The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Rich ragout sauce recipe for the slow cooker or crock pot

Home grown tomatoes

Spaghetti bolognaise is a favourite in the cottage. Our recipe is high on vegetables and low on meat  – delicious and economical, it’s difficult to tire of it. I cook it in the slow cooker and freeze it in bags flattened to about half an inch (one and a half centimetres) so that it can be gently unfrozen in a frying pan (lid on) when needed. No waiting for defrost!

The slow cooker/crock pot really enhances the flavours of this dish. I’ve tried cooking it on the stove top but it just doesn’t taste as good.

In March this year I didn’t bother to check our recipe and threw together a vast batch that just didn’t taste very appetising. However much I tried to tweak it, as a spaghetti sauce it was a failure. Danny ate it once and the next time pushed his plate away.
“Normally your spaghetti sauce is so delicious. What went wrong?”
His face was mournful as he struck spag bol off the menu for the rest of the month.

Unbeknown to D the sauce was added surreptitiously to other meals.

But this thin sauce set off a longing for a rich tomatoey ragout sauce and I made this. It is so punchy that you don’t need much sauce to accompany spaghetti it’s also perfect for a deluxe lasagne or even topped with cheese encrusted mashed potato for a summery pie full of deep flavours. It still has a lot of vegetables but the secret ingredients for richness are the chicken livers and streaky bacon. Incidentally it’s very easy to make your own streaky bacon/ pancetta by just using a saline soak – we have detailed instructions here.

I divided this into 2 person portions to freeze and eat on demand.

Rich ragout sauce for 12 hungry people


800g of minced beef (10% fat ideally)
125g of chopped unsmoked streaky bacon
400g of chicken livers – chopped
500g of courgettes – washed and grated (skin on)
200g of carrots – washed peeled and grated
200g of celery – de string and slice very fine
250g of red bell peppers – de seeded and chopped
100g of chopped red onion
3 chunky cloves of garlic – squashed, de skinned and chopped fine
5g of porcini mushrooms – soaked in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes and then chopped. Pour the liquid into the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400g of pasatta
200g of double concentrated tomato puree
1 tsp of anchovy sauce or one salted anchovy cut up fine
1-2 tsp of Lea and Perrin’s Sauce
1 tsp of dried savoury or thyme at a pinch
1 litre of boiling vegetable stock – I used 3 tsp of vegetable stock powder3 heaped tbsp of plain flour
Salt and lashings of ground white pepper to taste before serving
Freshly grated parmesan to serve
1. Prepare all your vegetables.
2. Add all the ingredients except the liquids to the slow cooker and stir well to distribute the flour evenly. Then add the liquids and stir well particularly the base of the slow cooker to make sure that flour is’nt stuck there
3. Switch to high until the ingredients are bubbling (lid on) – this takes about an hour.
4. Switch to low and cook for a further 3 hours or so (lid on) – testing after 2 hours. When the vegetables are soft the dish is ready.
5. Season to taste.
6. Serve with fresh grated parmesan and hot crusty bread.


  Leave a reply


  1. Thanks Fiona,
    It’s on my cooking list again this week and I’ll follow the recipe to the letter this time! Can I blame my imaginary cat for distracting me whilst reading the recipe the first time?

  2. I had a minor disaster with this recipe! What did I do wrong? I looked forward to cooking it, I prepared everything with anticipation, but 5 hours later my rich ragu sauce was watery and listless. And the (admittedly large) vegetable chunks were still a bit crunchy. Fiona, I have to confess that I didn’t add the flour at the beginning. Rob, I think flour might well be necessary here. Despite the disappointment thank you for the lovely recipes Fiona, and I’ll continue in my crockpot endeavours.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Sann

      What a shame ;(

      You have to grate the courgettes – these will then break down nicely and help to thicken the sauce. Chunky veg just won’t work. The flour is also a must.

      I spend a lot of time developing the recipes and all the ingredients and methods are there for a purpose – if you follow the instructions you’ll get the right results.

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