Pasta is definitely a universal favourite when it comes to the kids in my daycare so I love trying out different healthy pasta sauce recipes to get as much nutrition into our lunch as possible.
This is my favourite bolognese recipe, which is a flavourful meat sauce with tons of vegetables!
I’ll be honest, my first inclination when I think “pasta lunch” is to simply grab a jar of pesto and call it a day. But I am trying to put in a bit more effort even with the quick lunches to make them a bit more nutritionally dense.
Using a healthy pasta sauce recipe elevates a simple pasta lunch to a filling meal that you can feel proud of, and because it’s pasta, there is a great opportunity to sneak some healthy ingredients into the sauce that the kids might not normally be willing to eat. I don’t think I’ve ever had a child snub a bowl of pasta no matter what was in the sauce!
Bolognese is a meat-based pasta sauce that originated in Italy, but it has been changed so much since then that there really isn’t one right way to make a bolognese. The original version didn’t even use tomatoes (or likely beef) so feel free to adapt this recipe to whatever ingredients your family prefers.
You can even use taco spices, or replace the beef with chicken – we’ve even done like Jamie Oliver and used rabbit! Whatever will encourage your children to eat this hearty meal works! We often use half beef and half pork, or half beef and half ethically-raised veal.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 shallots
- Pint cherry tomatoes
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 sweet pepper
- 1 lb beef (or 1/2 lb beef and 1/2 lb pork or veal)
- 1-28 oz can tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 2-3 roasted peppers, optional
- Small handful fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme, stems removed
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup red wine, optional
- Start off by adding a bit of coconut oil to a large sauce pan and heating it over medium-high while you chop up your vegetables.
- Once the oil is hot, add the veggies and stir occasionally until translucent.
- Add the ground beef and optional wine at this point, and cook until brown throughout.
- Puree the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and peppers in a blender. Add just enough of the canned tomatoes' juice or olive oil to help bring the sauce to a smooth consistency. (Alternatively, you can use a plain, pre-made sauce.)
- Add the pureed sauce to the pan, reduce heat to low and simmer to bring the flavours of the vegetables throughout the sauce. Season with basil, thyme and oregano.
- Meanwhile, boil the water for the pasta and cook according to package directions.
- When the pasta is done, taste the sauce and make any alterations. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
I don’t mind using a pre-made sauce in this recipe, however whipping up my own quick blender sauce to add to the meat and vegetables allows me to control the consistency and sodium of the sauce.
I’ve also had luck making this as a one-pot meal, adding the water and noodles directly to the pan after browning the beef, but I much prefer making the pasta separately and then adding it in – it’s just a little more reliable and I like the texture of the sauce better without the adding water (which doesn’t all cook away).