+ Well Nourished | Healthy Bolognese with a few twists

Healthy Bolognese (with a few twists)

Whilst at risk of reinventing the wheel, I’ve decided to include a recipe for this classic family favourite.  As usual, I have included a few variations, just to demonstrate its versatility as well as showing you ways to boost its nutritional value.  Healthy Bolognese can be vegetarian, gluten free or grain free; for breakfast or baked – the result is many meals in one.  This is a simple meal where you can truly make every mouthful count and have your efforts rewarded with happy, healthy children!

If you’ve fallen into the habit of using store bought sauces to add to you mince, then this recipe is for YOU!!  It takes no more than a few minutes to make your own sauce.  It also tastes so much better and you simply cannot compare the nutrition derived from a homemade sauce compared to the sugar and additive laden pasta sauces at the supermarket.

Because this dish is loved by children, it is necessary to take the opportunity to add lots of health-giving vegetables in the mix.  The sauce lends itself to grating and finely chopping (or food processing) vegetables so they ‘disappear’ behind the flavour and texture of the sauce.  Perfect for fussy, ‘veggie phobic’ children.

Try to vary the types of protein you use.  Have you ever tried this classic with chicken or turkey mince?  It’s really good and adds variety!  The herbs are  all great for supporting a healthy digestive system and the tomatoes are an amazing source of the protective antioxidant, lycopene.

Serves 5-6

500 gram beef, turkey or chicken mince (see below for vegetarian)
1 -2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic. finely chopped or crushed
1 carrot. grated
1 zucchini. grated
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 cup button or swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
5-6 large vine ripened or Roma tomatoes diced on a plate to keep the juice
OR  700 grams tomato sugo or puree
1 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 2 tablespoons of fresh)
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
Bunch fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Optional extras
1 tablespoon of tomato paste or concentrate (for a richer tomato flavour if using fresh tomatoes)
1 tablespoon of dulse flakes
You can also alter the vegetables you use although I find these are the ones that ‘hide’ best of all.  If you are without any of the vegetables above, it will still work, just leave them out.


  1. In a large pan or a pot with a lid, sauté onions and garlic in a tablespoon of coconut oil or butter over a low to medium heat, for a couple of minutes until they start to soften, but not brown.
  2. Add the mince (or lentils) and herbs and cook until it just starts to brown (about 5 minutes) then add the vegetables, tomatoes (and tomato paste if using).
  3.  Place the lid ajar the pan.  Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, minimum 30 minutes.  The longer you can let it simmer, the richer the sauce will become.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the basil. Serve with al dente spaghetti (or one of the variations below).

I also like to serve this with a simple green salad.

Gluten free 
Use gluten free pasta (I love rice and quinoa spaghetti), or zucchini ribbons.

Grain free or Paleo
Serve with zucchini ribbons or stuffed in a baked potato.

Substitute mince with a can of brown lentils (rinsed and drained).

Half vegetarian
Substitute half the mince for brown lentils (rinsed and drained).  Adding lentils to leftover sauce is a simple way to make it o further.

Leftover Bolognese is a delicious breakfast.  Serve it on whole grain toast or as a side with eggs.

Baked Bolognese
Place any leftovers into a greased dish or bowl.  Make an indent in the top and crack an egg or two into the hollow.  Top with cheese and pepitas and bake until cooked the way you like it.

Bolognese is a great dish to pre-prepare and it also freezes really well.  I often freeze leftovers in little glass pyrex containers and will mix a few together to make one meal.  If time is an issue, double the above recipe and freeze in ready to go batches.

How do you eat your Bolognese?  Can you add any interesting variations?  Please comment or ask questions below.


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  • Erin

    This is very similar to what I make however I have also taken to adding cauliflower chopped up well as it adds extra vegetables and soaks up all the flavour 😉

    • Yum. I’m all for more vegetables. Haven’t tried cauliflower yet though. Thanks Erin, great idea. G x

    • Hannah

      yes I’ve added cauli and cabbage and they havent noticed. I’ve worked up to it tho! I also add 3 carrots and 2 zucchini to 500g of mince, and they don’t notice! I leave some of the carrot and zuc chopped roughly now too.

      • Thanks Hannah, absolutely a great idea to work up to it and chances are they won’t notice. Thanks for sharing your success story, G x

  • Lucy

    Am going to try your vege version tonight! Yum!

  • Louise Pack

    I make a similar version but use lamb mince as my son can’t eat beef or pork and my husband isn’t a fan of chicken bolognese 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing Louise. Forgot to include lamb mince! Gx

  • Nicole

    Top baked bolognese with little cubes of pecorino and sourdough drizzled with macadamia oil and thyme leaves – and bake until they are melted and crunchy 🙂 Also broccoli works well as does peas or corn if your kids don’t mind seeing them or blended up with the rest – sautéed leeks also work great when you do them with the onions or instead of for a smoother less oniony taste 🙂 also I love to add a little cinnamon and nutmeg to my beef to bring out the flavour ( doesn’t work with other meats though )

    • Fabulous ideas, LOVE it. Reminds me, I like a little cumin with beef mince too. Thanks so much, G x

  • Katie

    we often make a big batch, eat the first half as spag bol, then the second half becomes mexican – we add some ground cumin, coriander, paprika, a can of kidney beans, and either serve it over rice, or in tacos with the usual accompaniments: lettuce, grated cheese, sour cream, guac, tomato salsa.

    • Love it Katie, I do much the same, but different batches I must say. Great idea though, thanks for sharing, G x

  • Honor

    Love this one as a vegetarian! Do you think this could be done in a slow cooker also? I’m all for big batches and freezing.

    • I’m sure it would be lovely in the slow cooker Honor. I’m with you re- batch cooking, a great time saver in the kitchen G x

  • Jodie

    Great recipe! Thanks so much Georgia for reminding us that cooking this favourite from scratch really doesn’t take that much effort and so much tastier & healthier than the jar! I also use this recipe for the mince in my lasagne. Both great for freezing.

    • You’re welcome Jodie. Yes it is also good for lasagne too, thanks so much for all of your feedback. Really appreciate it G x

  • Meagan

    So yummy and packed with veggies. I was so surprised that they just vanished. This recipe is a winner and will become a staple from my kitchen. Thank you Georgia 🙂

    • Missed your comment here Meagan – glad you like it too G x

  • Julia

    I make a very similar bolognese but about twice as many carrots, celery and zucchinis diced as well as a diced red capsicum, makes it a bit sweeter and the kids seem to eat a lot more with capsicum in. My 3 yr old decided one day he didn’t like carrot any more so I just use the potato masher to smoosh everything once it’s cooked!

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