Have you ever read the label on the back of a jar of bolognese sauce? Or any ready-prepared tomato sauce for that matter?
Who needs that much sugar and that many unpronounceable ingredients in their dinner?
Especially when you could have your
personal chef slow cooker whip one up for you with next to no effort?
We love bolognese in this house. Not just because it is wonderfully tasty and hearty (which it is!), but also because it is so amazingly versatile.
I mean seriously, in one meal cooked for you while you are at work or chasing after the children trying to find the missing sock for the umpteenth time while the baby climbs into yet another box, you can get as many meals as you care for. Providing, of course, you have a big enough slow cooker!
But seriously, this recipe is easily doubled, tripled, or more. And then you can freeze it in meal portions ready to be poured into lasagne, stirred into pasta, dumped over jacket potatoes or mixed with some spices and kidney beans to create a chilli. And that’s just a few of the wonderful things you can cook with a batch of bolognese.
And the added bonus: extra “hidden-ish” vegetables. Hidden enough for fussier kids to eat them, but not so hidden that they can still learn vegetables can be delicious! For all children, but especially fussier children, I strongly recommend making this a meal you make together. For younger ones, prep the veg before you get them involved so you are not trying to keep them away from sharp knives the whole time, and just let them have fun chucking stuff in the slow cooker. If they ask to try anything, encourage them. Let them see you eat a bit of the raw vegetables before you put them in so they know it’s yummy and that they can try it, too. And if they are not a fan, explain how different vegetables can taste once cooked and in sauces, and suggest they try again at different points of the cooking process!
I love this dish. Many dinners, lots of veg, ready made with little effort? I’m in.
(If you don’t have a slow cooker – don’t worry! Although I strongly recommend shelling out the small amount of money it costs to have one – we have this one – in the house, this is totally do-able in a large saucepan and I have included instructions for how to make it on the stove in the notes section of the recipe).
A sugar free version of a bolognese sauce that you can batch make and freeze as a "ready-made" sauce for quick meals at a later date. Easy, cheap and vegetable-packed but still full of classic Bolognese flavours kids will love.
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or butter, optional (only if you are browning the meat)
- 4 streaky bacon rashers (or use a large handful of bacon lardons), roughly chopped
- 1 kg (2lbs) free range minced beef (or use 500g/1lb beef mince and 500g/1lb red lentils to make it cheaper)
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 3 medium carrots (2 large or 3-4 small), finely diced
- 4 celery sticks or 1 fennel bulb, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato puree (tomato paste)
- 1 tbsp dried mixed herbs (or 2 tsp each dried oregano and basil)
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 700g (24oz) jar passata or 2x 400g (14oz) tins chopped tomatoes
- 250 ml (1 cup) red wine or sugar free stock/broth
- 1-2 tsp tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
- 150 g ( 1 cup) frozen peas
- 175 g (1 cup) frozen sliced peppers or mushrooms
Optional: heat the oil in a pan and cook the bacon and mince until browned and bacon crisping up. Add to a slow cooker.
Add all of the ingredients except the frozen veg to a slow cooker* and stir well. Cook on High for 3-4 hours or Low for 6-8 hours. Stir in the frozen peas and peppers or mushrooms for the last 30 mins of cooking time.
Serve the sauce with wholegrain spaghetti or "courgetti" ("zoodles"), or adapt it to taste or using the suggestions found above the recipe. You can freeze this sauce in individual or family portions for up to 3 months or keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
*If you don't have a slow cooker, don't panic! Simply brown the beef and bacon in the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot with the onions, carrots and celery or fennel for 5-10 mins until meat is brown, bacon is cooked and vegetables are softened. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add all the other ingredients except the frozen vegetables and stir well, then simmer over a low heat for at least 30 mins, or up to 1 hour, checking and stirring regularly to ensure the sauce doesn't stick. If it starts to stick or look dry, add some water or stock and keep adjusting as needed. By the end of cooking time you should have a thick sauce and everything should be soft and cooked through. Add the frozen vegetables for the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Can be served, frozen or refrigerated as for the slow cooker version.