Sunday, 10 January 2016

Ragù alla Bolognese in the Pressure Cooker with Instant Pot method

Ragù alla bolognese is a versatile Italian classic, and here it's cooked in the pressure cooker to get a delicious, tender and tasty result in a fraction of the usual time needed...

Probably one of the most well-known and loved Italian dishes, the ragù alla bolognese is possibly one of the first dishes many of us make once we leave home, in the form of spaghetti bolognese - which is actually a dish which originated outside of Italy! The Italians tend to serve their ragù (Italian for 'meat-based sauce') in the form of tagliatelli alla bolognese (with flat pasta), or in lasagne alla bolognese, as this kind of meat sauce does not stick well to spaghetti.

5:2 spaghetti bolognese

Back in the day, I imagine most of us when trying to cook our first masterpieces in the kitchen went through a phase where we probably threw onions, mince and a tin of tomatoes into a pan with a shake of mixed herbs, and came out with a tasty pasta sauce, which then evolved over the years. Once outside of Italy, the ragù seems to change quite drastically depending on which country it has 'emigrated' to. Believe it or not, adding bacon/pancetta and herbs is not so authentic, however it's a taste which so many of us are accustomed to, so I've put them in as options. Here is my version of the traditional recipe, which is based on all the traditional ingredients (plus a couple of optional ingredients to satisfy modern tastebuds) for a very authentic flavour, including milk (which may come as a slight surprise to a few people, and certainly isn't something I included in my early days of cooking, but is very traditional) which has an amazingly tenderizing effect on the meat, so please do include it if you haven't previously - the difference is really noticeable!

Servings and calories

Makes approximately 10 to 12 portions (depending on your portion size). 

If you're counting calories and want to make a 'skinny' version, use beef and pork mince with a 5% fat content, reduced fat bacon medallions cut up into strips, and a total of 1 x 15ml tbsp oil. If split into 12 portions this would give you portions that were approximately 218 calories each - for more information see here for my original skinny version (conventional cooking method) with a breakdown of calories.

  • 500g minced beef
  • 500g minced pork
  • 250g diced pancetta or smoked bacon lardons (small, short strips - cut up streaky bacon if you like)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped (optional)
  • 300ml red wine
  • 1 beef stock cube / bouillon concentrate to make up 450ml (but don't add 450ml water)
  • 200ml water
  • 250 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree (double concentrate)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (optional) 
  • 500ml passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp cornflour (USA cornstarch) (optional, see method)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Firstly, the onions, carrots, and celery need chopping into a relatively fine dice. I prefer to do this the quick way, chopping into large chunks, and quickly pulsing in a food processor (Thermomix - I usually chop veggies for 2 seconds on Speed 5 and repeat if necessary until they're the texture you prefer).

Browning the mince for maximum flavour
2. Select 'Saute' (or heat your pressure cooker on the hob) and allow it to heat right up, then add a splash of oil, and trying to avoid breaking up your mince, brown both sides of it well (photo to right), by leaving it to sizzle, then flipping it over once as if it's an enormous burger, then set it aside (it will still be raw in the middle). Do this in two or more batches if you find it easier.

3. Add the pancetta / bacon to the pan, and cook until just starting to brown a little, then add the onions and continue to cook for a couple of minutes, whilst scraping any tasty brown bits up from the bottom of the pan with your spoon, until the onions are just starting to soften.

4. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaves to the pan, and cook for a few more minutes, then add the browned minced meat back to the pan and break it up whilst continuing to saute everything together for a further 5 minutes.

5. Add the wine, and cook out for 8 minutes, then add everything else except the cornflour, salt and pepper, lock the lid on and seal the vent and set to cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. 

6. Once the cooking time is up, allow natural pressure release for 15 minutes, then release the remaining steam (there is a bit, so be careful) and carefully remove the lid once the pressure is all gone. 

