A tremendously rich, vibrant and creamy meat sauce that you can set and forget until dinner time!
The combination of ground beef and ground pork creates an almost magical ragu sauce that’s a simple and straightforward meal perfect for family, guests, or even as make ahead meals across a busy week. The beautifully balanced combination of ground meat and veggies is a flavor rich upgrade on a traditional tomato bolognese sauce that uses a vegetable soffritto, red wine, heavy cream, and a combination of popular pantry herbs to leave you with a low and slow masterpiece.
Ragu, is simply put, a meat sauce. Most slow cooker ragu options are cooked using beef cuts that when cooked over a long period break down and fall apart into a delicious and hearty sauce, but this one does a brilliant job using ground meat. You can make a great tasting ground ragu with beef or pork mince, however the combination of the two creates a fantastic flavor balance that when cooked over time is mouthwatering, and also cuts down on non-essential fat. A quick browning up before it goes in the slow cooker gets rid of any excess liquid.
An essential component for making a memorable ragu is the soffritto, the base for most sauces, soups, stews and braises in Italian cuisine. The soffritto used in this recipe is a finely chopped mix of onion, carrot, and celery that’s quickly fried until softness then added to the slow cooker.
For me, the key to this ragu recipe is using heavy cream, which goes in right at the end of the process. Now, I love a rich and tasty tomato sauce, and although I add whole milk to my stovetop bolognese, I was a bit leery of adding heavy cream to the finished product, thinking it would muddle up the flavor. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The cream creates a beautiful contrast to the fat and flavor of the meat, and takes away some of the more acidic flavors, leaving a creamy, fuller taste on your palate, that is truly superb!
Slow cooker ragu is a delicious option for a set and forget slow cooker meal, you can load up the ingredients before you leave for work (or play), and return to a luxurious sauce that needs only some cream and an accompanying pasta to be ready to eat.
Slow Cooker Ground Ragu
15m prep time
8h cook time
- 2 large carrots
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 celery stalks
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1lb ground beef
- 1lb ground pork
- 1 x 5 oz tube or can tomato paste
- 1 x 12 oz can diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons celery salt
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup red wine (Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Garnish: Grated parmesan cheese
- Begin by chopping the sofrito finely - carrots, onion, and celery. Sauté the sofrito with minced garlic in a frying pan for 5-7 minutes or until softened, and the onion is translucent. Remove the sofrito from the pan and add the mixture to your slow cooker.
- Add the ground beef and pork to the pan. Cook for 7-10 minutes, breaking up the meat until it has browned. Drain off the excess fat and liquid, then add the ground meat to the slow cooker.
- Add the remaining ingredients - except for the heavy cream - and stir thoroughly to combine. Cook for a minimum of 6-8 hours on the low setting.
- Just prior to serving, stir in the heavy cream. Season the ground ragu with salt and pepper as needed, then serve with rigatoni or shell pasta and grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe adapted from The Recipe Critic