Easy Bolognese Sauce – Instant Pot & Stove

November 7, 2019 (Updated: November 9, 2019) By Aneesha |

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Chunky, meaty, full of vegetables, this delicious and slightly non-traditional Bolognese sauce elevates an everyday pasta dinner to a ‘feast’. Ground meat, carrots, celery, onions and tomato get transformed in to a flavorful ‘alcohol-free’ sauce in this easy pressure cooker or stovetop recipe.

Bolognese sauce stored in a jar, ready for freezing

Spaghetti Bolognese is my favorite dish to order at any Italian restaurant. And now, it’s my kids’s favorite too. Whenever we try out a new Italian restaurant in town, we order their Bolognese and see if it lives up to ‘our’ standards 🙂 That’s how we judge it.

But, did you know that Spaghetti is not the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese? The first time I visited Florence, Italy, some 20 years ago, I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese at a restaurant near Galleria dell’ Accademia . The server gave me a typical “you must be a tourist” look.

Then he explained that in Italy, tagliatelle or a flat noodle pasta is traditionally served with Bolognese Ragu. An authentic Italian restaurant in Europe will rarely have Spaghetti Bolognese on their menu.

Easy Alcohol-Free Bolognese Sauce with Two Non-Traditional Ingredients

Most traditional Bolognese recipes have one thing in common, they are simmered for hours on low heat. But, you know me, I always try to find ways to get that low and slow flavor, without spending half a day in the kitchen 🙂

What is Bolognese Sauce Made Of

An authentic bolognese sauce is made with olive oil, mirepoix, garlic, tomato sauce, ground beef, wine, milk, herbs and spices.

In my version, I replace wine with vinegar to make this an alcohol-free sauce. I also use a very unique ingredient, Dark Soy sauce, which adds an intense taste and color as if it had been simmering away for long.

Yup! I add Soy Sauce to this sauce. But before you judge me, try it, and you may never make Bolognese without it again. Soy sauce adds an ‘umami‘ element, which adds to the depth of flavor.

Why add Balsamic Vinegar? I started making Bolognese at home for my kids when they were toddlers. So, I wanted to skip the wine and make an alcohol-free pasta sauce.

I experimented a little and found balsamic vinegar to be a close match. It adds the perfect amount of acidity to the sauce, that you would otherwise get from wine.

I also replace the milk in the end with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. It’s a personal preference as I feel it adds more flavor to the sauce than milk., but you can certainly add 1/4 cup of milk towards the end and simmer for a few minutes.

Chunky bolognese sauce served in a grey bowl, with basil on the side

Bolognese Sauce Ingredients

It takes simple fresh ingredients to make this beautiful sauce. All these ingredients are easily available in most grocery stores. Here what you need:

  • Ground Meat: I like to alternate between ground beef and ground turkey. The turkey sauce is lower calorie alternative to the beef version.
  • Vegetables: I like to build a solid flavor foundation for Bolognese with a traditional mirepoix, which is finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery.
  • Crushed Tomato & Paste: The combination of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste creates its iconic rich taste. I wouldn’t recommend skipping either.
  • Spices : I use usual suspects like salt, black pepper, basil, oregano and paprika to flavor this sauce.
  • Dark Soy Sauce & Balsamic Vinegar: Dark Soy sauce provides a rich intense saltiness and Balsamic vinegar provides acidity and flavor. That also makes this sauce an alcohol-free bolognese recipe.
Chunky meaty Bolognese sauce simmered in an Instant Pot

What Kind of Meat do You Use in Bolognese Sauce

Traditionally, Bolognese is made with ground beef. As an alternative to red meat, I also make this sauce with ground turkey sometimes.

What is the difference between meat sauce and Bolognese

Bolognese is a meat based sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy, giving its name. The biggest difference between the two is that Bolognese has just a little bit of tomato for flavor, while the rest is meat. Wine is also added to a traditional Bolognese recipe for its iconic taste and deep color.

Is Ragu the Same as Bolognese

Ragu is a meat based tomato sauce with a small amount of tomato sauce added to it. Bolognese sauce is a variation, and perhaps the most popular version of Ragu.

How to Make Bolognese Sauce in an Instant Pot or Stove

Here are step by step instructions and pictures for making this delicious dish in an Instant Pot. This recipe can be made in any comparable electric pressure cooker, like Mealthy Multipot.

