Instant Pot Bolognese Sauce

This hearty Instant Pot Bolognese sauce is packed with veggies and freezes amazingly — so eat half and freeze the leftovers for a busy night! 

Bolognese.

Bolo-nayze. Bolo-neez. Bolo-nyay-zay. Bolo-neezy-fo-sheezy. No matter which way you say it, someone will correct you — at least that’s been my experience. Personally, I prefer the Italian pronunciation, “bolo-nyay-zay” (and hello, it’s an Italian dish… why wouldn’t you say it that way?) but the hubs prefers the more Italian-American, “Bolo-nayze.”

Naturally, we both think the other person says it wrong so, after devouring our big bowls of bolo-nyay-zay and downing a couple glasses of wine last night, I did what all annoying spouses do during a heated dispute… I pulled out my iPhone and asked Siri. Of course, Siri had no friggin’ clue what I was talking about so I deferred to Google, but even Google couldn’t give me a straight answer.

Instant Pot Bolognese pasta and sauce in a bowl with cheese and parsley for garnish

So, what do you say we all agree to disagree? Bolo-nyay-zay, bolo-neez. Tomayto, tomahto, okay? Or, do like our toddler and just call it meat sauce. All that really matters is how insanely easy and delicious it is — and that your kids will devour it.

Believe it or not, this hearty meat sauce is also packed with veggies and freezes amazingly well, which is great because it makes a sh*tload. Like, unless you’re the Brady Bunch, you’re probably gonna have leftovers. We usually eat half and freeze half for another night when my mom game is off.

Instant Pot Bolognese sauce with  in a bowl with cheese and parsley for garnish

Put it over noodles, zoodles, or make lasagna with it. Heck you can even eat it with a spoon all by itself. Ask me how I know.

What is bolognese sauce?

Bolognese sauce is hearty, thick sauce made with meat and often cream or milk that originated in Bologna, Italy. Bolognese sauce is typically mixed with pasta before eating rather being served on top (but you do you) and is commonly served with a broad flat type of pasta like tagliatelle (pictured) or tube-shaped pasta.

What is the difference between bolognese and meat sauce?

Bolognese is typically much thicker than meat sauce, and can be made with a variety of meats including ground pork, beef, or veal, as well as cream or milk, and diced vegetables like carrots, celery, and onion. Meat sauce is generally thinner, is usually made with ground beef, and does not typically contain milk or cream.

Ingredients for Instant Pot bolognese sauce

Simple to make but complex in flavor, here’s what you’ll need to make a big batch of this delicious sauce:

  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Minced garlic
  • Tomato paste
  • Lean ground beef
  • Sweet Italian sausage
  • Salt & pepper
  • A generous splash or two of red wine (optional but recommended)
  • Crushed tomatoes (fire-roasted have the most flavor)
  • Canned tomato sauce
  • Italian seasoning, or a mix of dried basil, oregano, thyme, and/or rosemary
  • Heavy cream or half-and-half

What to serve with this sauce

Of course it’s great with hot pasta, but here are some other ways you can enjoy this simple, meaty bolognese:

  • Serve it over zucchini noodles (zoodles) or roasted spaghetti squash for a lower-carb meal
  • In a bun for Italian-style sloppy joes
  • Use it as a meat sauce for lasagna
  • Mix it with some ricotta and use it as the filling for stuffed shells
  • Heat it up and spoon it onto a piece of crusty bread

How to freeze bolognese sauce

This sauce freezes so well you’ll never know the difference once it’s defrosted! Here’s how to do it.

  1. Let the sauce cool to room temperature
  2. Divide into individual or family-sized portions. I like to use large mason jars for family meals, and whatever is left in these smaller mason jars which are perfect for quick kid dinners on nights we eat separately. When filling glass mason jars, be sure to leave some room at the top to allow the sauce to expand. I typically fill the jars to just below the rim.
  3. Defrost the sauce overnight in the refrigerator, or leave it on the counter for a few hours if you plan to serve it later that day.

Can I make this on the stovetop?

If you don’t yet have an Instant Pot, you can absolutely still make this on the stovetop, or even in a slow cooker. It’ll just take longer and may require more pots and pans as well as a bit more liquid. The beauty of the Instant Pot Bolognese is that you can saute, pressure cook and simmer all in the same pan. This of course means less mess and a faster cook time which is EVERYTHING when you’ve got hangry kids hanging on your pant legs after a long day at work.

Other Instant Pot recipes you might like:

Want more easy Instant Pot recipes? Here are some of our favorites!

