creamy polenta with slow cooked bolognese

October 22, 2015 § 53 Comments


I had a mid-week day off last week and it was raining cats and dogs, which was all I needed to set off a craving for something simmering on the stove.  What’s better than a pot of full-flavored bolognese slowly bubbling and creating a homey feel about the place?  In my opinion, slow cooked meals conjure up a sense of contentment, ease, happiness and anticipation. This recipe comes together casually over the course of several hours.  Add a little here and simmer, then a little there and simmer…you get the idea.

Imagine creamy polenta with shredded asiago stirred in, and plenty of butter, then ladle a generous amount of bolognese sauce over it and top it off with a spoonful of parsley pesto and a scattering of parmesan-reggiano.  Delightful in every way.

Six Hour Bolognese Sauce –  This six hour bolognese sauce came about after after reading several online recipes.

I n g r e d i e n t s   –  B o l o g n e s e

  • 1 pound grass fed ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped finely
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped carrots, chopped finely
  • 1 cup chopped celery, chopped finely
  • 1 -1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 -1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans of diced san marzano tomatoes with juice
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Rub the salt into the ground beef and allow it to sit to room temperature.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the oil and butter. When the butter melts, add the onion and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until onion 8-10 minutes. Add carrots, celery, another pinch of salt, and cook another 8-10 minutes.

Add beef and cook until all the pink is gone. Make sure you break up any big clusters of beef.

Add milk. Reduce heat to low and stir frequently to prevent scalding. Simmer until all liquid has evaporated, about 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring every 10 minutes. Add nutmeg.

Add wine and simmer as you did the milk and simmer for another 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring about every 10 minutes.

Carefully add tomatoes, stirring them into the sauce. Reduce heat as low as it will go, and cook for 3 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the pot.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve over pasta or creamy polenta and top with Parmesan cheese and pesto.

Creamy Polenta:

  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup (or a little more for extra creaminess) finely shredded asiago cheese
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Combine the vegetable stock and salt to taste in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and slowly, whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a thin stream. Cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. If you polenta is too thick add little boiling water until desired consistency is met.  Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the cheese and butter.


  • large handful parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
  • salt (to taste)

Whizz all ingredients in a food processor until well combined.  Taste and adjust adding more salt or parmesan if needed.


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§ 53 Responses to creamy polenta with slow cooked bolognese

  • Absolutely beautiful…and so delicious looking! I just texted my daughter yesterday and told her that I was craving Bolognese, and here it is. <3 Lovely post my friend <3

    • It’s so good to see you here this morning Prudy! Isn’t funny how the cooler weather brings us to the point where we are craving stews, soups and slow cooked meals? Hope you get a pot of this simmering on your stove this weekend. It was a nice change serving with polenta rather than spaghetti. :) Made my day to see your comment!

  • Wow, that bolognese is a labor of love that is well worth the effort. I love a good bolognese and must try this recipe. I love the long slow cooking which really will develop the flavor. Great over polenta. A wonderful and delicious meal.

    • Thank you Suzanne. I’m with you, I love a good bolognese and up to now have only made Tessa Kiros’ recipe, which is fabulous, but not slow cooked. It’s nice to have a day at home and cook something long and slow and polenta has to be one of my favorites things at the moment. :)

  • What a great recipe and it looks so delicious.

  • Saskia (1=2) says:

    I love checking out other people’s bolognese recipes! This one sounds very interesting with the addition of milk, and the 6-hour cooking time. I imagine the beef must lose it’s graininess and become lovely and creamy with both those factors. Man, I’m suddenly starving and it’s 6.30am here!
    Agree, nothing better than a day off mid-week to do a little simmering. I’m in fact doing that myself today. It’s Spring here, but absolutely freezing. I have black beans soaking for chili con carne, but have bookmarked your recipe. I’d also like to have a crack at your polenta as that’s something I’ve never been able to get right!

    • Oh Saskia…yes, definitely give this polenta a try, it works for me every time. Honestly, I don’t even stand and stir constantly, more of a semi-constant stirring. ;) If it thickens too much you could either add a little milk or water to thin it out. Oh see now you’ve got me starving with your black bean chili con carne! Haven’t sorted out dinner yet, better get on it…it’s 3pm, boys are starving too. xx

  • This looks absolutely divine! Now if I only had six hours to make the sauce… This is something I would love to make on a lazy cold weekend, though!

    • Six hours of time at home usually only comes on the weekends for me, but then I’m so busy I don’t even think of putting something on the stove until the evening. It took having a day off during the week to throw me off my routine and consider something different, which was nice. Really is a lovely bolognese Kathryn. Thank you!

  • Sabiscuit says:

    I’m madly in love with your recipe. I love the challenge of doing a polenta but this is beyond anything I’ve thought of. Brilliant share. Exciting food art.

  • cheri says:

    How I love slow cooked meals, the house always smells so good and a wonderful mood overcomes everything. Polenta is one of my favorites and I just know I would love this Bolognese.

    • Hi Cheri! Isn’t that the truth. I love the mood that something like this creates. It’s even a bit suspenseful…”when’s it going to be served?” It’s a lovely, satisfying dish.

    • Cheri, I keep trying to leave a comment about your wonderful hand pies on your blog and for some reason it’s not working. This has happened before so I’m not sure if you are hearing from me. :)

  • Seana, Everything you present is so elegant. This is ss a satisfying. :)

    • What a nice comment Fae, thank you so much. And yes, this really is so satisfying. I could eat polenta every night of the week and top it with something as plain as sautéed zucchini. It’s so creamy and satisfying. That’s dinner tonight! :)

  • That sounds amazing. Six hours! And I love the idea of the nutmeg. I bet that smelled as heavenly as it tasted.

  • Oh wow, this looks and sounds amazing. A beautiful variation from the usual way of serving bolognese sauce – love the idea of the polenta as well as the pesto to add further complexity and fresh flavours to the dish. A truly lovely way to spend the afternoon! :)

    • Funny because after I plated the polenta and bolognese I was unhappy with the look of it. It needed something else and pesto was the first thing that came to mind. I whipped up a batch real quick! And you are right, it added complexity and a freshness that isn’t present with a sauce that just simmered for 6 hours. :)

  • I love this dish! I don’t think John would ever leave the table if I sat this in front of him.

  • I passed on a bolognese ragu on vacation In Texas last week and now yours is here to make me droll and regret that decision! Love the nutmeg in the sauce and serving it on creamy polenta!

    • I get it…sometimes I wouldn’t want a heavy bolognese sauce either. It takes cooler temperatures and of course and overcast sky helps to dish up a bowl of it. :) Vacation in Texas? How fun!!

  • Cecile says:

    I love this recipe! I, too, was recently ‘going through’ various recipes for Bolognese sauce – I think you’ve come up with an excellent recipe. You know, a few days ago someone told me they can’t stand polenta. I told them that, if they didn’t like it, it is only because they haven’t had it properly made!!

    • Hope you try this one Cecile. It’s a really good bolognese! I can’t imagine not liking polenta. Although if I bought it from the store in those little tubes I probably would say I didn’t like it too. That just doesn’t look very appetizing does it? :)

  • Delicious looking, Seana and your six hours Bolognese definitely worth the time! :)

  • ladyredspecs says:

    Apparently it’s not a genuine Bolognese ragu unless it has milk. The sauce sounds deliciously rich, I bet it was lip smackingly good on the polenta, I’m a big fan too.

    • I’ve read that a genuine bolognese is simmered in milk. Interesting process too. Simmer in milk for a few hours then add the tomatoes for another few hours. And yes, it was lip smackingly good. :)

  • What an inspiring picture and gorgeous combination! Thank god I’ve got a rest Bolognese (from a long cooking session) handy in the freezer – that’s a perfect autumn warmer. Nicole

    • Oh lucky you! Serve it on polenta Nicole, and add a little pesto on top, it’s fabulous. Wish I would’ve had leftovers to freeze. Next time I’ll double the recipe because if you’re going to spend that much time cooking something you might as well make enough for a few meals. It probably freezes well too, right?

      • Right, it really does freeze well. I always cook a huge pot Ragù exactly for this reason since my recipe takes about 5 hours minimum (frankly, the longer the better). Flat-pack it in ziptop bags and freeze for a quick Bolognese sauce when time is rare and need for comfort food sky high. A real life-saver in the deep-freeze. Nicole xx

  • chef mimi says:

    Beautiful! I more often use polenta/grits than Americans use potatoes. There’s just something about cornmeal. Your Bolognese looks incredible!!!

  • You posted the polenta Seana!! I didn’t know the part about adding butter. That sounds like a delicious touch I’ll try. And your sauce sounds so rich and deeply flavored. I’d love to try this one (since I have an unfinished box of polenta in the cupboard calling my name). thanks!!

    • Yes! I hope you give this one a try, I think you’ll see that it turns out wonderfully. The sauce…well, if you have a day at home and would like to have something simmering on the stove, this is the perfect pot of goodness. :)

  • This sounds amazing! I bet it was so good:) real comfort food!

  • No this is the ultimate comfort food. It looks so beautiful and perfect for a rainy, colder week. I love that you mixed polenta with Bolognese. It’s a dish that definitely needs meat and i love that it’s in the sauce rather than the main heft. Just wonderful. This is a keeper. Again, you eat just like I do. I always think that when I visit you here. The meals are simple to prepare, but use fresh ingredients, both seasonal and pantry staples and can be done either quickly or slowly depending on the amount of time you have, but it will always be delicious.

    • True, although I could eat polenta with a little butter, honey and milk I love it with a nice hearty meat sauce. And thank you so much Amanda for such a sweet personal message. I feel the same when I visit your site. Every post resonates with me. Not only the delicious creative food but your musings as well. I always look forward to your posts. :)

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