Not long before The Munchkin was born, I found this recipe for bolognese sauce on The Pioneer Woman’s cooking blog. I had been looking for one for a while, & this met all of my criteria: it had to be delicious (duh), & it had to use just ground beef. No veal, no sausage — just ground beef. Why? Because I’m on a budget. As an added bonus, all of the other ingredients are standard pantry items, like dried herbs instead of fresh, & canned tomatoes. So much less work, so much less money. So, my 8-month-pregnant, back-laboring self set out to make it.
I’ve made it every month since.
Why do I love it so? Aside from its budget- & palate-friendliness, it’s very convenient. It takes awhile to cook up the first time, so I reserve a Sunday afternoon every month & a half or so for my husband to entertain The Munchkin while I work. After our delicious spaghetti dinner, I freeze the leftovers in smaller portions for times when I don’t have the time or energy to cook. Just pop the container in the microwave to defrost, dump the sauce into a pan to heat, & cook up some pasta! Right there, I have 5 dinners made in one afternoon! Additionally, there are so many “hidden” healthy ingredients, like grated carrots, that it’s ideal for picky eaters — so much heartier & healthier than most jarred pasta sauces.
Without further ado, here’s my version of Pastor Ryan’s Bolognese Sauce from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil*
- 2 lb. ground beef**
- 2 Tbsp. dried oregano flakes
- 2 Tbsp. dried basil flakes
- generous pinch thyme
- 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 cans (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
- splash milk (if this weirds you out like it did me at first, add a generous pinch of sugar instead to cut the acidity of the tomatoes)
*The amount of olive oil you use will depend on the leanness of your ground beef (see next asterisk). More oil for leaner beef.
**The ground beef does not get drained in this recipe, so leaner is definitely better. Otherwise it gets REALLY greasy. I usually use 90/10.
- Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots & onions & saute a few minutes.
- Make a well in the center of the mixture, then add ground beef. Cook until browned, gradually incorporating into carrot mixture.
- Add spices. When ingredients are combined, make another well & add tomato paste.
- Let it heat while you add the garlic; stir to combine.
- Make another well; add stock & vinegar. Stir. Add worcestershire. Stir.
- Add canned tomatoes. Stir.
- Season with salt & pepper, if desired. (I usually save this step until last to give the flavors a chance to meld a little, & often end up dispensing with this step altogether because it tastes delicious as-is!)
- Add milk or sugar. Stir.
- Let simmer 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Serve over a hearty, thick pasta that holds onto this hearty, thick sauce. We prefer rotini or penne. Top with parmesan, if desired.
- Freeze remainder into smaller portions. I feel that this sauce is always better the second time around!