Have a Sunday afternoon free? Try making Healthy Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce with Veggies Galore. It’s a family-friendly dish you can prep over the weekend and enjoy the leftovers during the week.
Traditional Bolognese sauce is exceptionally meat-heavy but I’ve found you can drastically reduce the meat, mix in some meaty-textured tempeh (which happens to be a super healthy fermented “whole” soy food rich in probiotics) and add tons of vegetables yet still end up with an incredibly rich-tasting, full-flavored sauce. One of the biggest secrets to making sensational Bolognese is to let it cook long and slow…believe it or not, using more meat doesn’t really add more flavor.
Another secret is the pine nut “cream”, which takes all of 45 seconds to make but contributes substantially to the rich, full-bodied end result (note: a lot of Bolognese sauce recipes call for heavy cream or milk but for health reasons I don’t like to cook with either one; nut-based “creams” are a far healthier and “cleaner” option.)
Oh! And be sure to layer your salt and pepper as you go along. You never want to dump all the salt and pepper in your sauce all at once…you just won’t get the best flavor.
Healthy Crockpot Recipes Can Be Super Tasty If You Learn a Trick or Two
Like all appliances, a crockpot has its own distinct way of doing things, so you need to understand how the appliance works and adapt your recipe accordingly.
I really think the biggest misconception with making healthy crockpot recipes is that you can toss all of your ingredients into the crockpot, switch the “ON” button on, and walk away. It’s true your food will cook this way, but it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily end up with the best-tasting food!
While the slow cooker will save you pot-watching time (yes, once you turn it on you can in fact walk away) the best-tasting healthy crockpot recipes will be the ones that are prepared with proper cooking techniques. One of the most important tips to making healthy crockpot recipes that taste incredible is to soften the vegetables by sautéing before you put them in the slow cooker.
Sautéing and softening your vegetables begins the process of caramelization, which breaks down the natural sugars in foods and deepens their flavor. You’ll notice in the recipe for my Healthy Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce below that the directions call for sautéing the vegetables first—don’t skip this part (it only takes an extra 10-minutes at most.) And don’t forget to layer your salt and pepper too!
Healthy Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce with Veggies Galore
This recipe takes about 30-minutes of hands-on time to assemble but is so well worth it and makes a lot of servings. Although the ingredients call for 1/2 pound of grass fed beef the recipe serves at least 8 people, so each serving only has approximately 1 ounce of meat (the meat is really more like a condiment used as a flavor-enhancer.)
By the way, leftovers freeze incredibly well. You can serve this Healthy Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce over whatever pasta you like, but I especially love whole wheat rigatoni (and a simple side salad of arugula with a drizzle of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or black truffle oil and a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice.)
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large shallots, finely chopped
- 5 large carrots, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 large zucchini, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- “Real Salt” or Himalayan salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ pound (8 ounces) grass-fed ground beef
- 8 ounces crumbled tempeh (such as Light Life brand)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 small can (6 ounces) organic tomato paste
- 1 can (15-ounces) organic tomato sauce
1. Put the pine nuts in a high speed blender or mini food processor and add ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon water; process until smooth and creamy. Set pine nut “cream” aside.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-heat. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until shallots are soft. Add the carrots, bell pepper and zucchini and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, or until vegetables soften. Season with oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer vegetables to a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker.
3. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the “dirty” skillet used to cook the vegetables and heat over medium-high; add the ground beef and ground tempeh to the skillet. Season beef-tempeh mixture with garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste; cook until meat is no longer pink. Pour the wine into the skillet and cook until liquid evaporates. Stir in the pine nut cream, tomato paste and tomato sauce, season with additional salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer the meat mixture to the slow cooker along with the vegetables. Gently stir the meat and vegetables together. Cook on high for 2 ½ to 3 hours or on low for 5 or 6 hours. Let Bolognese sit 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm.