Better Bolognese on a Budget.

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.

  1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots & onions & saute a few minutes.
  2. Make a well in the center of the mixture, then add ground beef. Cook until browned, gradually incorporating into carrot mixture.
  3. Add spices. When ingredients are combined, make another well & add tomato paste.
  4. Let it heat while you add the garlic; stir to combine.
  5. Make another well; add stock & vinegar. Stir. Add worcestershire. Stir.
  6. Add canned tomatoes. Stir.
  7. 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!)
  8. Add milk or sugar. Stir.
  9. Let simmer 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  10. Serve over a hearty, thick pasta that holds onto this hearty, thick sauce. We prefer rotini or penne. Top with parmesan, if desired.
  11. Freeze remainder into smaller portions. I feel that this sauce is always better the second time around!



Filed under Recipes

4 responses to “Better Bolognese on a Budget.

  1. You’ve got a great start on your new blog!! I love it. I’ll put a link for it on mine! I’m going to have to try this recipe. I have a new pressure cooker and I think I could really trim the time down by using it. I’ll let you know if it works!

  2. Wendy C

    I’m excited to try this! Thanks!

  3. Thanks for this recipe. I tried a bolognese sauce recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and it was just so-so. Definitely not worth making again. I’ll give this one a try.

  4. Thanks so much for joining Saturday Swap with this! I’ve made this before and it is WONDERFUL! Great recipe. I’ve never thought to make it in advance and then freeze…. what a GREAT idea! Thanks a bunch for linking up….. Have a great weekend!

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