This Slow Cooker Bolognese needs to be on your dinner rotation! It is of course delicious, but also with just 45 minutes of prep you can serve a healthy weeknight meal that tastes like it took you all day to prepare. It freezes well for a great make-ahead option and this healthier version is made with ground turkey without sacrificing any of that amazing cooked all day Bolognese flavor. 

Overhead shot of three white bowls filled with slow cooker bolognese and pasta on a linen surrounded by fresh herbs

I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love my slow cooker… check out my recent Beef Barbacoa post. I use it year round, but fall and winter is basically when my slow cooker literally lives out on my counter. So I was really excited to make this Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese. It’s featured in Erin Clarke’s new book The Well Plated Cookbook. (That’s an affiliate link.) Erin is the creator of the blog Well Plated by Erin featuring quick and healthy recipes.

In my mind when I think of Bolognese I picture a lovely Italian grandmother standing for hours over a huge simmering pot just stirring and stirring and as she stirs the intoxicating smell fills the entire house. Well, if you make this Slow Cooker Bolognese in the morning when you come home later in the day you are going to think that sweet Italian Grandmother snuck into your house and worked her magic because the amazing smell is going to greet you when you walk in the door!

Overhead shot of white bowl of slow cooker bolognese with pasta next to slow cooker filled with bolognese and a cookbook and fresh herbs

What Is Bolognese?

  • It is a meat based sauce
  • Known in Italy as Ragu Alla Bolognese 
  • It is traditionally served with tagliatelle or used to make Lasagne alla Bolognese 
  • It is cooked slowly to allow the flavor to develop and create a thick sauce
  • Ingredients include a soffritto which is onion, celery and carrots, minced beef and pork, white wine, milk and tomatoes

One of my favorite things about this recipe is its versatility. After giving you the master Bolognese recipe, Erin provides additional recipes that basically transform this already out-of-this-world dish into three completely different family friendly dinners. It is the recipe that keeps giving and giving.

Overhead shot of white bowl filled with slow cooker bolognese and pasta, a glass of white wine and fresh herbs on a linen

This Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese requires a little bit of prep, but you can totally do it the day before and then just throw everything in the slow cooker the next morning and come home to an unbelievable home cooked weeknight meal. And better yet you can freeze individual portions of it to thaw anytime you want one of the most comforting and delicious meals of all time.

How To Make Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese

  1. Cook the ground turkey or beef in a large skillet with oil and add to the slow cooker.
  2. the veggies in the same skillet with oil until beginning to soften. Add the spices and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze with wine and then add to the slow cooker.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and sugar to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  5. Uncover and stir in the half-and-half.
  6. Add additional salt, pepper or red pepper flakes if desired and the serve over cooked pasta, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash strands.

This recipe is also versatile in that it can be served over many different foods depending on what you’re craving. Do you want something more traditional? Then toss this thick scrumptious sauce with pasta. Trying to up your veggie game and go a little lighter? Then serve it with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. Here’s how to microwave spaghetti squash! Is it snowing outside and you want a warm comforting bowl of deliciousness? Then your only choice is to spoon this glossy rich sauce over a steaming bowl of polenta.

Erin’s Pro Tips For This Recipe

  • Low and low is the name of the game here. Avoid the temptation to crank the heat to high. This recipe needs time to allow the flavors to develop.
  • If you don’t have half-and-half, don’t sub in milk, as it will make the sauce too thin. It has delicious flavor without the half-and-half, but the cream does take this Bolognese from satisfying to supreme.

Make Ahead Tips

  • Freezing the Bolognese in individual portions makes it super convenient.
  • Let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then rewarm gently on the stove or in the microwave with a splash of water or broth to thin if needed.
  • A little splash of red wine vinegar and a glug of half-and-half also work wonders.
  • If you forget to thaw your sauce, remove it from the container and place it in a pot on the stove. Cover and warm over very low heat, stirring occasionally to break apart the sauce.

What To Serve With Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese 

Pasta

  • Dried spaghetti, bucatini or rotini pasta would be delicious with this Bolognese 
  • Toss the cooked pasta in the Bolognese so it is coated in the thick sauce

Zucchini Noodles

  • Zucchini noodles are a delicious low carb alternative to pasta
  • The noodles can be made with a spiralizer, julienne peeler or slice then with a mandoline and then cut the planks into noodles with a knife

Spaghetti Squash

  • Spaghetti Squash is another yummy lower carb pasta alternative
  • After baking or microwaving the squash halves use a fork to scrape the flesh into noodle-like strands

Polenta

  • A warm bowl of soft polenta would be delicious topped with this Bolognese and a sprinkle of grated Parmesean 

Three Ways To Use Slow Cooker Bolognese

Spaghetti Pie

  • Combine the Bolognese with cottage cheese, eggs, parsley, thawed spinach, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan 
  • Add cooked spaghetti, transfer to a prepared pie dish and top with more cheese
  • Bake until bubbling and golden brown
  • Cut into wedges and serve

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

  • Halve zucchini lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and some of the flesh to create a shallow boat shape
  • Sauté the chopped zucchini flesh in a large skillet, add the Bolognese sauce and simmer until warmed through
  • Place the zucchini boats in a prepared baking dish, using a spoon fill the boats with the Bolognese filling and top with mozzarella.
  • Bake until heated through and the cheese is melted.

Polenta Lasagna

  • Saute mushrooms, garlic and spinach
  • Combine strained cottage cheese, nutmeg, mozzarella, Parmesan and salt
  • Arrange polenta slices on top of tomato sauce in the bottom of a prepared baking dish, scatter mushroom-spinach mixture on top, then dollop with half of the cottage cheese mixture and half of the Bolognese and more tomato sauce
  • Repeat layers and top with remaining cheese
  • Bake until hot and bubbly and serve

At this point, you’re probably like, “Yea, yea we get it… slow cookers are awesome.” And yes, they are awesome and I think every home should have one! They are one of the best ways to get a quick, healthy and delicious meal on the table any day of the week. They save you time, money and dishpan hands.

Overhead shot of a slow cooker filled with slow cooker turkey bolognese

Benefits Of Using A Slow Cooker

  • Long and low temperature cooking helps to maintain natural nutrients for more healthy dishes
  • This cooking method also tenderizes less-expensive cuts of meat
  • The longer cooking time allows flavors to really develop
  • Most recipes can be prepped ahead and then put in the slow cooker in the morning for an easy and quick weeknight meal
  • One pot cooking mean less clean up
  • With a larger slow cooker you can double a recipe and freeze a portion for future meals

Erin’s cookbook is full of awesome quick and healthy recipes. She covers everything from breakfast to dinner, sandwiches and soups, sides, entertaining and desserts. This book has it all! I can’t wait to try her Sticky Asian Cauliflower Wings, Sheet Pan Tandoori Chicken and her Instant Pot Pasta e Fajioli.

More Slow Cooker Recipes You Don’t Want To Miss

I hope you try this amazing Slow Cooker Bolognese! Please come back and let me know if you do. We love to hear from you! Don’t forget to please leave a star rating and review. Thanks!!

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Overhead shot of white bowl filled with slow cooker bolognese and pasta and fresh herbs on a linen

Slow Cooker Bolognese

  • Author: Stephanie Olson
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 11 cups 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This Slow Cooker Bolognese needs to be on your dinner rotation! It is of course delicious, but also with just 45 minutes of prep you can serve a healthy weeknight meal that tastes like it took you all day to prepare. It freezes well for a great make-ahead option and this healthier version is made with ground turkey without sacrificing any of that amazing cooked all day Bolognese flavor.


Scale

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey or lean ground beef

1 pound carrots, peeled and finely chopped (about 3 cups or 6 medium)

2 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each), peeled and finely chopped (about 2 cups)

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper

6 cloves of garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus additional to taste

1 1/2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/3 cup half-and-half

For Serving:

Cooked whole wheat pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash strands


Instructions

  1. Cook The Turkey or Beef: Lightly coat a 6-quart slow cooker or larger with nonstick spray. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the turkey, breaking up the meat with a spatula until it is starting to brown, 5-7 minutes. Place the turkey into the slow cooker.
  2. Cook The Vegetables: In the same skillet heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and add the carrots, zucchini, onion and salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes to soften. Stir in the garlic, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the wine and stir. Return to a simmer and let the wine cook until it is reduced by half, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker with the turkey. Add the crushed tomatoes and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Uncover and stir in the half-and-half.
  4. To serve: Taste and add additional salt, black pepper or red pepper flakes as desired. Serve over hot cooked pasta, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash strands.

Notes

Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2/3 cups
  • Calories: 140
  • Fat: 6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 13 g

 

Slow Cooker Bolognese