Leftover Brisket Bolognese

Slow cooked Bolognese sauce made with leftover brisket and served with Pappardelle style pasta, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Leftover Brisket Bolognese

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So you’ve cooked a sizeable piece of brisket, consumed a considerable amount for dinner and now you’re left with enough for a couple more dinners.

Want to try something a bit different rather than just reheating and eating brisket for a couple of days?

Let’s give your leftover brisket a second life and make a Bolognese sauce to have with pasta. I feel by using a smoked brisket, it really gives the Bolognese sauce a lot more depth of flavor especially with the smokey elements that envelope all of the ingredients in this sauce.

We will be keeping this fairly traditional, I say fairly as traditional Bolognese sauce does not normally have smoked brisket in it. It generally has a mixture of ground pork and beef and sometimes veal.

If you already have a smoked brisket to use for this recipe, you can knock out the best Bolognese sauce in 4 to 6 hours in your slow cooker, or if like me, you can push that to a 2 day slow cooked sauce that will knock your socks off. Keep reading to see why I like to push my sauce that bit extra.

Firstly we need some cooked brisket 

If you have stumbled upon this recipe, but do not have any leftover brisket then go check out our guide on how to smoke a brisket recipe.

This runs through all of the basics of meat preparation, seasoning, how to set up your smoker, cooking times and temperatures. 

We also have some added extra in length videos on trimming up a brisket and how to properly slice one up after cooking.

sliced smoked brisket
Our Hot and Fast Style Brisket recipe will work great for the Bolognese sauce

Now if you do have some cooked brisket, read on.

For this recipe you will need 2.2 pounds of brisket. I know it sounds like a lot of meat but this recipe will make a couple of meals, and trust me, you are going to thank me later for making extra.

How long to let the Bolognese cook for in the slow cooker? 

How much time do you have? This means are you prepping this at midday for tonight’s dinner? Then 4 to 6 hours is fine.

How much do you like the flavor? As this sauce slowly cooks, its flavor intensifies with a rich umami explosion that just seems to keep building every hour you can leave it alone.

Hence why when I cook a brisket, my family gets excited for two reasons. One is they know they are getting brisket, the other is they know in a couple of days time they are getting the best Bolognese sauce they have ever tasted.

slow cooker set to low
Cook the sauce for at least 4 hours or push it for a couple of days, if you have time

If you are going to push the sauce and cook it for longer, keep an eye on it and if it is looking a little dry on top add about a third a cup of water at a time. Make sure you give it a stir every now and then. As every hour passes, the sauce reduces and its flavor profile just keeps building.

To make this recipe, you will require:

What kind of Pasta should I use with the Bolognese? 

If you want to keep things traditional you should use a larger flat style pasta like Tagliatelle. This is commonly used with a Bolognese sauce mainly because of its wide shape that resembles a ribbon, this helps it to hold the sauce a lot better than thinner styled pastas.

I personally tend to lean towards Pappardelle. It is a flat ribbon styled pasta as well but slightly wider than Tagliatelle.

Why add the milk? 

Milk is such an important part of making a traditional Bolognese sauce. 

pouring milk into a Bolognese sauce
Milk helps cut through the acidity of the tomatoes and create a more delicate taste

At first when I heard about adding milk I was a little sceptical but now I cannot make a tomato based sauce without it.

Tomatoes are a very acidic food and when adding milk to any sauce that has tomatoes in it, this really mellows out that harshness. This results in a more delicate taste. 

Make sure the milk is at room temp before adding to the sauce. This will stop the sauce from curdling, which can happen when adding cold milk to a hot tomato based sauce.

Bolognese sauce step-by-step

1. Prep your ingredients

In keeping with the traditional style of Bolognese, this recipe relies on a few fresh ingredients to make an incredibly tasty sauce packed full of flavor. 

leftover brisket bolognese ingredients
Preparing ingredients beforehand is a great habit to get into

I recommend getting everything prepped ahead of time.

So to start, I’ll peel and top and tail the carrots and then dice them into ⅓ of an inch cubes. I’ll give the same treatment to the onions and also dice up the celery stalks.

diced carrots and onions in bowls
Before you start cooking, dice the vegetables and measure out all wet and dry ingredients

Measure the tomato puree (passata), red wine and tomato paste.

The milk wont be used until a later stage, so that can be measured nearer the end of cooking time to allow it to come to room temperature. If you forget to get it out of the fridge in time give it a quick zap in the microwave to take the chill off it.

Have the dry ingredients on hand; bay leaves, salt and pepper.

diced leftover brisket in a glass bowl
Dicing brisket into small cubes will make it easier to cook

Take the brisket you have set aside for the Bolognese and dice it up into ½ inch size pieces. This is just going to make handling the cooked brisket easier. 

3. Making the Bolognese 

Since the brisket is already cooked, we could just put it in the slow cooker or pot straight away but, I want to use some of the brisket fat to soften the vegetables in and just to get that extra bit of flavor.

diced brisket in a frying pan
Heating the brisket in a pan will give us some fat to cook the vegetables in.

