This baby bolognese was developed with babies and toddlers in mind but is perfect for big kids and adults who are trying to up their vegetable intake. It is packed with vegetables and is gently simmered to maximise flavour and texture.
5 Reasons to Love this Dish
- Iron-Rich: Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, with infants and young children at the highest risk (1) Babies need iron from 6 months, therefore iron-rich recipes such as this bolognese pasta sauce are great for both babies and kids. Read more about Iron-rich foods for kids
- Packed With Vegetables: Eating a variety of vegetables is key and this bolognese is packed with four different veggies. There is close to 900g of veggies (+ 800g of tomatoes) added to this recipe.
- Family Friendly: Although this recipe was developed with babies/toddlers in mind it is perfect for kids and adults looking to up their vegetable content without even trying/ noticing! There is no need to make a separate meal for your baby, just remove the baby portion before seasoning.
- Adaptable: Mix and match the vegetables to what you have available or what is in season. Suggestions are given below under the section “Ingredient Information with Alternative Suggestions”
- Freezer Friendly: Freeze so that you are prepared on busy weekday evenings.
Ingredient Information (With Alternative Suggestions)
- Flavour Base Veggies: Onions, celery and carrots are not just added to up the vegetable content, sautéing them in olive oil and garlic provides an excellent flavour base for the bolognese. For this reason, I do not recommend subbing these vegetables with any others. If you have a fussy eater, that has a strong dislike for any of these veggies, then see “Picky Eater Tips” below.
- Extra Veggies: Eggplant isn’t something you would normally find in a bolognese but it does literally dissolve into the meat as it simmers. I don’t tend to peel it but if you have children who are opposed to “bits” in their meals then peeling will make it go unnoticed. The eggplant can easily be subbed for zucchini, which dissolves into the sauce just like the eggplant. Mushrooms are great in bolognese or you could add spinach, bell pepper or peas.
- Chopped Tomatoes: You can sub with crushed tomatoes or pasatta for a smoother sauce. Check the ingredient list to ensure the tomatoes don’t have additional seasonings or added salt.
- Herbs: Dried oregano and bay leaves are added but you can use Italian Mixed herbs or fresh herbs if you prefer.
Process Shots and Cooking Tips
- Saute the onion, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil for around 10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to skip/rush this step, it really does add a delicious flavour base to the bolognese.
- Increase the heat to high, add the ground beef and continuously stir/ break down the meat until it is browned all over. Again, don’t rush this step, a wooden spoon is great for breaking the ground beef down into nice small pieces.
- Add the oregano and tomato paste and mix with the meat. Cook for a couple of minutes to deepen the flavour.
- Add the canned tomatoes, eggplant and bay leaf bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for at least 1 hour, but if you have time aim for 2 – 2.5hrs to really bring the bolognese to another level!
Picky Eater Tips
I don’t advocate hiding vegetables in kids food but if you have a particularly fussy eater, that doesn’t like “bits” in their sauce, I would suggest the following.
- Mince the onion and celery (I use a food processor for this)
- Grate the carrots
- Remove the skin of the eggplant.
- PASTA: When I think of bolognese I automatically associate it with spaghetti. Fun, messy and great for kids! For babies, I recommend a pasta shape that is easy for them to pick up (rigatoni is pictured) or the tiny baby pasta ideal for spoon-feeding. Alternatively, you can snip the spaghetti up into small pieces which makes it easy for spoon-feeding.
- ZOODLES (spiralized zucchini): I often mix spaghetti and zoodles 60% 40% to add more goodness to the plate!
- POTATO: Delicious served in a baked potato or sweet potato.
- QUESADILLA: Add leftovers to a quesadilla for a yummy lunch.
Bolognese only tastes better the next day, so it is perfect to make a day or two in advance and then just reheat at dinner time.
Allow to cool, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days. Alternatively, transfer the cooled baby bolognese to freezable containers/zip lock bags and freeze for up to two months.
Read more about storing baby food.
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A delicious bolognese, packed with vegetables, that the whole family can enjoy.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Hover over “serves” value to reveal recipe scaler
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and saute for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Increase the heat to high, add the ground beef and continuously stir/ break down the meat until it is browned all over and broken down into nice small pieces. (This will take around 10 mins)
Add the oregano and tomato paste and mix with the meat. (for around 2 mins)
Add the canned tomatoes, eggplant and bay leaf bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for at least 1 hour, but if you have time aim for 2 – 2.5hrs to really bring the bolognese to another level!
See the above post for ingredient substitutions, picky eater tips and storage instructions.
Nutritional Information is a ROUGH guide only, calculated using an online nutrition calculator.
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Trans Fat 1g
Vitamin A 5509IU110%
Vitamin C 29mg35%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
- Gupta PM, Perrine CG, Mei Z, Scanlon KS, Iron, Anemia, and Iron Deficiency Anemia among Young Children in the United States, NCBI, 2016 May 30 doi: 10.3390/nu8060330
This post was first published Dec 2013. It has been updated with new images, process shots and recipe information.