Prep

Finely chop carrots, celery, onion and garlic. I use a mini food processor for this. I cut all veggies in 1 inch chunks and then pulse them individually, pressing 10-14 times, till I get the desired size.

Sauce – Instant Pot Method

  • Turn on Saute mode on high. When it displays ‘hot’, add olive oil, chopped carrots, onion and celery, and saute for 3 mins.
  • Add chopped garlic and ground meat. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat in the pan. Continue to saute for another 5 mins.
  • Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, salt, spices, crushed tomato, tomato paste and water. Give it a good stir and turn off saute mode. Use the water to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
  • Close lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes at ‘Pressure Cook’ or ‘Manual’ setting (sealing mode).
  • Wait for pressure to release naturally for at least 5 minutes. If not in a rush, let it release naturally. Open lid after the pin drops.
  • Stir in grated parmesan cheese and hand torn basil to finish this delicious sauce. Alternatively, add 1/4 cup milk and simmer for a few minutes. Enjoy with your favorite pasta or zucchini noodles!
Sautéing veggies, meat in Instant Pot for bolognese sauce

Sauce – Stove-top Method

  • Heat a heavy bottom skillet or wide pan on medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add olive oil, chopped carrots, onion and celery, and saute for 3 mins.
  • Add chopped garlic and ground meat. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat in the pan. Continue to saute for another 5 mins.
  • Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, salt, spices, crushed tomato, tomato paste and water (add 1 cup for this quantity) . Give it a good stir and wait for it to simmer.
  • Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium setting and cook for 15 minutes, stirring 2-3 times in between. If sauce looks dry in the middle, add a little water at a time.
  • Stir in grated parmesan cheese and hand torn basil to finish this delicious sauce. Alternatively, add 1/4 cup milk and simmer for a few minutes. Enjoy with your favorite pasta or zucchini noodles!
Chunky meaty bolognese sauce in a wooden spoon

Can You Freeze Bolognese Sauce

This bolognese sauce is very freezer friendly and a must-have for meal preps. To freeze it, cool down the sauce completely, then store it in any air-tight mason jar or container, and freeze it.

It stays good for 3-4 weeks. To re-heat, if I have the time, I thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Or, just thaw it in the microwave using the ‘frozen vegetable’ setting.

How to Serve Bolognese

Traditionally, Bolognese is served with a flat noodle pasta, but I serve it whatever pasta I have in my pantry, like, Spaghetti, Fettuccine, Pappardelle, Fusilli etc.

Bolognese sauce served over pasta noodles

Low Carb Meal with Bolognese

For a low-carb meal, enjoy this chunky sauce over a bowl of steamed or sautéed zucchini noodles. I find them in the fresh produce section at Trader Joe’s, and just follow package directions for cooking them.

Bolognese Sauce served over zucchini noodles

Tips for this quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce

  • I add two untraditional ingredients, Dark Soy Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar. These two add a ton of flavor and depth to this sauce and keep it alcohol-free.
  • The combination of crushed tomato and tomato paste gives this sauce body and rich taste.  I wouldn’t recommend skipping either.
  • To finish this sauce, I add grated parmesan cheese instead of milk. I feel it adds more flavor to the sauce than milk. But, you can always add 1/4 cup milk instead and simmer the sauce for a few minutes.
  • To freeze this sauce, cool down the sauce completely, then store it in any air-tight mason jar or container, and freeze it.It stays good for 3-4 weeks.
  • To re-heat, if I have the time, I thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Or, just thaw it in the microwave using the ‘frozen vegetable’ setting.
  • For a low-carb meal, enjoy this chunky sauce over a bowl of steamed or sautéed zucchini noodles.

