Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

My slow cooker is an appliance that I really, really want to like, but it constantly disappoints me. Almost everything I've made in it has been completely underwhelming. So, when the America's Test Kitchen people came out with their new cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution, I knew they'd be able to improve my relationship with the slow cooker. This recipe for bolognese sauce was definitely a good start. I've never made a traditional bolognese, but this was just as flavorful as anything I've had at a restaurant (and John couldn't get enough of it, so it's Italian-approved).

The folks at America's Test Kitchen always come up with creative ways to solve common cooking dilemmas, and this recipe is no exception. To prevent the meat from drying out during the long cooking time, they mix it with a panade of bread and cream before putting it in the slow cooker. The recipe (which I am posting as written) calls for meatloaf mix, but I ended up using a mix of ground beef and pork. I also ended up adding quite a bit of salt once this was done cooking, so next time I will probably add more than the recommended 1/2 teaspoon to the meat mixture before it goes in the crock pot.

I think the appeal of the slow cooker for many people is the time-saving element. On that end, this recipe does take some prep work (chopping and sauteing vegetables), so it might not be an ideal weeknight recipe. However, this recipe saves you time in that it makes a huge batch of sauce: enough to sauce three pounds of pasta! So, you can make it on the weekend and freeze the rest for a busy night. I know John and I are looking forward to eating these leftovers!

Big-Batch Bolognese Sauce
from Slow Cooker Revolution

Note: You will need a 6 quart slow-cooker for this recipe.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1/4 cut minced celery
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
3 slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
1 cup heavy cream
3 pounds meatloaf mix
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme and cook until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits; transfer to slow cooker. Stir tomatoes into slow cooker.

2. Mash bread and heavy cream into a paste in large bowl using fork. Mix in meatloaf mix, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper using hands. Stir meatloaf mixture into slow cooker, breaking up any large pieces. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

3. Let sauce settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon. Break up any remaining large pieces of meat with spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 14 cups

Download a printable recipe.


Anonymous said...

Mike and I are hungry - come feed us... Way to go Reeeeebecca... :)

Anonymous said...

I made this just before going to bed last night and wasn't sure what I'd find waiting for me in the morning. To my pleasant surprise, I found it to be absolutely delicious. I've made it the more traditional way which requires standing over the pot for a few hours. The only change I would make is that I would definitely add more salt and possibly add more tomato paste. Worth the extra steps and the bread and cream panade I think makes the meat exceptionally tender. Great over pasta or in a traditional lasagna bolognese with b├ęchamel sauce!!! Yum!!!

Jarolalo said...

In flavor, the main thing, the recipe is superb! Thank you!!

Three alerts:

1. To stay within the guidelines for our crockpot (smaller than the ones we see on America's Test Kitchen, we had to reduce the recipe by 1/3. Even then, we had a big batch.

2. Three of our five local groceries (Dallas, TX) would describe themselves as upscale. Not one offers meatloaf mix, and, as far as I know, not one offers ground veal. We made the recipe with 2/3 ground beef and 1/3 pork, which I had to grind myself.

3. The recipe produced the thickest "sauce" we have ever made or experienced in a restaurant pushing the limit of "sauce" as a definition. It IS delicious, but, next time, I will look for larger pasta to accommodate it.

Those are just tips. The sauce is superb!

Anonymous said...

I have this in the slow cooker now, making it for the very first time. I was rather alarmed by how thick the mixture was after the meat/panade and tomato mixtures were combined in the crock and really hope the heat loosens it up a little (it loosens up my chili, so I'm confident that the same will happen here). I'm still waiting for some sort of aroma to develop, but since I haven't really left the house since turning it on, maybe I need to leave and return to get a sense of that.

Were it not for the fact that this is an ATK recipe, I'd already be beyond alarmed and at the "This recipe sucks" stage despite the fact that it's not done yet. 3 hours down, 7 to go (cooking on low for 10 hours).