A traditional recipe for bolognese relies heavily on meat as the center of the dish. But for those of you who are vegetarians, or would like to change things up, this recipe substitutes eggplant for half of the meat to make some healthy comfort food. You could easily make the recipe vegetarian by completely swapping the ground beef out for more eggplant. As a meat eater, I like this version because it’s a little lighter and at the same time adds another serving of vegetables into my diet.
Other than the eggplant, the recipe doesn’t veer too far from usual bolognese sauce. Bolognese is already based on mostly Paleo-friendly ingredients. The onion and ground beef are sautéed together first, and then the eggplant and garlic are added into the pan. This is a dish that shouldn’t be rushed; instead cook it long and slow. A little red wine is added to the pan to deglaze and bring more flavor to the sauce. Lastly, whole plum tomatoes are stirred into the mixture and everything is left to simmer for about 10 minutes. If you don’t eat it all right away, the sauce can be frozen to enjoy later.
I usually serve the bolognese over zucchini pasta, instead of the traditional pasta noodles. I prefer zucchini mainly because it is so easy to prepare. Zucchini pasta is popular on the Paleo diet because it is consistently delicious and takes minutes to make. The bolognese would also taste good over spaghetti squash noodles, though they take longer to cook. This recipe is proof that a dish based on ‘pasta’ can still be good for you.
- 1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, diced
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes
- 6 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and beef and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the meat is browned. Stir in the eggplant, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme and sauté for an additional 15 minutes.
- Once the eggplant is tender, stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and slightly crush with a spoon. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt to taste. Serve warm garnished with fresh basil.