Monday, December 8, 2014

Crockpot Bolognese - So Delicious There's No Photo

I meant to get back here last week to post this recipe and just couldn't find the time.  My free time is very precious these days, especially with the holidays in full swing.  So, I find myself prioritizing and unfortunately the blog fell by the wayside.

When I started making the bolognese I realized that basically for my entire life growing up, this is the sauce my mom made.  Probably a poor man's version because I don't ever remember her using more than one kind of meat or cooking it for hours.

I made this because I happened to know that Little Helen's fiance likes it and I wanted us to have something to eat for dinner after we went and looked at another wedding venue, but I didn't want to have to fuss with dinner when we got back.  It worked perfectly as all I did was cook some fettucine and toss a salad.  Mr. Helen contributed garlic bread.  

It was certainly a hit and before I knew it, it was all gone so this recipe is being given to you with no photo.  

I actually looked up a bunch of different methods for bolognese, which is bascially a meat sauce, heavier on the meat than the sauce, that is cooked for a long time.  That was when I decided I would slow cook it in the crock pot and I combined a bunch of different recipes to come up with this one. Thank goodness I wrote down what I was doing as I went along!

Helen's Crockpot Bolognese

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1-2 carrots, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds combined ground beef, veal, pork (or use meatloaf mix)
1 cup milk
2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 T oregano
1 T basil
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the onion, celery, and carrot.  Stir frequently until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute another minute until garlic is fragrant.

Add the ground meat and cook until it loses it's pink color and begins to brown.  Pour the milk over the mixture, increase the heat to high and cook until the milk has evaporated.  Transfer the mixture to a 6 quart slow cooker.

Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and all the spices.  Stir well to combine.  Put the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Notes: I made this a day ahead because I always feel sauces taste best when they have a day to sit This also allows you to skim some of the fat off the top before you reheat it.

You could use red or white wine in place of the beef stock.  My future son-in-law does not drink so I always hesitate to use alcohol when that is the case.

This sauce is much meatier than a traditional marinara with some meat added.  If you have meat lovers in the house, they'll love it.

This makes a lot.  My crockpot was nearly full.  But the great thing about this sauce is it can be frozen and used later for baked ziti or a lasagne, or even to eat again!


Since I have no photos of the sauce, how about some photos of my Christmas tree and outside decorations? While Mr. Helen had done the outside right after Thanksgiving, this past weekend was our only time to go to the tree farm to get the tree.  It ended up pouring rain!  We decided this would be a tree cutting to remember, especially as Mr. Helen has mandated that next year Little Helen will be married and therefore we are getting an artificial tree!  Maybe that's why we got one a bit bigger than usual... or maybe it was the pouring rain forcing us into a quick decision.  In any case, it got cut and decorated and once again, we feel like it's the best one ever.

My new yard decoration.  I waited five years for it to go on sale and ended up getting it half price!

I even managed to get a few things wrapped!


  1. Thanks for that interesting recipe! It's similar to what I make in a dutch oven on the stove, I am going to have to try it in the crockpot. What purpose does the milk serve? I have never seen that ingredient in sauce before.

    1. Traditional Italian Bolognese calls for milk. There are varying ways that it is used (in some recipes it's just dumped in with the tomatoes) but the reasoning is that it makes the meat more tender and also helps reduce any acidity in the sauce.

    2. Very interesting! I am definitely going to give this a try.

  2. oooh
    the child would love this and I WOULD LOVE (relative) ease!!

  3. The decorations are lovely. I love a sleigh! We have a different lit-up sleigh outside our house, I would really love to get a REAL sleigh someday, even better, go on a sleigh ride with hubs on a snowy Christmas Eve. That's my fantasy. That sauce sounds divine. I have to say I have NEVER heard of adding milk to a sauce, and cooking it until it evaporates or perhaps gets incorporated into the meat and veggies? Very intriguing. My sister-in-law makes marinara sauce from scratch and she brought a jar of it for me to a family dinner I hosted last night. I can't wait to make something delicious with it for supper tonight.

    1. See my reply to Betsey C. on the milk issue!

      I make all my sauces from scratch. Even marinara is so easy to do I just can't bring myself to buy a jar!

  4. I'm a little in love with your prancing, illuminated reindeer! (love the recipe too!)

    1. I love my reindeer too - it's why I waited 5 years for him!

  5. Add me to the "never heard of adding milk" person - I should give your recipe to Jeff over the holidays as he loves meat sauce and would have fun making this (although it would not be fun for me to clean up the kitchen afterward, believe me!!).

    Love your new lawn decoration! And I always get a kick out of your address - a single "8" - most of mine have been five digits (we're down to four now).

    1. Too funny about the address. I can't think of a single town in my area that has addresses that go above 3 digits and most of them only go two.

      If Jeff wants to make it the "real" way, you do all that up there then instead of putting it in a crockpot, you put it on the stove and fuss and stir over it for FOUR hours!

  6. I love the addition of milk - I add heavy cream to my vodka tomato sauce at the end, but I am definitely intrigued by your version - I assume since its a meat sauce it would freeze well?

    Love the decorations - I am torn on decorating this year, but snowmen make me happy, so we'll see :D

    1. The milk thing is interesting because honestly, unlike a vodka sauce which is a bit pink and creamy, you'd never know it was in this one. It freezes beautifully!

      Make your house a happy place - put up your snowmen - call Hannah and ask her to come help you.

  7. What a beautiful tree! I miss having the real tree, but with John's allergies it is a no go. Although I do like being able to put the fake one up Thanksgiving weekend and it doesn't dry out :D

    Shall I admit here that I used to think Bolognese had bologna it it??

  8. Yum, I need to make bolognese sauce soon, maybe during my vacation when I have more time and I am a fan, surprise surprise, of adding wine :)

    Love the decorations around and in your house. We have had an artifical tree for years but went back to a real one 3 years ago which I love more. On December 31 I take all the decorations out and that night we use up the entire tree in our fireplace.

    1. If I ever make this just for me and Mr. Helen, I'm using wine too ;)

      What a great idea for disposing of your Christmas tree!

  9. Can you believe I HAVE heard of milk in the sauce, and I've made it and know how delicious (and un-milk-like) it is? Anyway, your recipe looks delicious, and you know I love the idea of being able to freeze stuff. Plus, I like having more meat for the times (most of the time) when I want a higher ratio of protein in my meal.

  10. This is in my crockpot as we speak! I usually make the same plain spaghetti sauce but yours sounded SO GREAT I had to try it. The milk and the beef stock were both new ideas, but I am betting both will add to the flavor immensely.
    I have pics too. :) Maybe I should re-post on my blog and link to yours!