This calorie controlled version of a firm family favourite couldn’t be mistaken for “diet food”… it’s just too rich and delicious. Originally developed as a way to sneak hidden veggies into Kiddo’s diet, my recipe has evolved over the years, and now I couldn’t imagine cooking it any other way. I always make a huge batch and portion it up for the freezer. This recipe makes 10 LARGE portions of “meat sauce” as it’s called here in Canada, so I freeze it in 2-portion bags so that it’s on hand to defrost for Spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, or as a base for chilli.
This may seem like a long post, but it’s nothing technical, and well worth making a huge batch for the freezer so that you have it on hand for a quick and easy healthy dinner whenever you don’t have time to cook. Start by preparing all the veggies; finely chop the onions, crush or chop the garlic and finely chop the mountain of mushrooms. Grate the aubergine and the courgette.
Warm a very large pot on a low heat, and add the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and stir to coat with the oil. Reduce the heat to very low and sweat the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, adding splashes of water (from the glass you prepared earlier 😉 ) to prevent sticking or browning. Once the onions are translucent and soft, you can add the chopped mushrooms and increase the heat. Add a pinch of salt to help extract the moisture from the mushrooms, and cook, stirring, on a med-high heat till the mushrooms are brown, the moisture has evaporated and it’s starting to look like cooked minced beef! No you see how this evolved from those child-friendly “hidden veggie” days!!
Next you can add the aubergine and stir through. Now it’s time to add the minced beef. Increase the heat to high and add the meat, breaking it up and cook stirring till there’s no more pinkness and it’s cooked through. Continue to stir and cook on high till most of the moisture has evaporated away.
Now take handfuls of the courgette and squeeze them till a lot of the water is removed. Courgette holds a lot of moisture, and if you don’t remove it now your finished sauce can be too watery. Put the squeezed courgette into the pot, and stir well, still on a high heat.
Next add plenty of freshly ground black pepper, the three tins of tomatoes and the herbs. I started using crushed tomatoes because Kiddo hated chunks of tomato and would pick them out (sigh), but then I found that the crushed tomatoes added a lovely richness to the sauce. I still like some chunks though, hence keeping one tin of diced!
Bring everything to a boil, stirring well. Then reduce to a very low heat and put a lid on partially, leaving it open at the side to allow steam to escape and avoid condensation making the sauce watery. Simmer for as long as you can, but at least for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your liking – I love lots of black pepper for warmth, and oregano for sweetness, with sea salt to balance it out.
If I’m counting calories I’ll have this with spiralized courgette (courgetti / zoodles) which I honestly really like! So it brings my entire huge bowlful to 250 calories!!!!! If I’m on maintenance calories, or have more room in my calorie budget, I’ll have regular pasta, perhaps 2 cups of cooked penne, for a total of 540 calories.
RECIPE: My Ultimate Low Calorie Bolognese (Meat Sauce)
Makes a batch of 10 very large portions at 220 calories per portion.
- 550g extra lean minced beef
- 250g onion (2 small onions) finely chopped
- 450g white mushrooms (2 small punnets) finely chopped
- 450g courgette/zucchini
- 300g aubergine/eggplant (1 medium), grated
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 small glass of water
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 large tin (796ml) diced tomatoes
- 2 large tims (796ml each) crushed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Warm a very large pot on a low heat, and add the olive oil. Add chopped onions and crushed garlic and stir well to coat in the oil. Reduce the heat to very low, and sweat the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, adding splashes of water to prevent sticking or browning.
- Once the onions are translucent and soft, add the chopped mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium-high, add a pinch of salt to help extract the moisture, and cook stirring till the mushrooms brown and their moisture evaporates. You’ll notice that it’s starting to look just like cooked minced beef now…
- Add the grated aubergine and stir through.
- Now add the ground beef, turn the heat to high, and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until there’s no pinkness left and the meat is cooked through.
- Take handfuls of the grated courgette, squeeze out most of the moisture before adding it to the pot and stirring well.
- Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper, and salt. If there’s still a lot of moisture in the pot, cook on high stirring all the time till some more of it evaporates away.
- Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves and oregano. Stir well and bring to the boil.
- Once boiled. Reduce to a very low simmer and put a lid on part-way, allowing steam to escape.
- Leave to simmer for as long as you can, but at least 30minutes. Adjust salt, pepper and oregano to your taste.
- Makes 10 very hearty portions.
- Great to freeze. Use two big ladles (or just under 2 cups) per person. Freeze in 1-portion and/or 2-portion bags
- Perfect with pasta or courgetti / zoodles
- Amazing in My Ultimate Low Calorie Lasagne