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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. Can I make a double batch in one big pot on the stovetop? Would it cook for the same amount do time?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Julia,
      Sure, that would work well for you, I would just be sure your pot is large enough to hold double the recipe:) xTieghan

    1. Hi Monique,
      Follow the same directions, adding everything to the instant pot and then cook on high pressure for 15-20 minutes. I have not tested this, but I think it would work. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! xTieghan

    1. Hey Robin,
      Awesome!! Thanks for making this recipe, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xTieghan

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try and sharing your feedback! Love to hear that it was enjoyed!! xTieghan

  2. I made this dish last week, substituted bison with turkey. It was delicious even my grandkids loved. Will make again for sure. Thank you for the recipe.

    1. Hey Lucia,
      Happy Sunday!! Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try, I love to hear that it was enjoyed!! xTieghan

  3. 5 stars
    I had a snow day from school today so I figured what better time to try this recipe! I am so glad I did! It was the perfect hearty dinner for staying in on an icy winter night. And it smelled so good while it was cooking all day! I used skim milk because it’s what I drink/had on hand. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly and it was perfect! Saving this one to make again for sure.

    1. Hey Danielle,
      Happy Friday!! I am thrilled to hear this recipe was enjoyed, thanks a bunch for giving it a go! xxT

  4. Hi Tieghan
    After reading a comment about this recipe I thought it would be helpful to counter it.
    It was delicious via stove top.
    Living in Chicago, there are an abundance of small, family-owned businesses that made the dish sing; Joseph’s Finest Meats for the gr. chuck & Italian sausage, Pasta Fresh for tri-color pappardelle and either shop for Mutti tomato products from Parma.
    In my opinion, these ingredients have to be top notch to begin with.
    We most definitely enjoy it!
    Thanks.

    1. Hey Diane,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am thrilled to hear that it was enjoyed! Have a great day:) xxT

  5. 2 stars
    I’m not sure where I went wrong with this but it tasted very plain . Maybe I left something out as everything else I’ve made from here is amazing!!
    I made the Saucy Sunday Bolognese a few days later and wow , it was so good and will definitely be my go to Bolognese recipe in future.
    Love experimenting with all the HBH recipes!! Thanks so much

    1. Hey Andi,
      Totally, that will work well for you! Please let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it! xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    This is my first (of many more!) HBH recipes I’ve made, and it did not disappoint. I cooked the meat, put it in the fridge, and then added it in about an hour before we ate. My slow cooker tends to make meat mushy if it is in there too long. I also added mushrooms.
    The sauce is rich and delicious. Love all the hidden veggies. Such an easy weeknight dinner that we will make again and again!

    1. Hi Rachel,
      Awesome!! I am so glad to hear this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for making it! Have the best weekend! xTieghan

    1. Hey Chase,
      I am thrilled that you enjoyed this recipe, thanks a lot for giving it a try. I hope you have an amazing week! xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe!! I followed it exactly – I personally loved the bite of the vodka and thought the amount was perfect. And the use of both ground beef and sausage was brilliant! Can’t wait to make this again and maybe pair it with a different pasta. So easy and delicious!

  8. 4 stars
    Thanks for the great recipe, Tieghan! I like how many veggies are in this sauce. Similar to a few other commenters, I found the amount of vodka to be slightly too much. I cooked on low for 6 hours, and then had to sautee it to burn off more of the vodka taste. I will make it again, as it was otherwise delicious, but with 1/4 cup vodka.

    1. Hi there! Thanks so much for trying out this recipe, so glad to hear it was enjoyed! And thank you for letting me know about the feedback/changes you made, I really appreciate it. Have a wonderful week! xTieghan

    1. Hey Mark,
      Yes, I would recommend doing so:) I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  9. This looks delicious I’ve read through the comments curious to know the purpose of adding milk? See where you have suggested coconut milk to substitute for dairy but why not just add broth or water. I’m sure there is a reason and just want to know it’s role here! Thank you!