The hosts were quick into their stride, taking the lead after two minutes thanks to Jamie Mackie.
Bolton failed to seriously test Karl Darlow in the Forest goal, but the first period finished on a bad-tempered note with Medo Kamara one of four bookings for a poor challenge on Andy Reid, which arguably merited a red card.
Forest again started the better in the second half and managed to bag a crucial second through Andy Reid after 50 minutes.
Greg Halford nearly put the hosts out of sight but he was denied by the woodwork four minutes later.
The win means that Billy Davies's side maintain their 100% start to the season and top the Championship table.