Have you ever met anyone that didn’t like spaghetti bolognese? It is pretty much a household staple in most family homes. I know for a fact from discussing weeknight meals with so many people in clinic that spaghetti bolognese is a super popular dinner option. It is also the meal of choice for many parents for hiding vegetables from fussy children. I am sure we can all recall as kids eating bolognese that was laced with all sorts of ‘hidden’ veg, some more well hidden than others.
Creating a great bolognese is all about time. You can make a standard bolognese with an hour up your sleeve, but creating the stuff of legends requires a little more TLC. My bolognese recipe has developed from combing the methods of Maggie Beer, my own mum and an over zealous lady I saw cooking amazing Italian food (specifically bolognese sauce) a few years back on Foxtel. The T.V. lady was the one who really hammered home the importance of allowing time for flavours to develop in each step of the bolognese. She was literally mortified by the idea of chunks of celery and carrots in a finished bolognese.
Dishes including pasta such as spaghetti bolognese usually result in unfortunately a bit a lot of anxiety. Personally, I’d like to climb to the top of the biggest building and scream that pasta is OKAY! Take a ‘carb chill pill’ people! Pasta dishes can be enjoyed like any other carbohydrate meal, it is just about getting that balance right on the plate. Often when we think of a pasta dish it’s a huge pile of pasta with a little sauce to coat. This type of serving is very carb domiant and generally lacking in protein and vegetables. However, reducing the pasta portion down and making the vegetables the star of the dish, along with a serve of protein, and we have a meal similar to a stir fry with vegetables, protein and rice. Are you getting the cards that I am laying down here? Pasta can be enjoyed like any other carbohydrate, we just need to look at how we structure the meal to get an ideal macronutrient balance.
Back to the star of the dish, the bolognese. This bolognese recipe is literally loaded with vegetables. However, you wont see them in there by the time this sauce has finished its cooking. The vegetables will have melted into a luscious, thick sauce in a dance of caramilised goodness. Once you delve into a few mouthfuls or more of this bolognese you will also notice that it is not as heavy as a traditional bolognese. The vegetables lighten the sauce considerably.
If pasta isn’t your jam you could of course serve this bolognese on zucchini noodles (the ever trendy zoodles) or even some mashed sweet potato. You could also serve this bolognese spooned on top of an oven backed spud, finished with a liberal dollop of chunky guacomole. The possibilites are endless.
- serves 4 people
- preparation time
- 20 minutes
- cooking time
- 2 hours, ideally longer
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 sticks celery, finely diced
- 500gms (ideally free range) beef mince
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 2 anchovies, finely sliced
- 1 medium sized eggplant, cubed
- 4 roma tomatoes, cubed
- 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped mushrooms
- 1 cup chicken or beef stock
- 1 can crushed tomatoes or 1 1/2 cups pasatta
- 1 red capsicum, diced
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and pepper to season
- pasta of choice for serving
Sautee onion, celery and carrot on a medium heat in a good lug of olive oil till the vegetables soften and begin to caramelise, sticking to the bottom of the pan a little. Now add the mince, garlic, tomato paste and anchovies and continue to fry until the mince breaks up and starts to brown. You want to give this process a good 10 minutes to allow the tomato paste to be cooked down and the bolognese mix to start to become quite sticky in the pan. Give the bolognese a little seasoning with your salt and pepper.
Add in the eggplant, mushrooms, roma tomatoes, capsicum, bay leaves and dried oregano and stir through well. This next step takes time and is important when developing real flavour. Allow the mince and vegetable mix to continue to fry off, stirring frequently until all the vegetables have softened and the liquid from the mince and vegetables has completely evaporated. You want the vegetables to completely disintegrate into the mince mix and for the mixture to start to caramelise and stick to the bottom of the pan once again. This process should take a good 20 minutes at the least, however you can cook the bolognese at this stage for a good hour.
Once the bolognese has reached this point add in add in the canned tomatoes and stock. Season well, stir thoroughly and then cover the pot with its lid bringing the bolognese to a soft boil, then turn to simmer.
Simmer for 30 minutes minimum, ideally longer as more depth of flavour will develop. Check it at points as it simmers to ensure it does not need a little more liquid.
Once you are ready to serve your bolognese sauce, simply spoon from the pan straight onto al dente pasta and finish with shavings of pecorino.
- This bolognese sauce provides a fifty-fifty mix of protein (mince) and vegetables. Once it is served with a carbohydrate and a drizzle of olive oil (health fats), it provides all of our macronutrients for a balanced meal. Of course the type of pasta that you choose to use is entirely up to you. These days we can purchase wholegrain pasta, along with wheat free pastas such as rye pasta. I have also seen some lovely spelt and kumut pastas at health food stores. For a gluten free pasta there is always buckwheat pasta options for a more fibre rich alternative to regular gluten free.
- Eggplant plays a significant part in this bolognese sauce. Eggplants are rich in the phytonutrient anthocyanins (the skin of the eggplant in particular), specifically nasunin. Nasunin has been shown to reduce antioxidant damage to cell membranes, in particular protecting the lipids (fats) of the cell. Eggplants also contain phenolic compounds such as caffeic and chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is associated with antimicrobial and antiviral activities along with an ability to reduce LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Some research articles are even looking at genetically modifying plants to have a higher level of chlorogenic acid for antioxidant protection (therefore higher yield crops).
Jessica Cox is a qualified practicing Nutritionist with a Bachelor Health Science (Nutrition) and over 15 years of clinical experience. She is the founder and director JCN Clinic, published author and established recipe developer. Jessica is well respected within health and wellness space for her no fad approach and use of evidence-based nutrition.