Bolognese is a versatile meat sauce that can dress up many different kinds of pasta such as spaghetti, pappardelle, penne or rigatoni. Recently, I’ve started making my favorite traditional bolognese sauce in my Instant Pot. Whether this Instant Pot bolognese sauce recipe is cooked fast or slow it makes a comforting weeknight meal.
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The versatility as a multi-cooker is one of my favorite things about the Instant Pot. In fact, my favorite way to cook this bolognese sauce is on the Instant Pot’s slow cooker setting. I find this method just works best for my busy day, allowing me both flexibility and a hands-off cooking routine. However, if you’re short on time, you can also whip up this amazing bolognese sauce in warp speed by using the Instant Pot’s pressure cooker setting. While we enjoy this comforting bolognese sauce any time of year, it’s also super helpful to not have to monitor a bubbling sauce over the hot stove during the heat of the summer. Instant Pot for the win!
My favorite bolgonese sauce recipe is inspired from and adapted from a traditional recipe from Lidia Bastianich. Traditionally, a bolognese sauce is simmered low and slow in a Dutch oven on the stove top for about 3 hours. I love all things Lidia and seeing her American Italian twists on traditional Italian recipes. I recommend adding any of her cookbooks to your cookbook collection.
This bolognese sauce recipe has never failed me in the Instant Pot. One of the things I love so much about using the Instant Pot for this recipe is that it is ALL cooked in ONE pot!! You can easily walk away from it, go about your business and come back to an amazingly smelling kitchen with dinner ready. Today, I will share with you two ways to make this great bolognese sauce recipe in your Instant Pot ~ first using the pressure cooker function and second using the slow cooker function.
Quality in, quality out
Before we move onto the cooking technique, let’s talk about ingredients. To ensure the tastiest bolognese sauce, don’t skimp out on your ingredients. Higher quality “in” will yield higher quality “out”. I recommend using the following:
- San Marzano tomatoes
- A good quality Italian dry red wine
- Extra lean (and if possible) organic ground beef and pork
- Oregano and bay leaves, garlic is optional
Whether dry or fresh, I love the fragrance and flavor oregano adds to the sauce. Perhaps this is an influence from Southern Italy I picked up as it seems oregano is in almost everything there. If you like a hint of spice, you can add in a pinch of red chili pepper flakes. Garlic is also optional and sometimes, I’ll change up the basic recipe provided below and add in a couple cloves of minced garlic.
This recipe will yield enough sauce for 6 – 8 people. It freezes well in smaller portions for another day. It’s a great recipe to make on a Sunday (hence the term Sunday sauce). Enjoy your Sunday family meal and have left-overs for quick meals throughout the week. I often serve spaghetti alla bolognese with a simple garden salad dressed with this classic homemade red wine vinaigrette dressing.
How to cook bolognese sauce in an Instant Pot
The cooking technique for Instant Pot bolognese sauce is surprisingly very similar to a traditional method. First we saute the onions, vegetables and meat. Use the Instant Pot’s saute function for this. This step develops flavor before all the liquid ingredients and herbs are combined and simmered. After this step is complete, I usually set the Instant Pot to the slow cook function and set it for 5 hours. However, if you prefer, you can alternatively set the Instant Pot to a manual high pressure setting for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, do a quick release of the steam. Most Instant Pots have a pre-programmed chili/bean button. You can also choose to select this function if you prefer and set it for 30 minutes. (The program is the same as the high pressure setting). After this cooking step is complete and the steam is safely released, simply set the Instant Pot to saute function again for approximately 5 minutes. During this time, you stir and reduce any extra liquid in the sauce down. Quite honestly, I’ve found I don’t have to do this for very long. Usually about 3 minutes maximum.
There are many brands of electric pressure cookers on the market. If you are looking for an alternative to the “Instant Pot,” I recommend the Breville Fast Slow pro as pictured above. This is actually the brand I own. I love the sleek and intuitive design of it. Some people find all the buttons on the Instant Pot brand to be confusing and overkill.
If you give this recipe a try, please let me know in the comments. I’d love hear about which method you use and your experience.
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Instant Pot bolognese sauce
Whether cooked slow or fast, this easy and versatile Instant Pot bolognese sauce with your favorite pasta makes a great meal any day of the week.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onion (I usually use a sweet onion, such as Walla Walla sweet or white.)
- 1/2 cup finely grated carrot
- 1/2 cup celery (and leaves), minced
- 1 lb ground beef (extra lean organic)
- 1 lb ground pork (organic)
- 1/2 cup dry red Italian wine
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 cups San Marzano whole plum tomatoes and liquid (about 1 1/2 28 oz cans, crush the tomatoes with your hands)
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 generous pinches sea salt
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Set the Instant Pot to the saute function for 20 minutes. Heat the olive oil and stir in the onion, carrots and celery. Cook this stirring frequently until the onion begins to go translucent. Season it with a slight pinch of sea salt and pepper. Crumble in the ground beef and pork and continue to saute it until the meat is lightly browned and the liquid begins to evaporate. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat during this process. It should take about 10 minutes.
- Add the wine, scrape up the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 4 minutes. Next, add in the tomato paste, hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes, bay leaves, and oregano. Season lightly with a little sea salt and pepper. Once the sauce begins to simmer, cancel the saute function.
Follow either of the remaining instructions:
1) Cook it fast ~ pressure cooker setting
- Set the Instant Pot to high pressure for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, carefully do a quick release of the steam. Remove the lid. If necessary, set the Instant Pot to saute function for 5 minutes. Reduce the sauce slightly or to your tastes. Taste and season accordingly. (Most Instant Pots have a pre-programmed chili/bean button. You can also choose to select this function if you prefer and set it for 30 minutes. The program is the same as the high pressure setting).
2) Cook it slow ~ slow cooker setting
- Set the Instant Pot to the slow cooker setting for 5 hours. After this time, carefully remove the lid. If necessary, set the Instant Pot to saute function for 5 minutes. Reduce the sauce slightly or to your tastes. Taste and season accordingly.
Optional: If you like garlic, add in 2 cloves minced garlic at the point where you add in the meat to change it up.
Sprinkle generous amount of Parmesan cheese on top of your pasta with bolognese prior to serving.
10 thoughts on “Instant Pot bolognese sauce”
I’ve always loved Lidia! This is also one of my favorite dishes to make for my family, although I make a meatless version now that’s also delicious! So far, I haven’t succumbed to the Instapot craze but I can certainly see the utility.
Thanks Catherine. I warmed up to the Instant Pot. It definitely has a place in the kitchen.
I’ve had Bolognese sauce on my mind recently as we are not long back fro Bologna and I wanted to try a more traditional style sauce as they had there. I like the idea of making it in the instant pot, definitely helps things along, and agree it’s all about good ingredients.
Thanks Caroline. Bolognese sauce is always a family favorite.
You cannot beat a good bolognese style meat sauce, I love the flavours in yours, it looks delicious!
Thank you Brian!
Love a good pasta dish! Thanks for sharing!
I love watching Lydia on PBS! This sauce looks like it could rival hers! The perfect comfort food!
Thanks Beth. I love her show too. Thank you for the compliment.