More Easy Sauces from My Kitchen

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Bolognese sauce stored in a jar, ready for freezing

Easy Bolognese Sauce- Instant Pot & Stove

Chunky, meaty, full of vegetables, this delicious and slightly non-traditional Bolognese sauce elevates an everyday pasta dinner to a ‘feast’. Ground meat, carrots, celery, onions and tomato get transformed in to a flavorful ‘alcohol-free’ sauce in this easy pressure cooker or stovetop recipe.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 249kcal
Author: Aneesha

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots finely chopped or pulsed (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup celery finely chopped or pulsed (about 2 ribs)
  • 1 cup onion finely chopped or pulsed (1 medium)
  • 4 cloves garlic (or 4 tsp)
  • 1 lb ground meat (beef/turkey)

Spices and Seasoning

Sauce

Add to Finish the sauce

  • 4 tbsp parmesan cheese grated, (alternatively, add 1/4 cup milk and simmer))
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves hand-torn or chopped

Equipment

Instructions

Prep

  • Finely chop carrots, celery, onion and garlic. I use a mini food processor for this. I cut all veggies in 1 inch chunks and then pulse them individually, pressing 10-14 times, till I get the desired size.

Instant Pot Method

  • Turn on Saute mode on high. When it displays 'hot', add the chopped carrots, onion, celery and saute for 3 mins.
  • Add chopped garlic and ground meat. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat in the pan. Continue to saute for another 5 mins.
  • Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, salt, spices, crushed tomato, tomato paste and water. Give it a good stir and turn off saute mode. Use the water to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
  • Close lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes at 'Pressure Cook' or 'Manual' setting (sealing mode).
  • Wait for pressure to release naturally for at least 5 minutes. If not in a rush, let it release naturally. Open lid after the pin drops.
  • Stir in grated parmesan cheese and hand torn basil to finish this delicious sauce. Alternatively, add 1/4 cup milk and simmer for a few minutes. Enjoy with your favorite pasta or zucchini noodles!

Stove-top Method

  • Heat a heavy bottom skillet or wide pan on medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add olive oil, chopped carrots, onion and celery, and saute for 3 mins.
  • Add chopped garlic and ground meat. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat in the pan. Continue to saute for another 5 mins.
  • Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, salt, spices, crushed tomato, tomato paste and water (add 1 cup for this quantity) . Give it a good stir and wait for it to simmer.
  • Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium setting and cook for 15 minutes, stirring 2-3 times in between. If sauce looks dry in the middle, add a little water at a time.
  • Stir in grated parmesan cheese and hand torn basil to finish this delicious sauce. Alternatively, add 1/4 cup milk and simmer for a few minutes. Enjoy with your favorite pasta or zucchini noodles!

Video

Notes

  • The total time mentioned includes pressure cooking time.  The stove-top version may be done in 30 minutes.
  • This recipe has been tried and tested in a 6qt, 3qt Instant Pot and Mealthy Multipot, and on the stove using a skillet. 
  • Adjust the water quantity to 1 cup or more if using an 8qt size cooker. You may have to turn on saute to reduce the sauce after pressure cooking. 

Tips for a quick and Easy Bolognese Sauce:

  • I add two untraditional ingredients, Dark Soy Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar. These two add a ton of flavor and depth to this sauce and keep it alcohol-free.
  • The combination of crushed tomato and tomato paste gives this sauce body and rich taste.  I wouldn’t recommend skipping either.
  • To finish this sauce, I add grated parmesan cheese instead of milk. I feel it adds more flavor to the sauce than milk. But, you can always add 1/4 cup milk instead and simmer the sauce for a few minutes.
  • To freeze this sauce, cool down the sauce completely, then store it in any air-tight mason jar or container, and freeze it.It stays good for 3-4 weeks.
  • To re-heat, if I have the time, I thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Or, just thaw it in the microwave using the ‘frozen vegetable’ setting.
  • For a low-carb meal, enjoy this chunky sauce over a bowl of steamed or sautéed zucchini noodles.
If you are new to the Instant Pot, please read my FAQ on Instant Pot Terminology and Accessories to learn more.
The nutrition facts below are my estimates and do not include pasta.  If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.

Nutrition

Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 728mg | Potassium: 623mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4152IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Bolognese Recipe, Bolognese Sauce, Instant Pot Bolognese
Did you try this recipe?Mention @SpiceCravings or tag #spicecravings!

HEY! NICE TO MEET YOU!

Aneesha holding a glass of white wine Hi, I'm Aneesha, a foodie by birth and the mind, body and soul behind Spice Cravings. Here I share quick, easy & healthy Indian & global recipes that are low in effort and big on taste! A recipe doesn't make it on the blog unless it is tested multiple times and gets a thumbs-up from my taster-in-chief, my husband, and my teen-chefs, my twin girls!

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