I’ll start by warming the brisket up in a frypan in batches. Once I see some fat rendering out, I’ll remove the meat from the pan to the slow cooker, leaving the fat behind. Repeat this process with remaining brisket. Once it’s all in the slow cooker we should be left with some tasty brisket fat in the pan.

diced brisket in a slow cooker
When placing the brisket into a slow cooker, leave the fat in the frying pan

Into the pan go the diced onions, carrots and celery. These will need between 10 to 15 minutes, until the onion becomes soft and translucent. Give it a stir every now and again.

diced vegetables in a frying pan
Searing vegetables will bring another taste element to our leftover brisket Bolognese sauce

When the vegetables are done add the wine. Give this a minute or two to warm up and then add to the slow cooker with the brisket. Add the tomato puree (Passata) and tomato paste, along with the bay leaves to the slow cooker. Give it a good stir.

brisket, vegetables, tomato paste and bay leaves in a slow cooker
Once all the ingredient are in, set the slow cooker to low and cook under a closed lid

Place the lid on and set the slow cooker to low. Or if you are cooking on a stovetop, just set the temp to the lowest it can be.

3. Give the sauce time to develop flavor

Now we want this to cook away for at least four hours but for me, I always slow cook mine for a couple of days. That wait is well worth it.

cooked leftover brisket bolognese sauce in a slow cooker
Remember to remove the bay leaves from the cooked sauce before portioning it

Once we have cooked the sauce to our liking, we can dig out the bay leaves and it is time to portion the sauce out. We currently have six in our family and authentic pasta sauces only need between 2 to 4 ounces of sauce per serve. So I portion mine out to 20 ounce servings to feed the family.

brisket bolognese sauce portions in bowls
One serving of Bolognese sauce is between 2 to 4 ounces

I place the serving I want for that night’s dinner back into the slow cooker, as we still need to finish it off.

When the other portions are thoroughly cooled, I tend to put a family size portion into a zip lock bag, this way I can squeeze out all of the air and seal up the bag and lay it flat in the freezer, making it easier and quicker to defrost at a later date.

zip lock bag for brisket bolognese storage
The best way to store Bolognese sauce is in a zip lock bag which you can lay flat in the freezer

To finish off the sauce, place it back in the slow cooker, add 1/3 cup (this is the measurement for a serving of 4) of room temperature milk. Stir that into the sauce. The milk will help cut through the harsh acidity of the tomatoes and create a more delicate taste.

Season with salt and pepper and adjust to your liking.

We are now ready to serve.

Cooking pasta

In a large pot and add ¼ of a gallon of water for every 3.5 oz of pasta. Add a couple of teaspoons of salt and bring the water to the boil and add the pasta. Stir it around until all of the pasta is submerged. Boil as per the time instructions on the packet.

Drain when ready and serve immediately with your sauce. 

To serve 

  • With flat broad pasta and garlic bread.
  • It is fantastic with mashed potatoes.
  • I also make great pies with it.
leftover brisket bolognese with pasta and garlic bread
If you like cheese, serve Bolognese sauce with freshly grated Parmesan

I do love adding freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of my pasta sauces. Mainly because I love cheese but also because I love when the cheese starts to melt and mix in with the deep red rich sauce, it really does bring another flavor layer.

Reheating frozen portions of Bolognese sauce 

Take the frozen pasta sauce out of the freezer the night before you wish to cook it. Place on a tray or plate in your fridge.

The next evening it should have thoroughly defrosted if packed in a zip lock bag nice and flat in your freezer.

leftover brisket bolognese in a zip lock bag
Storing Bolognese in a zip lock bag is not only convenient but it also takes less time to defrost

Add contents to a frypan over a low heat and bring up to temperature, this usually takes around 10 to 15 minutes over a low heat. Make sure you give it the odd stir. 

Once the sauce is warmed up, you can add the appropriate amount of room temperature milk (1/3 cup per 4 serves) and give it a good stir.

Leftover Brisket Bolognese

Leftover Brisket Bolognese

Slow cooked Bolognese sauce made with leftover smoked brisket and served with pasta and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
4.93 from 13 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 528kcal
Author: Dean “Schuey” Schumann


  • 2.2 lbs smoked brisket
  • 2 medium brown onions peeled and diced
  • 4 carrots peeled and diced
  • 4 celery stalks diced
  • 1 ½ cups dry red wine
  • 3 cups tomato puree (passata)
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cup milk room temperature (this is per 4 servings, adjust as necessary if not freezing any portions)
  • water ⅓ cup as needed
  • 17 oz pasta I used pappardelle
  • Parmesan cheese grated, for serving


  • Dice up the smoked brisket into ½ inch pieces.
  • In a dry pan, fry the brisket in batches for a few minutes allowing the fat to render out. Using a slotted spoon remove the meat to the slow cooker leaving the brisket fat in the pan.
  • Add the diced onions, carrots and celery to the same pan with the brisket fat and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the red wine and cook for a few minutes. Then add the vegetables to the slow cooker with the brisket.
  • Add the tomato puree (passata), tomato paste and bay leaves to the slow cooker and season.
  • Stir and check the seasoning.
  • Put the lid on the slow cooker, turn to low and leave for at least four hours.
  • After four hours, remove the bay leaves. **
  • Add ⅓ cup of room temperature milk to the Bolognese and stir thoroughly.
  • Cook your pasta as per instructions on the packet. Drain.
  • Plate up the pasta in individual serving bowls and top with Bolognese sauce and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.



** If you want to freeze some of the Bolognese, now is the time to remove it from the slow cooker. Let it cool down completely and portion as required e.g. 4oz serve per person. Pack into zip lock bags and lie flat in freezer for easier defrosting


Calories: 528kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 221mg | Potassium: 1215mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 5747IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximation only. If you’re worried you could always add a side of kale.

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