This slow-cooked veggie-packed bolognese is much like a classic bolognese however, it is loaded up with hidden vegetables. Meaning, it packed with all those flavours you expect from a classic ragù alla bolognese plus lots of finely chopped vegetables that you might mistake for mince. And this is exactly what makes it an appealing and healthy pasta dish for families.
In this vegetable bolognese recipe you’ll find carrots, celery, sweet red pepper and sweet potatoes — plus the classics such as ground beef, garlic, onions, tomato, plus some smoked bacon for extra flavour. There is also dry white wine in the sauce which gives the sauce a deeper, complex flavour. And, since the sauce is cooked at a long, slow simmer, most of the alcohol cooks off (90%) but the fruity, acidic flavour stays. Of course, for family goers who prefer to cook without alcohol, it can be skipped. And fans of cooking with wine, can also trade out the white wine for your favourite red wine.
Ways to adapt this vegetable bolognese sauce
This is a recipe that I make a million different ways, depending on what I have on hand. Here are a few of my tips for making this recipe your own:
- Celery, carrot and onion are pretty much standard, but you could also add vegetables like mushrooms (for extra umami!) or zucchini. You could even add a handful of frozen spinach about 20 minutes before the sauce is done.
- I almost always add some sweet potato, as it once they cook the starch converts to natural sugars which gives the whole dish an appealing taste. So if you are used to adding a little sugar to your bolognese recipe, try sweet potato instead. Parsnip is also a great choice.
- Smoked bacon can skipped, if preferred. I find it adds extra flavour, but its not a must.
Of course, you could use a mix mince. Whether pork and beef, or pork, beef and lamb. Or try a lighter version and use turkey mince.
- Switch out the chopped tomatoes for tomato passata — this a better choice if you have picky eaters who don’t like bits of tomatoes.
- Or for tomato lovers, try canned cherry tomatoes and chopped tomatoes.
Red wine can be used instead of white wine. I usually use the same type that I like to drink. For white wine, my standard cooking wine is a dry riesling.
- Slow cooking for 2 hours creates a rich tasting sauce, but if you are in a hurry, you can also cut down the time, just check that the vegetables are tender enough before serving.
Looking for other family friendly recipes:
Try one of these favourite dishes:
- German Ham and Egg Noodles (Schinkennudeln)
- Classic Spaghetti Bolognese Meat Sauce
- Creamy Smoked Salmon Pasta with Peas
- Simple Chicken Potato Soup
Vegetable Bolognese Sauce - Veggie-Packed Spaghetti Meat Sauce
- 3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 100 g smoked diced bacon (alternatively, pancetta)
- 2 small yellow onions, quartered
- 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks (alternatively, small piece of celery root
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 small pointed red pepper or half a red bell pepper, cut into chunks
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (200 g)
- 500 g minced beef (preferably organic/sustainably raised)
- 2 garlic large cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon plain flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (125 ml)
- 2 × 400 g cans chopped tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup beef broth (250 ml)
- Spaghetti or tagliatelle
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
- Freshly grated parmesan, to serve
Using a food processor, pulse the onion, celery, carrot, red pepper and sweet potato until finely chopped.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy, deep skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and chopped vegetable mixture and fry, stirring occasionally, until softened (10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet, followed by the beef and garlic; cook until browned (about 8 minutes). Scatter with the flour and cook, stirring (1 minute). Add the wine, bring to the simmer and cook, stirring, until reduced (3 minutes).
Return the vegetables to the skillet, and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and broth. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Reduce heat to medium-low to low, cover and allow the sauce cook at a light simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired.
Serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle. About 15 minutes before the sauce finishes cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and then cook pasta until al dente. Drain. Toss with sauce and divide between pasta plates.
Top with parsley, and serve with freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!
- Beef broth is important to balance the flavours since we are using quite a few vegetables. Either choose a high quality stock or broth (such as BROX - unpaid mention) or organic bouillon cube.
- If you prefer to cook without wine, simply replace with a little extra broth. Your favourite red wine can also be used in place of a dry white.
- For an even healthier option, choose whole grain pasta.
- This is great make ahead sauce, as it tastes great the next day, especially after the flavours meld. Let the mixture fully cool and place covered in the fridge. Re-heat the next day(s). This sauce also keeps well in the freezer for up to 2 months.
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