!


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