Gav Martell: He’s in the Kitchen


Spaghetti Bolognese

A healthy, kid-friendly version of a classic recipe

Cooking for my kids is one of my favourite things to do. They are the perfect panel of taste testers. Varying degrees of pickiness, different like and dislikes with a sprinkling of brutal honesty. I know they're going to let me know right away whether they like a dish or not.

Recently it was making me crazy that their favourite pasta dish included ginger ale and ketchup in the ingredients. I'm too embarrassed to even link to the recipe for you... but it's one that we've always made and my kids fell in love with it. So much sugar and garbage in a dish that should be simple, nutritious and delicious. I decided to set out on a mission to make them a homemade pasta dish I could be proud to serve them and that they would love.

My younger two will immediately shy away from any sauce with visible vegetables in it so I started off by grating all of the vegetables and cooking them down before starting on my meat sauce. This way I could be sure it would be healthy but by cooking down the vegetables in grated form they conceal themselves in the sauce and get gobbled up by my kids who are oblivious that they are even there. Daddy 1 - kids 0.

Next problem: my kids give me the stink-eye if they find ANY fresh herbs in their pasta sauce but I didn't want to give up all of that great flavour. I decided to put my tea infuser to good use. This way I can get all of that great fresh herb flavour into my sauce but then easily dispose of them when I'm ready to serve.

Lastly, the sauce also HAS to be delicious if I'm going to try and go head-to-head with the sugary jarred spaghetti sauces. An important note for the recipe below: make sure you brown both the vegetables and the beef. Not simply cook the meat until it's no longer pink. The beauty of Bolognese is the simplicity of its ingredients but you have to let those ingredients shine! Think of the difference in flavour between boiled vegetables and oven roasted vegetables or the difference between boiled meat and a grilled steak. If you don't take the time to elevate the flavour of your ingredients by browning them then you will miss a lot of the potential depth of flavour that this dish possesses.

This version of Bolognese was a complete success and I'm so happy to share this recipe with you all knowing it has healthy ingredients and that your families will love it as much as mine does!

Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves: 6


2 carrots, peeled
1 stick celery
1 large yellow onion
1/2 orange pepper, seeded
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 800ml cans of whole tomatoes
1 350ml can tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, basil, bay leaves, rosemary), chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

300g dry spaghetti

Parmesan cheese (optional), for serving


 Using the large grate of a box grater, grate carrots, pepper, onion and celery.

 Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil and once heated (about 30 seconds) add garlic and grated vegetables. Saute vegetables stirring occasionally until browned (about 15 minutes.) Salt and pepper your vegetables to taste.

 Add ground beef to the pot and cook until browned (about 15 minutes). Once browned salt and pepper to taste then pour in wine and allow to cook off for a few minutes.

 Pour in tomatoes with their liquid and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Place chopped herbs in a tea infuser and lower into sauce. Cover the pot, turn the heat down and allow to simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally (As your liquid cooks the tomatoes will easily break up with a wooden spoon.) Salt and pepper to taste.

 While your sauce is cooking prepare the pasta and cook until al dente. Remove tea infuser from sauce, and serve sauce over spaghetti with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.