This Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta is best for Sunday nights, but easy enough for any weeknight. Slow cooked Italian Bolognese sauce with a mix of spicy meat, vegetables, tomatoes, herbs, and rich red wine. Serve this sauce over rigatoni pasta and top with homemade parmesan breadcrumbs. All it needs is a side of crusty bread for mopping up all that sauce. You simply can’t go wrong with this hearty Sunday Bolognese. Added bonus? You can make this in the Instant Pot or simmer on the stove.

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta

Another October Monday, another easy slow cooker dinner that’s cozy and delicious. Last week I shared my healthier take on a slow cooker creamy tortellini vegetable soup. This week…we’ve got something a little cozier and heartier.

Both are equally delicious and equally great for fall (or Sunday nights). But if you’re in the mood for rich, saucy pasta, this is your recipe. It’s classic, but yet updated and even made with a few healthy swaps as well. But most importantly? It’s just really delicious, stick to your bones, feel-good kind of comfort food.

prep photo of Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese sauce before cooking

The background story.

As we head deeper and deeper into fall I’m really leaning into the slow cooked meals that are easy, hearty, and delicious. Enter this Sunday Sauce. Also known as the sauce you can make on a Sunday, but then enjoy leftovers throughout the week.

Growing up, I didn’t know what a Sunday sauce was. This wasn’t something my mom made or a recipe passed down through the family. No, this is a sauce I somehow created a few years back because it sounded really comforting to me. The sauce I made years ago, I simply called Crockpot Sunday Sauce. It’s made with short ribs, and it’s delicious.

It’s that sauce that inspired today’s “Sunday sauce”. This sauce is made Bolognese style with a mix of ground meat, vegetables, and rich red wine. It is the easiest to throw together, but yet it’s so full of hearty, slow cooked, Italian flavors.

I’ve been excited to share the recipe for days!

prep photo of Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese sauce cooking on stove

The simple steps.

Making this Sunday Bolognese is easy. You can make it one of three ways. Slow cook all day in your slow cooker, simmer all day on the stove, or speed up the process and cook in the Instant Pot. I prefer the slow cooker, but either method yields a delicious sauce.

Let’s walk through the slow cooker steps.

Just like any slow cooker meat-based recipe, start out by browning the meat. It’s a bit of an annoying step, but one that is needed to achieve the best flavor. For the meat, I love using a mix of lean ground beef or chicken and spicy ground Italian chicken sausage. The sausage is not traditional, but I find it really adds so much flavor since it’s made with garlic, herbs, and spices.

Cook the bacon, then add the meat and onion. Once everything is browned, simply transfer to the bowl of your slow cooker.

If you have a newer slow cooker that has the ability to sear meats, that’s awesome. You should definitely use that function!

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Once the meat has been added, add all the remaining ingredients, give the sauce a good stir, then cook low and slow all day long.

Nothing is better than the smells that will be coming from your kitchen, like nothing. That’s why this sauce is so perfect for Sunday. Simply throw it together in the morning and go off and enjoy your Sunday. Then come home to a house that smells like your Italian grandma was there cooking all day.

It’s the best most warming welcome home.

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Before serving…

Make those breadcrumbs and find yourself a really good loaf of bread too. Yes, you need both.

The breadcrumbs are made with sourdough, fresh oregano, and plenty of parmesan cheese. While these breadcrumbs may seem simple, they add texture to the pasta and a nice cheesy crunchy bite.

So. Very. Delicious.

And finally, the pasta. For whatever reason, I love a big rigatoni noodle for this sauce, but any pasta works. So use what you or your family love most.

And that’s it – you’re ready to serve. Just be sure to top each plate with those breadcrumbs and chunks of rustic bread for mopping up all that sauce. Delicious.

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta with fork in bowl

Do you have to wait until Sunday to make this?

Of course not! You can make this tonight or any night of the week.

Here is my suggestion though. Make this for Sunday night dinner along with my favorite beer bread. This recipe feeds a lot, probably way more than you need, so chances are you’ll have leftovers. And those leftovers…they are amazing. Maybe even better than the “fresh” sauce because the longer this sits, the more time the flavors have to develop.

You can serve throughout the week with pasta or over mashed potatoes. Or, freeze the leftover sauce and enjoy it in a month or so. That way, when the holiday craze hits, you’ll have dinner ready at the drop of a hat. It’s always nice to have a cozy “Sunday” meal on hand during the busy holiday months!

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta

Looking for other hearty Sunday recipes? Here are a few ideas: 

Healthier 30 Minute Beer Braised Chicken

5 Ingredient Beer Bread

White Pesto Spinach Lasagna

30 Minute Coq au Vin Chicken Meatballs with Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes

Lastly, if you make this Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta | halfbakedharvest.com
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4.12 from 283 votes

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

The Recipe

Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta

Best for Sunday nights...but easy enough for weeknights. Just be sure to add crusty bread!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes
Servings 10
Calories 465 kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 medium yellow, onions chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or chicken
  • 3/4 pound ground spicy Italian chicken sausage
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, such as Sangiovese
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta

Breadcrumbs

Instructions

Slow Cooker

  1. 1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, beef, sausage, oregano, basil, and season with salt and pepper. Brown all over breaking up the meat as you go, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

    2. Transfer the meat to the bowl of your slow cooker. Add the carrots, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. 

    3. Remove the thyme. If the sauce is soupy, crank the heat up to high and cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. If the sauce needs additional liquid, add 1-2 cups water or beef broth.

    4. To make the breadcrumbs. Preheat oven to 425° F. On a baking sheet, toss the bread, with olive oil, oregano, and a pinch of salt. Bake 10 minutes, until toasted. Crumble the bread into fine crumbs using your fingers or pulse in a food processor. Toss with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

    5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain. Use the pasta water to thin the Bolognese sauce, if needed. 

    6. To serve, divide the pasta among bowls and ladle the bolognese over top. Serve topped with breadcrumbs, parmesan, and fresh herbs. Enjoy!

Instant Pot

  1. 1. Set Instant Pot to sauté. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, beef, sausage, oregano, basil, and season with salt and pepper. Brown all over, about 10-15 minutes. If using a smaller instant pot, it's easiest to brown the meat in 2 batches or on the stove. Turn the Instant Pot off.

    2. To the instant pot, add the carrots, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.

    3. Once done cooking, use the natural or quick release function. Set the Instant pot to sauté. Bring to a boil, boil 5-10 minutes or until the liquid reduces just slightly. Turn the instant pot off. Remove the thyme.

    4. Finish as directed about through step 4.

Stove-top

  1. 1. Cook the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, beef, sausage, oregano, basil, and season with salt and pepper. Brown all over, breaking up the meat as you go, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.

    2. Add the carrots, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, and thyme. Add 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. If the sauce needs additional liquid, add water or beef broth to thin.

    3. Remove the thyme. If the sauce is soupy, cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes over medium heat.

    4. Finish as directed about through step 4.

overhead horizontal photo of Slow Cooker Saucy Sunday Bolognese Pasta