7. Select 'Saute' and simmer the ragù until reduced to your liking, stirring occasionally (for me this is about ten minutes), then if desired add a tsp cornflour mixed into a thin paste with some cold water, to stop any watery tomato juices leaching out when you serve up. Season to your taste with salt and pepper.

At this point, your ragu is now ready, and you can serve it as a Bolognese sauce with pasta (e.g. tagliatelle) topped with parmesan, or go lo-carb with ‘courgetti’ if you've made the skinny version; or use it to layer up a lasagne; or cool, portion it up, and chill or freeze (it will keep in the fridge for a good 2 or 3 days, and last in the freezer for at least 3 months - in this house, many more!). Enjoy, and please leave me a comment below if you liked this recipe!

5:2 spaghetti bolognese


  1. Really nice and easy to make!! This is my first time making bolognese sauce in the instant pot and it will be now one of our family regular recipes!!! Thanks. Beatriz

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it Beatriz - thank you for leaving me such a lovely comment :)

  2. We have just made this, it tastes amazing, but it needed to saute for 40 mins, to get it to the right consistancy. Did you mean to put, 450mls of stock, 300mls red wine, 250mls of milk and 200mls of water?

    1. Hi Penny, yes, this is correct! I have tried it with less liquid, but had to add the extra water as otherwise the sugars in the tomato (passata) causes the Instant Pot to overheat. Also, minced beef and pork will differ in quality and how much liquid they release, which could increase the simmering time afterwards.

      If you like your ragu particularly reduced, you could always up the saute function to high instead of medium to do it in less time, but make sure you keep stirring it so that it doesn't stick!

      Glad you enjoyed the end result despite your longer simmering time!

    2. Ok, thats great, thank you for that. We had it with spaghetti tonight, tomorrow, i'll make it in to a chilli, maybe lasagne Wed ;-)! Will be making this again, thank you!

    3. You know, I just saw your comment again, and realised that you'd used 450ml of stock rather than the stock cube WITHOUT the 450ml of water as the recipe says, plus the 200ml of water... ahhh, yes, that would have taken a while longer to reduce! You make up the beef stock with only 200ml water to one stock cube, just to clarify (not 540 total water).

  3. Thank you I can make my bolagnase now in instant pot, ingredients much same I don't use wine is stock or water okay, do u add apple cider vinegar or balsamic, I feel squeeze lemon brings sweetness of fresh tomato or pasta out slightly confused why leave mice like big burger, I put full buld garlic in and for kids sneak a couchete in from time to time, can I cook longer, my nonna use leave her bolagnase on from.8 am till 6-7 pm simmering n reducing, could u clarify if this will give same time with pressure cooker instant pot

  4. Hi, if you don't want to use wine, then of course stock or water is fine, just season to taste at the end of cooking. I brown the mince on both sides first, to get the best flavour (maillard reaction), as if you break it up too quickly it doesn't brown much, but just ends up grey all over, and less flavour.

    If you want to cook it all day, you need to use the slow cooker function, not pressure cooker (this would at the very least badly burn your pan, and could be dangerous), and you may need to adjust the amount of liquid you use, so it does not dry out.

  5. Hi, I am so happy to finally find a recipe that also uses milk in it! I just have a question. Before getting an instant pot I always used the recipe here:

    My question is regarding the ratios of the different liquids. Compared to your recipe, the one I use calls for much more of the milk and wine rather than using stock. Could you have a guess as how this would change the flavour? I'd rather not waste all these ingredients before knowing how this change will affect the dish, since we are rather particular about our bolognese ;) And given that the total amount of liquid appears more or less the same, do you think I can get away with sticking to my own ratios and then proceeding with your cooking method for the instant pot? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Angelique, feel free to change the ratios of liquids if you wish - I tend to think of many savoury recipes as 'guidelines' to be tweaked to your liking. The main risk you would be taking is that if the milk is greatly increased, the possibility of it burning on the bottom. Less stock will probably just mean adjusting the seasoning at the end.

      Good luck!


Related Recipes

If you liked this recipe, you may also like these...