Making a good bolognese sauce is a real labor of love. Sure, you could just combine some ground beef to a tomato sauce and call it good (and heck, we often do!), but there's a certain irresistible silkiness and a deep, meaty flavor that can really only come from all-day cooking. This is a dish that takes a pork loin and turns it into something worthy of the finest dinner party.
The key to a good bolognese is simmering it very slowly over low heat for several hours. This long simmering makes the pork incredibly tender and turns the sauce into something that will make your eyes roll up in your head. I've found it tricky to maintain this kind of gentle simmer on the cook top, where even the lowest burner can be a bit too high, so, I tried using my slow cooker. Its ability to maintain a low, steady heat for hours is perfect for a dish like this.
I'll tell you upfront — this isn't one of those slow-cooker recipes where you can dump everything together and walk away. But the extra work of browning the pork and sautéing the vegetables at the beginning is very much worth it! These steps translate directly into the deep flavor that makes this sauce so irresistible. You can also prepare the pork mixture the night before and finish cooking it with the tomatoes in the slow cooker the next day. Leftovers also freeze well, so go ahead and make a double batch!
Spaghetti Bolognese in a slow cooker
3 T olive oil
3 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 inch pieces
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
4 ounces diced pancetta
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 c. red wine
1 - 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
1 - 28 ounce can tomato puree
2 oregano sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
3 rosemary sprigs
salt and pepper
1/2 cup water
2 lbs. spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Saute the pork pieces in 2 tablespoons of olive oil on all sides on medium high heat.Do this in batches, do not crowd the pan and remove to slow cooker.
Next, add the sausage and brown. Remove to slow cooker.
Add pancetta to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times until the fat has rendered, about 7 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and carrots, stirring a few times until softened about 7 minutes, Add red wine and scrape bottem of pan to release any browned bits on the bottom of skillet. Boil the wine over high heat until reduced in half. Transfer mixture to the slow cooker, add thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper and water.
Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.
Transfer the pork to a bowl and shred coarsely with 2 forks. Return to the cooker and simmer the sauce for 45 minutes longer. Discard the thyme, oregano and rosemary sprigs and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve this bolognese sauce over spaghetti, layer it into a lasagna (as is traditional), or serve it with any other kind of pasta. I particularly like serving it with rotini or campanelle because the little folds are great for catching bits of sauce. Top with cheese!
* You may substitute dry herbs for fresh. 2 tsp. of each.
This of course is even better a day later! Hopefully, you have some left overs!!
I am still in France touring wineries and eating at beautiful chateau's!