Some days I find that I need — almost more than I could possibly need a single other thing — a thick, hearty, beefy bolognese. And a real one, at that. Not some mess of red that you scoop out of the bottom of a Prego jar, but a real, home-cooked I-love-myself kind of bolognese.
Later, when I am elbow deep in a bowl of it, my lips outlined in impatient gobs of tomato red, I sometimes pause and think quietly to myself: I should love myself this much more often.
I love myself enough to skip the pasta. Gluten, like several of my ex-boyfriends, never did right by me, and I had to break it off between us. Maybe you’ve got a similar story, or maybe you eat Paleo, or are wading your way through the Whole30 thing, or the low carb thing. Or maybe you’re smarter than I’m giving you credit for because you know that gluten and carbs aside, these fancy little green noodles are delicious — and in a really big way.
The thing is that these zucchini noodles — which, right now, the whole Internet is abuzz about — really are delicious. And not only that — they’re shockingly satisfying too. And I’m not just saying that, I promise. They are so delicious that I urge you to get yourself a julienne peeler at your very earliest convenience (by the way, I use this one). And when you, you can eat your noodles with a mountain of this sweet and meaty bolognese piled high on top. And it has to be this one — this bolognese. Why? Because I’ve made it just for you. I’ve reinforced the heartiness quotient with a couple cups of chopped mushrooms. Let them get all browned and caramelled. Yes, just like that. And then, in addition to the fresh tomatoes and canned tomato sauce, I’ve also added a couple tablespoons of tomato paste to this recipe, which I think really wakes up the flavors with a deep richness. Then there’s the balsamic vinegar, my secret weapon here. Do not skip this. It makes this sauce extra special. Trust me.
Just like my Lentil Bolognese sauce, this beef version can be frozen in batches and saved for another time, which should come as good news to those of you who find themselves needing it like I sometimes do. Just noodle up some zucchini to eat alongside it and you’ll be plum in no time.
Balsamic Beef Bolognese with Zucchini Noodles.
Balsamic Beef Bolognese.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
- 10 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 c chopped yellow onion
- Sea salt + cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
- 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup sulfite-free balsamic vinegar
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1-15 ounce can of plain 100% tomato sauce
- 1 pound (about 3 medium) vine tomatoes, diced
- Fresh basil
In a large Dutch oven or sauce pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and clarified butter. When it warms up, add the garlic, onions, and a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the oregano, red pepper flake, and chopped mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft and browning, another 5 or 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for a couple of minutes, until the mixture is well combined. Pour in the first 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, and use it to help you scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Let is simmer for another few minutes to cook out the vinegar tang.
Add the ground beef and use a spatula to crumble it well and to combine it with the other ingredients. Add a bit more salt and pepper and continue to cook until the beef is no longer pink. Then add the sauce, the tomatoes, and the second 1/4 cup of balsamic. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower it to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes longer. Salt and pepper again as needed, and top with fresh basil.
- About 2 small zucchini per person
- Sea salt + cracked black pepper
Create your noodles using the pictorial over at Nom Nom Paleo (link here). You can stir fry your noodles if you’d like, but I prefer to steam them. To do this, put your noodles in a microwave-safe bowl with a bit of water, and cover it. Michelle suggests microwaving for 2 minutes on high, but I find microwaving for 3 minutes on high, stirring, and then microwaving for another 90 seconds works best for me and my machine. (Feel free to tweak according to your preference, your machine, and how many mouths you’re feeding.) When the noodles have finished cooking, drain them in a colander and squeeze them gently with a clean towel, releasing as much of the excess moisture as you can. Move them into your dish and season with salt and pepper. Top with loads of bolognese.
Good news! This recipe is Whole30 compliant!
- Read more about the Whole30 guidelines and my goals for the program here.
- Follow my Whole30 board on Pinterest here.
- For more pictures, check out my Instagram page here.