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Recipe

Instant Pot Bolognese Sauce

This Instant Pot bolognese sauce is a hearty meat sauce made with both ground beef and ground sausage, and is loaded with veggies!

  • Prep Time:
    20 min
  • Total Time:
    1 hour
  • Makes:
    12 cups 1x
  • Prep Time:
    20 min
  • Total Time:
    1 hour
  • Makes:
    12 cups 1x
  • Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 cups diced yellow onion (about 1 large onion)
    • 3/4 cup diced carrots (about 3 large)
    • 3/4 cup diced celery (about 3 large stalks)
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 tablespoons tomato paste (½ small can)
    • 1 pound lean ground beef
    • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
    • Kosher salt to taste
    • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
    • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
    • 3 (15-ounce) cans fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
    • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
    • 22 ½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (see notes)
    • ⅓ cup heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)

    Instructions

    1.  Sautè the onions, carrots, and celery, then add tomato paste & garlic. Set Instant Pot to SAUTE – NORMAL (MEDIUM). Add olive oil and, once hot, add onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook until tomato paste is brownish in color, about 1-2 minutes.
    2. Brown the ground beef and sausage. Add ground beef and sausage and season with about ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, breaking up meat with a fork or spoon, until most of the meat lightly-browned with just a little pink remaining.
    3. Deglaze with the red wine. Turn the Instant Pot to SAUTE – HIGH, add the red wine (if using) and scrape any brown bits from the bottom. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until most of the wine has evaporated.
    4. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoning. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning (or dried herbs). Bring to a simmer.
    5. Cover and pressure cook on LOW. Put the lid on the Instant pot, seal, and set the unit to PRESSURE COOK – LOW for 10 minutes.
    6. Quick release the pressure and simmer. Switch the Instant Pot to SAUTE – LOW and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes more, stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency.
    7. Add half-and-half and serve. Stir in heavy cream or half-and-half, or omit for a dairy-free sauce. Serve over cooked pasta or zoodles with plenty of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of parsley, if desired.

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Notes

    • Fire-roasted tomatoes: Any fire-roasted tomatoes will do. Have diced or whole? Use an immersion blender to “crush” them before adding to the pot.
    • Leftover tomato paste: This recipe uses about ½ of a small can of tomato paste. Freeze the leftovers in an ice cube tray for another recipe!
    • Leftover parsley: Make this quick, nutritious and freezer-friendly Kale Parsley Pesto next!

    Ingredient Prep

    • Dice onion, carrots, celery & mince garlic; store in the fridge up to 5 days

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers — Wash celery and carrots; remove sausage from casing; add ingredients to pot
    • Little Kids — Peel carrots; measure Italian seasoning, tomato paste etc.
    • Big Kids — Open cans; dice celery, carrots, and onion; chop parsley

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 1 cup (1/12th of recipe)
    • Calories: 229
    • Sugar: 6 g
    • Sodium: 807 mg
    • Fat: 9 g
    • Saturated Fat: 3 g
    • Carbohydrates: 10 g
    • Fiber: 1 g
    • Protein: 15 g
    • Cholesterol: 39 mg

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    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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    Recipe rating

    • Best Bolognese I ever made, and I make a lot. Don’t forget a pinch of nutmeg; not in the recipe but makes a difference. Freeze 1/2 for later. Made my pasta and added sauce to the pasta vs pasta to the sauce. Add a little pasta water to the pan and plate. Put more sauce on top. Add Parmesan cheese. Yum!

      • So glad you loved it, and thanks for taking the time to leave a review. I’ll have to try it with nutmeg next time. 😋 Yum!

    • My mom found this recipe on Pinterest, made it Without milk because my daughter has an allergy…and it was delicious. I then made it for my husband, and we always set aside a small amount for my daughter. Today I did not have fire roasted anything… So we will see how it goes, but I am sure it will be delicious! So this is my third time making it, and my fourth time enjoying it. I never thought I would make sauce this quickly LOL.

      • I’m so happy it’s become a family favorite! Thanks for taking the time to let me know. 🙂

    • So so good! I got a burn notice but I think I didn’t mix it well enough when I added the crushed tomatoes. I stirred it up and came out great! My toddler absolutely refuses to eat vegetables and he loved it. Definitely in the regular rotation now!

    • This recipe is DELICIOUS. So simple to make and plenty leftover to freeze for a busy night. My family scarfed it down. Thank you for a great recipe. It’s a new family favorite!