This Instant Pot Bolognese is a quick twist on a slow cooked classic. Only 15 minutes of prep for this flavorful meat sauce!
What is bolognese?
Bolognese is a slow cooked tomato-based sauce made with ground meat and Italian seasonings. It’s similar to a meat sauce, but meat sauce tends to be less thick and more saucy.
Bacon is our secret ingredient to today’s sauce recipe: it provides a subtle smoky flavor and crispy, yet chewy texture.
- Bacon – cooked until crispy. For the best results, use high quality thick-cut bacon. The texture and flavor is much nicer and it’s easier to work with — it doesn’t stick to the pan as much as “regular” cut. Bacon adds a great, smoky flavor and crispy texture, but if you’d like, replace the bacon with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
- Ground Beef and Italian Sausage – the classic combination of meat for meat sauces, meatballs, and bolognese recipes! Feel free to use one or the other, but we love this combination of flavors. Use any variety of ground beef and sweet, mild, or hot sausage may be used depending on your heat preference.
- Onion, Carrots, and Celery – aka a “mirepoix”. This trio of vegetables is a very common base for sauce recipes like a bolognese which provides flavor, texture, and nutrients. If you’re short on time, some grocery stores will carry chopped mirepoix in the produce section — you’ll need about 2 cup(s) for this recipe.
- Garlic – provides a subtle, nutty flavor and *bonus* is loaded with good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Buy jarred minced garlic to save on prep time.
- Red Wine – used to deglaze the bottom of the Instant Pot after cooking the meat. The wine helps lift any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan and also adds a rich flavor to the sauce. Use any red wine you have on hand. If you’d like to keep this free from alcohol, use grape juice or additional beef broth.
- Beef Broth – provides a rich, flavorful base for our soup. Vegetable broth or chicken broth may be substituted if that’s all you have on hand. Water will work in a pinch, but won’t give a rich, depth of flavor and will likely require more seasonings.
- Tomatoes – 1 (28 oz) can peeled and crushed tomatoes is called for in the original recipe. Peeled and crushed gives the best texture, but if only whole peeled tomatoes are available, simply chop each tomato into quarters, then use a spoon or potato masher to crush them.
- Tomato Sauce – a cooked purée of unseasoned tomatoes which helps thicken the sauce slightly while also provides a rich tomato flavor and slight acidity. You’re looking for canned tomato sauce NOT pasta sauce.
- Tomato Paste – provides a very concentrated tomato flavor. It also has adds a bright acidity and rich, umami flavor.
- Spices: Basil, Italian Seasoning, Salt, and Pepper – this simple seasoning blend adds all the classic bolognese flavors. Dried seasonings are used in the recipe, but if you’d like to use fresh basil, feel free to stir in some chopped basil after the cook time.
- Balsamic Vinegar – adds a bright tangy flavor with a touch of sweetness. Be sure to stir it in after cook time for the most pronounced flavor.
How to make
Bolognese is normally simmered for a long time on the stove, but the Instant Pot makes this much quicker!
- Cook bacon until crispy in a 6 quart Instant Pot, then remove, and set aside.
- Add in beef, sausage, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, breaking up the meat as you go, until the beef is no longer pink, then drain any excess grease.
- Deglaze the Instant Pot with the red wine, stir in the beef broth, place the beef mixture back into the Instant Pot, then pour the tomatoes, sauce, paste, and seasoning on top.
- Cover and lock the lid, cook on HIGH pressure for 10 minutes, then allow the Instant Pot to naturally release for 10 minutes before flipping the pressure valve to VENTING.
- Stir in the crumbled bacon and balsamic, taste and re-season, if necessary, then serve over pasta and enjoy!
Can you put raw meat in the instant pot?
Yes! Add raw ground beef and raw Italian sausage to the hot Instant Pot and sauté, breaking up the meat as you go, until the beef is no longer pink.
Can you put sauce in an instant pot?
Yes. Tomato sauce is used in this recipe. It’s important, however, to add the sauce in after the beef mixture has been added back into the Instant Pot. It’s also important to NOT stir it in, simply pour it on top and leave it. This helps to avoid a BURN notice. Why? Because tomato sauce is thick and can get stuck to the bottom of the hot Instant Pot and burn.
How to thicken instant pot bolognese
If made as directed, this bolognese should come out thick and delicious. If it’s too thin for your taste, you have a few options:
- Simmer. After the IP pressure has been released, hit SAUTE and simmer the sauce until thickened.
- Strain. If it’s still not thick enough, simply strain some of the excess liquid.
- Make a slurry. As a last resort, whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water, stir into the sauce, and simmer until thickened to your liking.
What to serve with instant pot bolognese
Bolognese is best mixed with pasta and served with bread, a salad, and maybe a few vegetables.
How to store
Store cooled leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen, then microwave or heat on the stovetop before serving over pasta.
Instant Pot Bolognese
Equipment for this recipe
- 8 slices thick-cut bacon roughly chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 large carrots diced
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup red wine can replace with grape juice
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 1 (28 oz) can peeled and crushed tomatoes
- 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste (I did about 2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Cooked pasta for serving
- Hit SAUTE on a 6 quart Instant Pot, then once it reads HOT, add in bacon and cook until crispy.
- Remove, and set aside, leaving the grease in the Instant Pot.
- Add in beef, sausage, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, breaking up the meat as you go, until the beef is no longer pink.
- Hit CANCEL on the Instant Pot, remove the beef mixture, and drain any excess grease.
- Deglaze the Instant Pot with the red wine scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom, then stir in the beef broth.
- Place the beef mixture back into the Instant Pot (don't stir), then pour the tomatoes, sauce, paste, and seasoning on top - DO NOT MIX - this helps avoid a BURN reading.
- Cover and lock the lid - make sure the pressure valve is pointed toward SEALING.
- Cook on HIGH pressure for 10 minutes.
- Allow the Instant Pot to naturally release for 10 minutes before flipping the pressure valve to VENTING.
- Stir in the crumbled bacon and balsamic, then taste and re-season, if necessary.
- Serve over pasta and enjoy!
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*Note: Nutrition information is estimated and varies based on products used.