What's for Dinner {39} - Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese

It's time for Luther's annual Pasta Night for students staying over break! Actually, the event took place last night and it was a hit! So much pasta, so much bread, lots of salad - it's a carb lovers dream! The boys came along too and it was great to see them interacting with the college students and my coworkers. Of course Jack had to show off his belly (I didn't catch that photo in time!)

I love pasta so much (probably too much) and got really excited about this once again. Though I didn't land on my recipe until last week, holy cow, you guys! It's so good! Gspice even said this was the best red sauce he's ever had!

Like last year, I made this dish ahead of time at home so I could try it. The recipe I used is actually a double recipe so I ended up using the rest of it for the event. Worked out well, except we didn't get to use the leftovers ourselves! As you'll see below in the notes section, freezing is a great option for this as well. I'll definitely use that in the future since my crockpot can hold the double batch just fine. I also used a crockpot liner which is the best thing ever! No clean up = worth every penny!

I should also say that this isn't necessarily what I would consider a traditional Italian-style bolognese sauce. That would have celery, onion and carrot, beef and lamb, red wine and a small amount of tomatoes to create a thick sauce. Outside of Italy, you'll likely see more of a red sauce with the addition of a lot more tomatoes. As you might have guessed, that's what I made.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese from Spend With Pennies
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 onions, diced (I used one)
  • 2lb ground beef
  • 1 cup red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon or merlot (or chicken or beef broth)
  • 2 x 28oz canned crushed tomato
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes, crushed
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ lb spaghetti, dried
  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook until translucent and sweet - around 7 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in the same skillet and increase heat to high. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned. Cook in 2 batches if your skillet is not large enough. Transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Return skillet to the stove, turn the stove down to medium and add red wine. Bring to simmer and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet into the wine, then pour the mixture into the slow cooker.
  4. Add remaining ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6 hours.
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti until just before al dente (still slightly firm). Remove 1 mug of the water from the pot, then drain the pasta.
  2. Return the pasta to the pot and add 2½ - 3 cups of Bolognese Sauce, plus ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Toss gently over medium high heat for 2 minutes, or until the Sauce has thickened and coats the spaghetti. (Note 3)
  3. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.
  1. Bolognese Sauce freezes wonderfully! Allow to cool overnight then freeze in serving size portions.
  2. This recipe is a double batch and makes enough for 8 to 10 servings.
  3. This step of tossing the pasta with the sauce and some of the pasta water is called "emulsifying" and it's when the magic happens. The oil in the sauce and the starch in the pasta water come together to make the Bolognese Sauce thicker so it clings to every strand of the pasta. This is the proper Italian way of making pasta!

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