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This Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta is the perfect family friendly meal. Slow cooked Italian style Bolognese sauce with a mix of beef, veggies, sweet tomatoes, herbs, and vodka. Serve this sauce over your favorite cut of pasta and top with a generous amount of parmesan cheese for a dinner that everyone will love. This is a great pasta to serve any night of the week, or for your next holiday dinner party. Tip…a side of crusty bread is always a good idea!

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta with spoons in bowl

This time next week we will all be gearing up to sit down to a turkey filled Thanksgiving dinner. Can you guys believe we’re just one week away? I’m in shock as to how fast time is flying, but trying to enjoy as much of it as I can! Over the next few days our family will slowly be shuffling their way into town. I’m so excited to have all of my brothers back in Colorado for Thanksgiving.

Seeing as though my family is huge, it can be hard to get us all under one roof at the same time. But I’m feeling thankful that holidays have always been a priority for us and we will all be together. Also thankful that my younger brother, Red showed up a few days ahead of everyone else. He’s on the go non-stop, chasing the snow, and always having fun, so it’s nice to have him home.

Plus, Red was the sole inspiration for this vodka Bolognese, so you can all thank him for this DELICIOUS recipe.

overhead close up photo of Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta

For the last year or so, every time I’ve seen Red he’s requested Bolognese. It’s his favorite.

Red is constantly traveling, making his way all over the states, across Europe, and even into Asia. Somehow, he’s still not the most adventurous eater (though he’s getting so much better). Whenever he travels he says he just eats Bolognese because it’s always good. It’s hard to argue that one…

I mean, slow cooked red sauce? Pasta? Cheese?

Yeah, it’s a combo that really never gets old.

What’s funny though? I don’t have a traditional Bolognese sauce on HBH. SO, when I heard he was flying into Colorado this week, I quickly switched up my plans and decided to make him Bolognese. I did not regret this choice. This recipe is so good, it’s easy, and it’s one that everyone should have in their back pocket.

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta with hands on bowl

Like a lot of Italian based sauces, this one starts out with the basic, onion, carrot, celery combo. I also added shallots for a bit more flavor…and because I’m honestly just obsessed with them.

Cook up the veggies in a skillet, add the meat, and brown it all over. This is essential. You want to get a caramelization on the meat before adding it to the slow cooker. Don’t skip this step.

Here are my two secrets to making a good Bolognese sauce…one that’s better than any other on the internet:

One, I like to use a mix of ground beef and spicy Italian sausage. The sausage adds a deep layer of flavor. It really makes the sauce so delicious and gives it just a touch of heat. You can certainly use ground beef in place of the sausage, but I do recommend giving the sausage a try.

Two, vodka. Yes, VODKA. Now I want to start by staying that if you do not drink, I totally understand. In this case, just swap the vodka for chicken broth, beef broth, or even just water. That will be totally fine and your sauce will still be great.

BUT, if you do drink or use alcohol for cooking, you must add vodka to your sauce. It’s a game changer. The vodka adds a sharp bite that helps to balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes. When used in small amounts, the vodka will boost and intensify aroma of the sauce. The key is slow simmering the sauce, which will release its flavors and cooks out the alcohol. So yes, this is safe to serve to kids!

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta

You see why this Bolognese is better than any other.

And the best part? You can make the sauce in the morning and slow cook it all day long. Perfect for busy days and easy holiday entertaining.

I will for sure be remaking this next week when all of our family is here for Thanksgiving. In addition to my immediate family, we’ll also be hosting my aunt, uncle, their 3 kids, my grandpa and his girlfriend…and of course anyone else who happens to show up. There are always last-minute add ons to Gerard holiday dinners.

This pasta will be the perfect dinner to serve on a Wednesday night.

overhead photo of Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta tossed together in serving bowl

If you make this vodka bolognese 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 also tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Watch the How To Video:

Slow Cooker Vodka Bolognese Pasta

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories Per Serving: 532 kcal

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

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Ingredients

Instructions

Slow Cooker

  • 1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, shallot, carrots, and celery, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until the onion is fragrant and beginning to caramelize. Add the beef and sausage, 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 tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, bay leaves, thyme, milk, vodka, and parmesan rind. 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 parmesan rind. If the sauce is soupy, crank the heat up to high and cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes. 
    4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain. 
    5. 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. Add the cheese and fresh basil. Enjoy!

