One Pot Bolognese with Fennel Seed

Pasta with a Bolognese sauce is a classic recipe, but in this One Pot Penne Bolognese version the fennel seed adds a subtle twist.

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What is Bolognese? 

A bolognese sauce is an age-old Italian pasta sauce which originated in Bologna and was very much meat-based. The original sauce is quite different from the sauces you see called bolognese these days, including this recipe for One Pot Penne Bolognese. Modern versions of bolognese sauce include a lot more tomato than was originally used in the traditional sauce, but that is what we’ve come to expect and love. 

A packet of meatloaf mix, some dried penne, parsley and fennel seed on a wooden table.

One Pot Pasta Bolognese

Traditionally, a bolognese sauce is made on the stovetop by simmering it for hours, but this recipe changes breaks from that tradition and makes it faster and with the pasta included right in the pot. Below you’ll find three different ways to make this meal. To make it a true one-pot dinner, use the stovetop or pressure cooker versions. In these versions the pasta cooks right in the pot along with the sauce.

If you prefer to stick with tradition, however, you can make just the sauce in your slow cooker and serve it over cooked noodles (cooked on the side). I often make a bolognese in the traditional way on the stovetop. That way, I can more easily freeze any extra sauce and serve it over cooked pasta another day. Here’s a video on how you can do that. 

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A pot of one pot bolognese with a package of meatloaf mix, some dried penne, some parsley, fennel seed and Parmesan cheese on a wooden table.

What Vegetables Can You Add to Bolognese?

To add a little green vegetable to this one pot dish, you could add spinach or arugula to the sauce just before serving, or toss in a few broccoli florets near the end of the cooking time – just long enough for the broccoli cook though and become tender. 

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One Pot Penne Bolognese with Fennel Seed - Stovetop Version

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 3 h
  • Total Time: 3 h 10 m
  • Servings:
    6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 carrots finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground veal or turkey
  • teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup white wine or red wine if you prefer
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 12 ounces dried penne pasta about 4 cups
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion, carrots and celery until the vegetables start to soften – about 6 minutes. Stir in the fennel seeds and fresh thyme and cook for another minute or so. Add the meats to the Dutch oven and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Break the chunks up with a wooden spoon as you brown the meat until there is no pink left visible.
  3. Pour in the milk and stir, scraping the bottom of the Dutch oven to incorporate any bits of flavor. Increase the heat a little and simmer until the milk has almost entirely disappeared – about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and continue to simmer until it too has almost disappeared – another 10 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Simmer (with a lid askew) for at least 2 hours.
  5. Thirty minutes before you are ready to serve, add the beef stock and the penne and return the mixture to a full simmer. Continue to simmer for another 25 minutes.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan cheese at the table.

One Pot Penne Bolognese with Fennel Seed - Pressure Cooker Version

  • Prep Time: 20 m
  • Cook Time: 7 m
  • Total Time: 17 m
  • Servings:
    6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 carrots finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground veal or turkey
  • teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white wine or red wine if you prefer
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 12 ounces dried penne pasta about 4 cups
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat a 6-quart multi-function pressure cooker using the BROWN or SAUTE setting.
  2. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion, carrots and celery until the vegetables start to soften – about 6 minutes. Stir in the fennel seeds and fresh thyme and cook for another minute or so. Add the meats to the cooker and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Break the chunks up with a wooden spoon as you brown the meat until there is no pink left visible.
  3. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the cooker to incorporate any bits of flavor. Bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes. (If your multi-cooker doesn’t have a brown setting, use a Dutch oven on the stovetop for the steps above and transfer the contents to the cooker now.)
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and beef stock and stir in the pasta, doing your best to get the pasta covered with liquid. Cover and lock the lid in place.
  5. Pressure cook on HIGH for 7 minutes.
  6. Release the pressure with the QUICK-RELEASE method and carefully remove the lid.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan cheese at the table.

One Pot Penne Bolognese with Fennel Seed - Slow Cooker Version

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 6 h
  • Total Time: 6 h 10 m
  • Servings:
    6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 carrots finely chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground veal or turkey
  • teaspoons salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white wine or red wine if you prefer
  • 28 ounce canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 12 ounces penne pasta cooked
  • grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat a 6-quart multi-function slow cooker using the BROWN or SAUTE setting.
  2. Add the olive oil and sauté the onion, carrots and celery until the vegetables start to soften – about 6 minutes. Stir in the fennel seeds and fresh thyme and cook for another minute or so. Add the meats to the cooker and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Break the chunks up with a wooden spoon as you brown the meat until there is no pink left visible.
  3. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the cooker to incorporate any bits of flavor. Bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes. (If your multi-cooker doesn’t have a brown setting, use a Dutch oven on the stovetop for the steps above and transfer the contents to the cooker now.)
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and beef stock and stir. Cover and slow cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours (or 3 to 4 hours on HIGH).
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over cooked pasta with Parmesan cheese at the table.
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Comments (8)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    This is my new go to sauce! I made a few little changed. I didn’t have chopped tomatoes so I used tomato sauce…and added garlic. My family went NUTS over this!!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this in my Ninja multicooker. It’s as easy as Meredith says. I did use half and half instead of milk. Bravo BJC!

  3. I made this in my new instant pot last night! I loved it! It was soooo easy. My boys at home loved it as well! Thank you Meredith!! 🙂

  4. I would like to make this, don’t have pork or veal and don’t have fennel seeds. Can I you use 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef and no fennel seeds?

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