This veggie loaded, kid-friendly bolognese is a great combination of protein from the ground beef and nutrients and fiber from all the veggies. It's ready in less than an hour, and you can serve it with some pasta and grated cheese on top for a full meal. Enjoy!
Bolognese is a great way to introduce meat to your baby as you can serve it with some pasta or use it as a filling and it's easy to chew on those early months when they are discovering food and learning how to eat.
This veggie loaded bolognese is not just for babies though. The whole family can enjoy it, from little ones to adults. It's made with lots of veggies making it a great choice for picky eaters that are fighting eating their veggies.
I'm using a mix of leek, carrots and peppers but you could add more veggies to make it even healthier, like eggplant cut into cubes or mushrooms. As for the ground meat, I usually make it with ground beef but you could also use a mix of ground pork and beef or lamb. Whatever your family likes.
If you are looking for more healthy pasta sauce ideas, then take a look at my hulk pasta recipe made with spinach leaves for a quick and healthy meal.
👩🏻🍳 Why you should try my recipe
- Ready in less than an hour.
- Perfect with pasta or as a filling.
- Easy to make, not requiring any special equipment.
- Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days. Freezable for busy days.
- Suitable for babies from 6 months old.
To make this veggie loaded bolognese, we are going to need ground beef, olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, bell pepper, leek, carrots, crushed tomatoes or passata, tomato paste, freshly ground pepper, oregano or Italian seasoning, fresh parsley and a bay leaf.
For adults and older children, you could add a pinch of salt whilst cooking or what I like to do is, take out two portions for my baby boy then season with salt and cook for a couple more minutes for the rest of the family.
For full quantities and to print the recipe, see the recipe card below.
🔪 Step-by-step Instructions
So get your ingredients ready and let's get started!
01. To start, I'm preparing the vegetables. I chop the onion into cubes and roughly cut the garlic cloves. I like to cut the leek in half so it's easier to wash and remove any dirt between the leaves. Then I simply slice it and set it aside for later.
02. I'm using one or two carrots, depending on the size, for this veggie loaded bolognese. I'm grating the carrots, which helps the sauce to thicken and it's also faster to cook. As for the bell pepper, I cut it into cubes to mix better with the rest of the ingredients or you could cut it into strips.
03. Now I'm ready to move to the pot. I'm using a wide pot or a Dutch pot, which is perfect for slow cooking and stews. I add the olive oil and turn the heat to medium-high. I add the chopped onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until it's soft and translucent.
04. Next, I add the ground beef. I'm using a wooden spoon to break down the meat and brown it. That usually takes about 4-5 minutes. Instead of ground beef, you could also use ground pork or a mix of ground meat of your preference.
05. When the ground meat is brown, it's time to add the chopped garlic and tomato paste. I incorporate them by stirring for a minute. Cooking the tomato paste for a bit helps to enhance its flavor and reduce any bitterness.
06. Now it's time to add the rest of the veggies. I add the chopped leek, bell pepper and grated carrots to the pot. Again, you could cut the vegetables into cubes or strips. I prefer to cut them into small pieces to make the sauce thicker and kind of 'hide' the veggies, so my kids eat more.
07. Next, I add a cup of crushed tomatoes or passata. Make sure the tomatoes you pick have no added salt if you are sharing the bolognese with little ones under 12 months, to keep their sodium intake as low as possible. If you have fresh tomatoes, then you could blend a couple and add them instead of store-bought.
08. For extra flavor and aroma, I'm adding a bay leaf, some oregano or Italian seasoning and freshly ground pepper. If you are making this veggie-loaded bolognese for toddler and kids above 12 months, then you could also add some salt to taste.
09. I'm cooking the bolognese for 20 minutes in low heat, simmering, covered with a lid to keep all the steam inside. Then, I add about a couple of tablespoons of fresh parsley and continue simmering for 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened. There shouldn't be much water left and all veggies should be soft.
📖 Substitutions & Variations
- You could add more vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant cut into cubes for a more rich body and flavor.
- Instead of ground beef, you could use ground pork, ground lamb or a mix.
- Instead of canned or jarred tomatoes, you could use 2 fresh ones.
🍽 Serving suggestions
We love having this veggie loaded bolognese with rotini, fusilli or farfale pasta. I find those shapes are better with the bolognese as they hold the sauce well and are easier for little ones to handle.
For a healthier option, you could use chickpea pasta or red lentil pasta or if you have a spiralizer, you could spiralize a zucchini and make zucchini noodles.
If you have any leftovers of the veggie pasta bolognese, then you could store it in the fridge and consume it within the next 3-4 days.
You could also freeze it in freezer containers or portion it in freezable bags for up to 2 months. Then, you take out one or two bags a couple of hours before lunch until thawed or you could even empty it in a little pan with a bit of pasta water until hot.
- Cutting the vegetables into smaller bits makes the sauce thicker.
- When the bolognese is ready, take out how many portions you want for your baby, then add some salt and leave it to cook for 4-5 minutes for the rest of the family.
- Freeze in portions in little freezable bags for a quick meal on busy days.
- Add more spices according to your family's liking, ground cinnamon, allspice etc.
Bolognese is a great way to introduce meat to babies from 6 months old. You could add lots of veggies along with the ground meat to make the sauce more healthy and rich but remember to avoid adding any salt for babies under 12 months old.
You could add a variety of vegetables to the bolognese for a healthier and veggie loaded version. Some vegetables that I like to add are carrots, leek, onion, peppers, eggplants and mushrooms.
Veggie Loaded Pasta Bolognese
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion cut into cubes
- 1 lb ground beef (500gr)
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 leek cut into slices
- 1-2 carrots grated
- 1 bell pepper cut into cubes
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes or passata
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ½ tablespoon italian seasoning or oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- Add the olive oil to a pot and turn on the heat to medium-high.
- Add the chopped onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the ground beef and brown for 4-5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, break the ground beef into smaller bits while stirring.
- Add the chopped garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute until incorporated.
- Add chopped leek, grated carrots, bell pepper cubes and crushed tomatoes or passata to the pot. Mix everything well.
- Season with freshly ground pepper, italian seasoning or oregano and a bay leaf.
- Add 2 cups of water. Cover with the lid and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the fresh parsley. Continue cooking for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce thickens.