Do you love a good bolognese?  

There’s *nothing* like the homemade stuff.  So silky and salty and slightly sweet, clinging to stands of al dente pasta...damn, I can almost taste it right now.

Anyway, the reward is worth the 2+ hours, but with littles you may not have the time, desire or sanity to babysit a pot of bubbling sauce for that long.

So I pulled out my tome of Italian cooking, Il Cucchiaio d’Argento (The Silver Spoon) to see if I could craft a method for an Instant Pot, and still be I-can’t-stop-eating-this delicious.

What I came up only requires your focus for about 20 minutes.  The Instant Pot pretty much does the rest in a controlled and non-open flame/hot stove way, freeing you to do other stuff - or even leave the house.

Also: this recipe makes enough for about 16 servings/4 meals - so you can freeze the rest and save it for hectic/can't-make-one-more-decision evenings.

(that is, if you prepare your pasta the Italian way vs. the American way of piling copious amounts of sauce onto cooked noodles.  Trust me, the Italian way is so good you'll never want to go back.  Info after sauce recipe).


1 pound ground beef

2 carrots

2 celery sticks

2 cloves garlic

1 large onion (or two small onions)

4 tbs butter

4 tbs olive oil

2 tbs tomato paste

2 c water, or 1 c white wine + 1 c water

1 tbs beef reduction

Optional: 2-3 sage leaves, minced

Eliminations, Substitutions + Other Stuff:

Meat: you can replace some of the beef with ground pork, or sweet Italian pork sausage with the casings removed.

Butter/OliveOil: you can reduce the amount if you want.  It won’t be quite as silky, but it will still be good.

White Wine: I’ve made this recipe with white wine and without.  It’s still very, very, good without the wine, so don’t worry if you don’t have any on hand (that you want to dump into a sauce, anyway).

Beef reduction: If you don’t have this it’s fine.  Just let the beef brown a teensy bit more to add depth of flavor.

A note on salt: I never measure out my salt, and get all theatrical and Food Network-y by throwing it in from a little bowl I always keep by my cooktop.  Err on the side of caution when I say “pinch of salt.”  You can always add more at the end.

Bolognese is good on: tagliatelle, pappardelle, linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti - oh, who am I kidding...Bolognese is good on #allthepasta

Makes enough sauce for around 4 pasta dishes of 4 servings each, if you prepare your pasta the Italian way (more on that below).  I put the extra into 1 cup plastic containers and freeze for later use.

Some ideas for side dishes: simple vegetable salad w/citrus or mustard vinaigrette; roasted broccoli with a squeeze of lemon; kale, apple and walnut salad

Tips on chopping onions + peeling garlic: right here

For the sauce:

  1. Small dice your onion, carrot and celery. Place onion in one bowl; carrot and celery in another.

  2. Chop garlic; place in small bowl.

  3. Put your Instant Pot on the medium sauté setting.  Heat butter and oil.

  4. Add onions, and season with a small pinch of salt.  Cook onions until they’re translucent, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add carrots and celery.  Season with a bit more salt, and pepper, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until they’re soft and starting to brown.

  6. Add garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant.

  7. Switch the Instant Pot to the high sauté setting, and add the ground beef.  Season with a pinch of salt and more pepper.

  8. Cook the beef on the high setting for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring frequently.

  9. When the beef starts to brown, stir in tomato paste and beef reduction.

  10. Pour in water (and wine, if using), and stir.  Taste sauce to see if it needs additional salt and adjust if needed.

  11. Put the lid on the Instant Pot and switch to pressure cook on high for 30 minutes, making sure the “Keep Warm” setting is also on.  When it’s done pressure cooking, let it sit for 10 minutes (or indefinitely, if you can’t get to it right away) before releasing the pressure.  Some people call this a natural release, but that sounds like something that a douche canoe would request during a massage, IMO.

  12. Release the pressure, and take off the lid.

  13. The sauce will still be soupy.  Reduce it by putting the Instant Pot on sauté (medium) for about 30 minutes.  After it’s cooked for about 10 minutes, I start the pasta.

Cooking the pasta and finishing the dish:

  1. Bring a pot of generously salted water to boil.

  2. Add ¾ lb of pasta, and cook it one minute LESS than the directions on the box.

  3. At the end of the cooking time, scoop out ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and set it aside.  Drain the pasta and return it to the cooking pot.

  4. Ladle about 1 cup of the bolognese onto the pasta, and pour the reserved cooking water into the pot.  Stir to combine. (You could also add 2 tbs of creme freche, sour cream, or heavy cream at this point if you want - totally optional)

  5. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and clinging to the pasta.

  6. Serve immediately and top with parmigiano reggiano.

If you’re using rice pasta: rice throws off way more starch than wheat - so substitute ¼ c of hot tap water for the reserved cooking water in step 4.  Add more water if needed.

If you’re using zucchini noodles: this sauce trick won’t work quite as well.  You could either just put the bolognese on the fully cooked noodles, or you could follow the directions above and add ½ tsp of tapioca powder or corn starch to the reserved cooking water in step four to get the sauce to thicken up a bit.


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