A Bolognese sauce is such a versatile and tasty meal element. Although I refer to it as a “Bolognese” sauce it is perfect for any tomato-based sauces used in other meals such as lasagne or meatballs. There are a few tweaks you can make to your family favourites that can pack in some extra vitamins that even the fussiest of eaters will not notice.
Adding to your diet, rather than taking away, is an easy step to making small but sustainable lifestyle changes. Here are five ways to beef up your Bolognese.
Add Shredded Beetroot
This is something that I have recently started doing to my cottage pies. It adds a rich purple hue and an earthiness to the sauce, as well as a whole host of added vitamins and minerals.
Beetroots are a great source of fibre, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, potassium, iron, and vitamin C. They are also one of the richest sources of glutamine which is essential to the health and maintenance of our gut. Being a great source of fibre also helps with supporting bowel function and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Simply grate a fresh beetroot, not a pickled one from a jar, and add it to your sauce after browning your meat or before adding the tomatoes if you are doing a veggie version.
A Teaspoon of Marmite
Now I know what you are thinking, I am crazy, right? Trust me on this one as I have changed many a sceptic’s mind about this.
Adding a teaspoon of Marmite, or another brand of yeast extract, to your red sauce just adds something to it – even after years of doing this I still cannot put my finger on what it is. However, it is certainly worth it.
As well as just making it taste amazing, Marmite is an amazing source of vitamins and minerals including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, potassium, and magnesium.
Throw in Some Lentils
Lentils are a fantastic source of protein and fibre and make a wonderful meat alternative for Bolognese or lasagne.
They are jam-packed with a whole host of vitamins and minerals including a broad range of beneficial plant compounds called phytochemicals, many of which protect against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
When it comes to using lentils in a dish such as Bolognese then brown is the way to go. They have an earthy flavour, hold their shape well, and have a bite to them. Consider swapping half of your meat for lentils, or even all of it, for a cheaper version of these family favourites.
Beans, Beans They’re Good For Your Heart
As well as lentils, beans are a great way to add more to your tomato-based sauce. It doesn’t matter if it’s for spaghetti bolognese or for a chilli, throwing in some beans not only increases the nutrition in the dish but can replace some (or all) of the meat and reduce the cost. Here are some beans to consider:
Now, anyone who regularly eats chilli con carne will be well familiar with this bean but it doesn’t have to be reserved just for Mexican dishes. Kidney beans are an excellent source of fibre as well as folate, manganese, thiamine, copper and iron.
Black beans are often overlooked for dishes but they are even more nutritious than kidney beans, for the most part, having more protein, fibre and iron per cup. They are also a great source of magnesium. Being smaller than kidney beans means that they blend into the food a bit better, making them a great choice for fussier eaters.
These beans are very common in Mexico and are often eaten mashed, as well as whole, which would be a great way to add extra nutrients to your sauce without there being whole beans in the sauce. One study found that half a cup of pinto beans a day, for eight weeks, was able to reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in its participants – which is a great reason to add them to your diet.
These are the beans that most people think of when it comes to beans as these are the ones used in Baked Beans. They are the fibre king of the beans and you can’t go wrong with adding these to your bolognese or add them, in baked bean form, as a side to your cottage pie dish.
Don’t Forget The Basics
Believe it or not, many people think of a bolognese sauce as just a tomato sauce when it is so much more. By including the very basic of ingredients you are already raising the nutritional value of your sauce beyond “just tomatoes”.
The two basic ingredients you never want to forget are garlic and onions, unless you’re unable to use either. As well as adding flavour, these ingredients are packed with nutrients.
Garlic is thought to be a source of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and certain enzymes. These can help your body to build muscle as well as protect your gut health.
Onions, as well as containing many of the same nutrients already mentioned in this post, also contain a good source of potassium which is needed for cell function, nerve transmission, kidney function, muscle contractions and fluid balance.
Last, but not least, herbs. Whether they’re fresh from the garden or dried from a jar. Normally used for their flavour, herbs have been shown to provide a range of different nutrients that help everything from blood sugar management to helping to prevent heart disease. So, whatever the meal you’re making, gets those herbs in.
Beefing Up Your Bolognese
As I said at the start, these tips can be used for more than just your bolognese sauce – cottage pies, chilli con carne, stews, soups, and beyond. They are all pretty cheap but packed full of health improving nutrients that you and your family need.
Let me know if you add any, or all, of these to your next dish.