To be up front, this isn't one of those slow cooker recipes that instructs you to throw everything in a pot, set it, and forget it. It demands a bit more respect (and a bit more work) from you than that. What it is is a recipe for supper success, as once you've invested the initial time to chop and brown all of the ingredients — about an hour of meditative work — you can go about your merry day knowing that you'll return to a luxe dinner.

Tossed with pappardelle and sprinkled with parmesan shavings, it's a dish that'll woo both you and whoever you're so kind as to share it with. And, unless you're cooking dinner for a crowd, it's generous with leftovers; tuck an airtight container of sauce in the freezer and rest easy knowing you have a stash of dinner gold to dip into whenever you need a pick-me-up in the midst of a busy week.

Slow-Cooker Pasta Bolognese

Slow-Cooker Pasta Bolognese

Notes

Meatloaf mix is equal parts ground beef, pork, and veal. If you can't find ground veal, use equal parts ground beef and pork, or all beef.

Ingredients

  1. 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  2. 2 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  3. 1 cup whole milk
  4. Scant 3 cups meatloaf mix, at room temperature
  5. 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
  6. 15 grinds black pepper
  7. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  8. 1/2 pound pancetta, coarsely chopped
  9. 1 cup finely chopped shiitake or cremini mushrooms
  10. 2 cups finely chopped carrots (about 4 medium)
  11. 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
  12. 1 cup finely chopped red onion (about 1 small)
  13. 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  14. 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  15. 1/2 cup tomato paste (about 5 ounces)
  16. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  17. 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  18. 3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
  19. 1/2 cup chicken stock
  20. 2 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves
  21. Red wine vinegar, to taste
  22. 1 pound pappardelle pasta, cooked according to the package directions
  23. Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
  24. Extra-virgin olive oil for serving

Directions

  1. Add the dried mushrooms to a small bowl and cover with very hot water; let sit for 15 minutes, then drain and finely chop. In a large bowl, mash the bread and milk together until a smooth paste forms. Gently knead in the ground meat, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
  2. Add the butter to a large straight-sided, heavy-bottomed skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When melted, add the pancetta and sauté until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a large mixing bowl and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Cook about half of the ground meat mixture until browned; transfer to the bowl with the pancetta. Repeat with the remaining ground meat. Add the fresh porcini and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the dried mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and nutmeg. Sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the flour, and cook until the flour is no longer visible, no more than 1 minute. With the pan off the heat, carefully add the wine. Then return the pan to high heat and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release and food bits. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and stock, and cook for another minute. Pour into the slow cooker and add the browned meat; stir to combine.
  3. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the meat has cooked through and the sauce is aromatic and very flavorful, about 6 hours. Spoon the fat off the surface, stir in the rosemary, break up the meat more with a fork, and season to taste with salt and vinegar.
  4. To serve, toss the sauce with the pasta and garnish with parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
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