Foodist Approved: Super Healthy Bolognese Sauce Recipe

by | Jan 19, 2016

Healthy bolognese with extra vegetables

As winter drags on you’ll find yourself craving hearty food—I know I do this time of year. Sometimes nothing will satisfy that hunger except a classic bowl of spaghetti topped with a rich meat sauce.

My homemade bolognese sauce is loaded with vegetables, but won’t disappoint the meat lover in your family. I created this recipe for Lily, my 18-month-old who absolutely loves pasta, as a means to sneak more veggies into her life.

I prefer to make bolognese sauce with 85% lean grass-fed ground beef, but any ground meat will work (just not the really lean stuff). Try making the sauce with ground bison, lamb or turkey, or go meatless and swap in tempeh (grind the tempeh in a food processor).

This sauce is memorable served on top of pasta, but you can also serve it on top of spaghetti squash for a lighter meal. The gluten-free crowd will love it spooned on top of brown rice or a baked potato.

I highly recommend making a double batch and freezing half so you get two family dinners for the time-commitment of one.

Super Healthy Bolognese Sauce

Yield: serves 4


Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 (32-ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional, if you like spice
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or 1 cup rice, cooked according to package directions (or baked potatoes or spaghetti squash)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, optional
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, optional
Preparation

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the beef and cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently while breaking up the meat into bite size pieces, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes (along with their juices), spinach, basil, red pepper flakes, if using, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until the sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta or rice according to the package directions (or bake 4 potatoes or 1 spaghetti squash).

Taste the sauce and add more salt and red pepper, if needed. Ladle generously over the pasta (or rice, potatoes, or spaghetti squash) and top with Parmesan and fresh basil, if desired.

Elyse Kopecky is a whole foods chef currently co-authoring a cookbook for runners, Run Fast Eat Slow, with Olympic marathoner and longtime friend, Shalane Flanagan. After 10 years working for Nike and EA Sports, Elyse decided to pursue her passion for talking and writing about food. She went to NYC to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute and has taken cooking classes throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Sign-up for sneak peeks of Shalane and Elyse’s book at runfasteatslow.com or follow along @ElyseKopecky.

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18 Responses to “Foodist Approved: Super Healthy Bolognese Sauce Recipe”

  1. Loving all the vegies in this dish, it’s similar to how I make my favourite bolognese except that I sometimes run the vegies through the food processor so they almost ‘disappear’ into the meat sauce.
    Love the idea of serving the sauce on spaghetti squash, that’s a great way to sneak lots of veggies into the whole family 🙂

  2. Sharon says:

    Try adding mushrooms, zucchini, and peppers. They really fill out the sauce and add flavor and nutrition. In fact, I’m defrosting some right now.

  3. Smith Martin says:

    Great article .A big thanks for the recipe .I will try it .Keep sharing 🙂

  4. Emily says:

    The one I make is similar, but I also sneak in bell pepper, zucchini and mushrooms. I hadn’t thought to try carrots! We recently started serving it over grilled polenta and it’s a nice way to mix it up. Another thing I’ve stared doing is topping mine with chopped up cucumber and even more bell peppers along with green onions. It sounds kind of weird, but the cool, crunch of the fresh veg is awesome with the hot sauce.

  5. Emily says:

    The one I make is similar, but I also sneak in bell pepper, zucchini and mushrooms. I hadn’t thought to try carrots! We recently started serving it over grilled polenta and it’s a nice way to mix it up. Another thing I’ve stared doing is topping mine with chopped up cucumber and even more bell peppers along with green onions. It sounds kind of weird, but the cool crunch of the fresh veg is awesome with the hot sauce.

  6. AJ says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I’ll be trying this out soon.

  7. Max says:

    I love spaghetti and this looks delicious (and healthy). Good idea, making multiple batches at once. Though I might eat it all anyway.

  8. Dana says:

    YUM! I love this recipe and the idea of using it on spaghetti squash. You get so much flavor and it’s not as calorie heavy!

    Thank you for sharing this. Can’t wait to make this winter!

    -Dana
    [link removed]

  9. Hello Darya. You have posted a great article. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I will definitely try it at my home. I also like spaghetti. It looks very delicious. This is really very good Idea and also helps to making multiple dishes at once.

  10. Melissa Vance says:

    The entire family loved this! I heard, “that smells good” as my 14 year-old boys came to the table. They didn’t notice the substitution of spaghetti squash. 😉

  11. mia says:

    It looks yummy in picture and believe it will taste yummy as well when I try it on coming weekend possibly. I will try it with chicken though.

  12. Pressie says:

    I’m going to try this recipe, but where do you add the spinach? I don’t see it in the directions.

  13. Amanda says:

    This “healthy” food to “sneak more vegetables” post feels decidedly anti-foodist to me :).

  14. Nicola says:

    Hi Darya, The recipe is no longer here. How do I access it? It’s delicious and I missed it!! Nicola

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