Rich and flavorful bolognese sauce made for quick dinners in an instant pot. Get that all-day cooked comfort-food flavor on a busy weeknight. Or if you have more time, slow-cook the sauce on the stove. In this hearty recipe, classic bolognese gets a twist with a low-fat variation with a combination of ground turkey and ground beef.
This post is sponsored by Andronico's Community Markets, a year-long partner of Snixy Kitchen, but the opinions are all my own.
This hearty bolognese sauce is love in a spoonful.
Seven years ago, we spent a scary week in the hospital with our newborn, and our friends graciously rotated meal drop-offs. On Valentine's Day, Stacey and Cavan showed up with homemade bolognese. Ever since, I've associated pasta bolognese with Valentine's Day. I'd argue there's no better dish to offer warmth, comfort, and love.
When we got married, we asked our friends and family to share a favorite family recipe on the RSVP card. Stacey and Cavan gave us the recipe for that very same Valentine's Day bolognese.
As I said, bolognese truly represents love in my book.
Here's my go-to healthy Instant Pot bolognese recipe, which isn't that far off from the one Stacey jotted down for us. Adapted from my weeknight beef ragu, this ragu bolognese is a monthly staple in our house.
And, following in Stacey's footsteps, it's my go-to dish when I'm delivering dinner to a friend who needs an extra hug.
What is Bolognese Sauce?
Bolognese is a thick and rich meat-based sauce, slow-cooked and stewed with soffrito (minced onions, celery, carrots, and in some cases, garlic) and tomatoes. Milk or cream is often added to round out the flavors, creating a creamy mouthfeel. Traditional bolognese sauce is a regionally-specific type of ragu (called Ragù alla bolognese) that originates from Bologna, Italy.
With the stewed meats and slow cooking process, bolognese is so much more than just ground beef cooked in marinara. Through the long cooking process, the sauce thickens, tenderizes, and becomes creamy.
What kind of meat is in bolognese?
Classic bolognese is made of ground beef, ground pork, and ground pancetta. You can find classic bolognese with just ground beef and pork, or all ground beef, or even some with veal.
When I make bolognese as a healthy weeknight dinner for my family, I use half ground beef and half ground turkey, creating a bolognese that's leaner and lower in fat. The key is in the combo of ground beef and ground turkey; if you use only ground turkey, the sauce won't be nearly as rich or flavorful.
If a leaner sauce is not your goal or you're cooking for a special occasion, sub out the ground turkey for ground pork for a more classic flavor profile. Either way, you won't be disappointed.
Andronico's: Ingredients in Bolognese
Everything you need for this pasta bolognese comes from my local Bay Area Andronico's Community Market. They carry everything from high-quality organic produce and meats to canned San Marzano crushed tomatoes. Here's a list of all the recipes I've made in partnership with Andronico's this past year.
For this healthy weeknight Instant Pot bolognese, you'll need:
- Unsalted butter (or sub olive oil)
- Yellow onion
- Garlic cloves
- Ground beef (85/15)
- Ground turkey (or sub ground pork)
- Salt and pepper
- Tomato paste and San Marzano crushed tomatoes: For an even quicker weeknight bolognese, sub out the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes for 28-ounce jar of high-quality marinara (I often use a jar of Rao's Marinara because it's what I always have on hand)
- Dry white wine (or sub red wine)
- 2 bay leaves
- Whole milk or cream (see below for dairy-free version): The milk cuts the acidity and balances the flavor
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese: A bit of parmesan folded in adds another dimension of flavor and helps bring the sauce together.
For a dairy-free version, replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil, and skip the milk and parmesan. It will still be very delicious!
How to make Bolognese Sauce in an Instant Pot
Making bolognese in the Instant Pot couldn't be any easier.
- Ensure your soffrito (onion, carrots, and celery) are finely minced. You can do this by hand or in a food processor.
- Use the sear function on the Instant Pot to cook the finely minced soffrito in melted butter.
- Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients then cover and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes.
- Serve over your favorite pasta or layer it up in lasagna!
If you've got time and want to make bolognese the long slow-cook way. Follow the same steps for cooking the soffrito and meat, but in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the parmesan), and cover, cracking the lid slightly for venting. Cook, stirring occasionally over medium-low heat for 1.5-2 hours. If your sauce thickens too much, add ¼ cup of vegetable or chicken broth at a time.
How to Serve Bolognese
Layer it in lasagna or dollop it over your favorite pasta. Traditionally, bolognese is served with a long flat noodle such as tagliatelle, but I also love the way it envelopes pasta with nooks and crannies like fusilli or gets trapped inside a wide tube pasta like rigatoni.
Andronico's carries a wide variety of gluten-free pasta, such as the Banza rigatoni featured here. Another favorite from Andronico's is the Bionaturae penne rigate.
You can make this bolognese up to a week in advance. In fact, bolognese gets even better the next day as the flavors continue to meld and get even deeper and more complex.
I must admit, I don't really love leftovers. Unless it's bolognese. Leftovers that just continue to get more delicious? Sign me up.
This recipe serves a crowd, so we usually eat half, then freeze half for later.
Store leftover bolognese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. If you're only going to eat some of it in a night, cook only the amount of pasta you need, storing the sauce without pasta.
For longer storage, let the sauce cool then store it in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 4 months. Begin to defrost in a shallow bowl of warm water to loosen the sauce from the container. Place the frozen sauce in a large saucepan over low heat, covered to defrost completely and warm.
Homemade Gluten-Free Pasta for Serving
- Gluten-Free Almond Flour Pasta
- Whole Grain Gluten-Free Pasta
- Gluten-Free Chickpea Pasta
- Gluten-Free Chestnut Flour Pasta
Love this recipe? Try my Weeknight Instant Pot Beef Ragu made with a chuck roast next!
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter (see note for dairy-free)
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
- 2 celery stalks, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1lb ground beef (85/15)
- 1lb ground turkey (or sub ground pork)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 5 tablespoons (3 oz) tomato paste (see note)
- 28oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes (see note)
- ½ cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup whole milk or cream
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1.5lbs cooked pasta (either a wide noodle like tagliatelle, or a tube pasta like rigatoni)
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil, julienned
- Turn your pressure cooker or Instant Pot to "sauté" setting and adjust the temperature to "more." Once hot, melt butter then add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, occasionally stirring, until the veggies soften and sweat, about 7-8 minutes. Add the ground meat, salt, and pepper. Cook, using a wooden spoon while it cooks to break up and combine the meats, until no longer pink, about 7-8 minutes. For the stove-top version, follow the steps above, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the tomato paste, stirring to combine. Then add the crushed tomatoes, wine, bay leaves, and milk.
- Give it a good stir, then place the lid on the pressure cooker and set the pressure release valve to the steaming position. Set the pressure to "high" pressure for 25 minutes. (For the stove-top version, place the lid on your pan, slightly open for venting, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, occasionally stirring, for 1.5-2 hours. If your sauce thickens too much, add ¼ cup of vegetable or chicken broth at a time.)
- With a kitchen towel to avoid splatter, carefully move the pressure release valve to the venting position for a manual pressure release. Once the float valve has gone down, open the lid. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
- Spoon over cooked pasta and serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Tomato paste and crushed tomatoes: For an even quicker weeknight pasta, sub out the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes for 28-ounce jar of high-quality marinara (I often use a jar of Rao's Marinara because it's what I always have on hand)
Dairy-free: For a dairy-free version, replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil, and skip the milk and parmesan. It will still be very delicious!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 470Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 412mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 32g
This nutritional information has been automatically calculated, and as such, may be incomplete or inaccurate. Please reference the specific ingredients you use for the most accurate nutritional information.