Stove Top Directions

  • 1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, shallot, carrots, and celery, and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until the onion is fragrant and beginning to caramelize. Add the beef and sausage, brown all over, breaking up the meat as you go, about 10 minutes. 
    2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, bay leaves, thyme, milk, vodka, and parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
    3. Remove the parmesan rind. If the sauce is soupy, cook, uncovered for 20-30 minutes over medium heat.
    4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and boil the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.
    5. 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. Add the cheese and fresh basil. Enjoy!
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Comments

    1. Hey Jennifer,
      I am so thrilled that you enjoyed the recipe, thanks so much for giving it a try! Happy New Year! xTieghan

  1. 5 stars
    LOVED THIS. I made this in the morning and was gone all day while my husband was home. He stirred it a few times for me and that was all it needed. Every flavor was balanced and delicious. I used fresh pasta and it was so right for this dish!! Will definitely make again. I made the recipe as written and I think it will impress any guest. Will make for my in laws for sure.

    1. Hey Raleigh,
      Thank you so very much for giving the recipe a try, I am so glad it worked out for you! Happy New Year! xTieghan

  2. 3 stars
    I made this sauce for my vodka sauce loving daughter. I loved the addition of sausage and ground beef. What i did not like was the amount of vodka in the recipe. Most vodka sauce recipes call for 1/4 cup, but this recipe calls for 3/4 cup. I was skeptical but followed the recipe anyway. The sharp bite from all that vodka overwhelmed the sauce and made it almost inedible. I would make this again, but would absolutely replace 1/2 cup of the vodka with broth. The recipe has potential but didn’t quite cut it for my family.

    1. Hi! I am sorry this did not turn out as expected. If there is anything I can help with, please let me know! xTieghan

  3. 5 stars
    This is so, so good. Neither of my kids eats regular red sauce but this is another thing entirely. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned previously, but rather than dirtying more pans, I make the whole recipe in my Instant Pot. I do all the stovetop steps on the sauté setting, then switch to slow cooker mode. You also don’t lose all the fond and brown bits that way.

  4. 5 stars
    High reward for little effort. I used San Marzano Strained Tomatoes (they come in glass bottles from Costco), which reduced the cooking time on the Stove Top. The Vodka is definitely the secret ingredient. Turned out amazingly on the first attempt.

  5. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe a few times now and it has quickly become a family favourite! We have found that it is even better the next day when we warm it up for leftovers. Thanks for a fabulous recipe.

  6. 5 stars
    We’re whiskey and wine people – didn’t have any vodka in the house! So I threw in some Malbec instead… turned out awesome!

  7. This recipe, like all of your wonderful recipes, looks amazing!!! Any suggestions for making it dairy free? Would it completely ruin the flavor if I omitted the milk?

    1. Hey Jorda! I would replace the milk with canned coconut milk. That will be great! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you!! xTieghan

  8. 5 stars
    Um the first bolognese I ever made is the best I’ve ever had! Thanks for that- don’t know what to say to the Italians who commented- I’m sure their versions are equally delicious, but I am over the moon, and so is my 92-year-old Grandfather, who I made this for. Seriously delicious, shockingly easy. I’ve bookmarked a ton of your recipes (love the photos and styling too) and will be moving them to the top of my “to try” list because of how easy this was to try, and how good the results were. Thank you!

  9. I accidentally bought sweet Italian sausage on mistake! Any idea how to remedy this?!! I want it to still have the amazing kick it usually has! Should I put red pepper flakes???

    1. HI! Just add a good pinch…or 2 of crushed red pepper flakes. That will be perfect! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and happy holidays! xTieghan

    1. HI! I would recommend using canned coconut milk. That will work great! Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and happy holidays! xTieghan

  10. Have you ever doubled this recipe? I have a big family gathering coming up and this sounds perfect but I’d need twice the amount.

    1. Hi Heather! I have not double the recipe, but I think that should work well. Do you have 2 crockpots? If so, use 2. If not I would do half on the stove and half in the crockpot to ensure you don’t end up with too much liquid. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and happy holidays! xTieghan

    1. Hey Heather! I have not double the recipe, but I think that should work well. Do you have 2 crockpots? If so, use 2. If not I would do half on the stove and half in the crockpot to ensure you don’t end up with too much liquid. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you and happy holidays! xTieghan

  11. 5 stars
    I swapped carrots for green peppers (husband will not eat carrots) and it still turned out amazing! First time cooking with Vodka too. Another perfect recipe! Thank you