This easy bolognese with vegetables is hearty, filling, and nutritious! Serve over cooked pasta, lasagna, or even casseroles. Comfort food at its best.
This post is a collaboration with Beef Loving Texans. Thank you for supporting brands that I believe in and keeps this space running. As always, all opinions are my own!
Reasons to love this Meat Sauce
- Requires minimal effort. It takes some time for the sauce to become thick and mouth-watering, but it is mostly hands-off and very simple.
- Will have plenty of leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. And it tastes better over time as the flavors meld together.
- Freezes well.
- Baby and kid-friendly! It is iron-rich (a super important nutrient for this age) and a delicious way to serve vegetables that even picky eaters may enjoy.
You may also be interested in: Beef Recipes for Babies
- Crushed tomatoes - will help make the sauce thicker than diced tomatoes
- Tomato paste - helps thicken and intensifies flavor in slow cooker recipes like this one.
- Carrots and zucchini - can dice or grate
- Fresh mushrooms - while the recipe calls for cremini mushrooms, feel free to use a variety, such as shiitake and porcini mushrooms for an even more complex depth of flavor and meaty texture. You can also use dried mushrooms.
- Cook ground beef.
- Add carrots and garlic and cook.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer.
Tips for Success
- While the included vegetables work really well in this recipe, feel free to use whatever fresh vegetables (or frozen) you have on hand. It's a very forgiving recipe.
- Use a really good canned tomato like San Marzano. You'll really taste the difference.
- Cook on low heat- Don't crank up the heat in an effort to shorten the cooking time.
- Give the sauce a good stir periodically.
This sauce is so versatile! Serve over pasta, grains like lentils or quinoa, various vegetables like baked sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles...endless possibilities!
The Benefits of Family Dinners
While there are so many benefits to enjoying meals together with loved ones, I want to highlight specifically those regarding children.
Research shows that children who eat with their families have more healthful dietary patterns (e.g. consuming more fruits and vegetables), thus having a lower risk for being overweight and less risk of engaging in disordered eating (1,2,3).
Family meals also provide great opportunities to help young children learn new words and build conversation skills (4). They also help increase a child’s sense of security and improve well-being by providing structure and routine to their day.
But the best part, in my opinion, is the strong bond that forms as a result. It becomes an essential part of a family’s tradition when fostered early and continuously.
If you’re in need of recipes (including kid-friendly ones), cooking tips, and ways to incorporate beef into a well-balanced diet, most definitely check out the Beef Loving Texans website.
I love that the Texas Beef Council is funded by the beef farmers and ranchers living in my state.
Be sure to break up any big clumps of meat. I like to transfer the sauce to a bowl and chop it up using my kitchen shears.
If you are doing purees and desire a smoother sauce, you can blend your baby's portion.
As for the pasta, It may sound counterintuitive, BUT bigger is better and safer for babies who’ve just started solids. Fusili, rigatoni, ziti, and penne are all great options that they will be able to pick up with their palms.
I also like these shapes because the sauce really clings to them, thereby increasing the chances of this delicious iron-rich meat sauce actually making it into their bellies.
Here's another great iron-rich pasta sauce to try!
Bolognese for toddlers and kids
If your little one is hesitant about certain foods, like meat or vegetables, serving them with a delicious sauce like this one is a great way to encourage him/her to give them a try!
Also, if you have a fussy eater, try some of these strategies to meet them where they are while continuing to expose them to a variety of foods and the different ways of enjoying them.
- If your child likes plain pasta, serve the meat sauce on the side.
- Doesn’t do chunky textures? Blend to make it smoother and combine with pasta. But do serve a small portion of the chunky sauce on the side.
- Doesn't like pasta? Pour over foods they do enjoy - baked sweet potato, rice, toast, etc.
And whatever you do, I want to encourage you to not give up if your child refuses to eat the food you served.
Constant exposure leads to familiarity which leads to acceptance.
I know it's easier said than done when all you want is for everyone at the table to eat happily. But be in it for the long haul and play the long game. Sign up below for more tips!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Spaghetti sauce is a tomato-based sauce that’s served over spaghetti. The traditional bolognese sauce is a meat sauce that is thicker and includes milk, which adds to the thickness and creaminess. Also, it contains just a touch of tomato.
Outside of Italy, bolognese sauce has commonly been adapted as a tomato-based meat sauce. Many cooks have put a vegetarian or vegan twist on it, and I appreciate all the variations and creativity that people bring to the table.
Absolutely! Simply add 1 cup of whole milk (or a non-dairy alternative) in step #2.
Traditionally, it is served with wide long pasta like tagliatelle and fettuccine. Outside of Italy, spaghetti bolognese is most popular. But truly, you can enjoy with any pasta shape.
I personally prefer short pasta like, fusili, orecchiette, and penne, as the thick, meaty sauce really clings to it.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
If intending to freeze, note that as with all sauces, it will expand so leave extra space at the top.
Transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag. I like to freeze in single-serving portions. This tray is really great! Once frozen, you can pop the molded sauce out and transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container.
To reheat: thaw in the fridge overnight. Cook on the stovetop or microwave. Be sure to stir every 20-30 seconds or so until heated through.
More Ground Beef Recipes
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Easy Bolognese with Vegetables
- 2 pounds ground Beef (at least 90% lean)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 carrot , grated
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 cup cremini mushrooms , sliced then chopped
- 1 cup zucchini , grated
- 2 cups low-sodium beef stock
- 28 ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
- ⅓ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Fresh basil, parmesan cheese (optional)
- Heat nonstick skillet over MEDIUM heat until hot. Add Ground Beef and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and garlic. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, breaking beef into small crumbles and stirring occasionally.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat to LOW, cover and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. Uncover, adjust salt and pepper and simmer another 10-15 minutes or until sauce thickens.
- Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- If intending to freeze, note that as with all sauces, it will expand so leave extra space at the top. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag. I like to freeze in single-serving portions. This tray is really great! Once frozen, you can pop the molded sauce out and transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container.