A delicious, flavorful, healthy bolognese meat sauce served with gluten-free tagliatelle makes for the perfect cozy date night meal.
Healthy Bolognese with Gluten-Free Tagliatelle
I’m so excited to share this recipe for healthy bolognese over gluten-free tagliatelle on Valentine’s Day because it was truly a labor of love between my husband and I.
Deano and I started a new Saturday date night tradition where we cook dinner together and drink a bottle of good red wine. We typically cook something with pasta. Pasta just always seems like the perfect date night meal. It’s so comforting and delicious. Plus, it pairs perfectly with wine.
For a long time, I never let Dean help me in the kitchen. The rule was I cooked, he cleaned. The kitchen was my domain; my happy place to relax and create and I wasn’t very good at sharing it. If Dean tried to help and learn how to cook, I would be very bossy and particular how I wanted things done. He got the message and just stayed out and let me do my thing.
After time, I realized I wanted more help in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s really nice to have a sous chef! Plus, it’s been so fun teaching him how to cook and working together to create a recipe.
Last weekend, we decided to try and create our own classic bolognese sauce. I called my mom for some pointers to understand the basic components of the sauce (she’s who I learned to cook from and made homemade spaghetti sauce all the time). Then, we picked up the ingredients from the store. When we got home (and put little man to bed), we cracked open a delicious bold Spanish blend and started experimenting. We went off intuition, tasting, and tweaking and created the most perfect, balanced, flavor-forward bolognese.
I’m truly proud of this sauce recipe and it’s even more special that my husband and I created it together.
What is bolognese?
Bolognese is a tradition Italian meat sauce that originated from the city of Bologna. It’s basically a sauce made with ground beef, juicy crushed tomatoes, and fresh herbs and spices. The cornerstone of the sauce is time and patience. It takes about 2 hours for the sauce to come together and build depth of flavor. But it’s so worth the wait! The sauce becomes more delicious, rich, thick, and flavorful a it it slowly simmers and cooks on the stove.
How to make a bolognese?
This bolognese sauce comes together in stages, each stage meant to enhance the flavor of the sauce: cook the mirepoix which forms the base of the sauce, cook the herbs and spices in olive oil to bring out their flavors, brown the meat to build flavor, deglaze the pan, add remaining ingredients, and let the sauce simmer for hours. Let’s break that down!
First, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy bottom sauce pan. Add your chopped onions, carrots, and celery and a heavy pinch of salt. These three vegetables together are called a mirepoix. A mirepoix is a flavor base made from cooking vegetables in fat. It add richness and depth of flavor to this sauce. I cut the veggies in larger chunks because I like the texture in the sauce.
PRO TIP 1: You can dice them smaller if you want them to disappear in the sauce and add only flavor, not texture.
PRO TIP 2: I recently discovered you can now buy pre-cut mirepoix packages at the grocery store. It’s a little more expensive as the work is done for you but a great short cut if you don’t feel like chopping veggies.
Once the veggies are cooked and translucent, add in your garlic and spices and cook until your house has that beautiful garlic aroma. It’s important to cook your garlic and spices in oil instead of just dumping in the sauce at the end because as they cook they release their flavors and help build depth to the sauce.
Next, add in your ground meat and cook until the outside is slightly browned and the inside is no longer pink. Browning the meat also helps add flavor and richness to the sauce. Then add the tomato paste and cook until it is a rusty red color and coats the meat.
Now the fun part! Deglaze the pan with red (or white) wine. The wine will help pick up the brown caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan and add them to the sauce for even more flavor! Allow the wine to reduce slightly to release it’s sugars and thicken.
Finally, add in the remaining ingredients, crushed tomatoes, broth, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and another heavy pinch of salt. My two secret ingredients are the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. The balsamic provides a rich, luscious sweetness and the Worcestershire adds umami and saltiness. Both also help balance the acidity from the tomatoes.
Now it’s just time to wait. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 2 hours for all of the flavors to meld and come together and for the sauce to thicken. Like I said, it worth the wait. The end result is magic!
How is it healthier?
There were several things I did to lighten up this sauce:
- I used lean ground beef and Italian chicken sausage. Both have less fat and calories but still remain moist and flavorful in the juices of the tomatoes and broth.
- I omitted the cream. This is actually a diary-free sauce. Traditionally, a little cream is added to sauce to help round out the flavors. I find the balsamic and Worcestershire help achieve the same effect. Plus, I add just a pinch of coconut sugar to help tame the acidity of the tomatoes.
- I used gluten-free tagliatelle with the sauce. I used Jovial egg brown rice flour tagliatelle. It’s one of the best gluten-free pastas I have ever tried – you can’t even tell it’s gluten-free! It’s tender and light just like homemade pasta.
why is it perfect for date night?
This healthy bolognese with gluten-free tagliatelle is the perfect meal to make on date night! It just takes a little work at the beginning and then the sauce does its own thing simmering away on the stove while you and your loved one can spend time together. Basically, you work together to build the sauce (which is a great team building exercise!), then you can cuddle on the couch and watch a movie or let out your competitive side and play a board game. Either way, you get to spend some quality time together while the sauce slowly cooks away (just remember to stir it occasionally!).
So pour a glass of wine, put on your cute matching aprons, and work together to make magic! I promise, it’ll be a fun, perfect date night!
I’m so proud of this sauce! It’s the first recipe my husband and I created together and it tastes absolutely amazing. It’s rich, hearty, and flavorful, filled with fresh, wholesome ingredients, and was truly a labor of love.
If you make this healthy bolognese with gluten-free tagliatelle, please leave a comment below. I absolutely love to hear from you guys and your thoughts on my recipes. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram or pin it on pinterest, cuz sharing is caring!
Healthy Bolognese with Gluten-Free Tagliatelle
- 1 white onion chopped
- 2 carrots chopped
- 2 celery stocks chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound Italian chicken sausage pork sausage works as well
- 1 28 ounce can crushes tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup good quality red wine a bold red like, cab, syrah, or blend work best
- 3/4 cup chicken broth
- 4-5 gloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar optional
- 9 ounces of gluten-free tagliatelle I used jovial, or other preferred pasta
- 1/4 cup fresh shredded parmesan
- Fresh basil leaves
- French baguette torn into pieces
In a dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 2-4 minutes, or until softened and onions start to caramelize. Season with about a big pinch of salt, about 1/2 teaspoon.
Add garlic and Italian seasonings and cook for about a minute, or until fragrant.
Add both meats, crumble with your spatula, cook until no longer pink and outside starts to brown. Add the tomato paste and cook until it become a rusty red color and coats the meat.
Deglaze the pot with red wine and allow to cook for 2-4 minutes, or until alcohol has burnt off and the wine has reduced slightly.
Add remaining ingredients and anorther healthy pinch of salt and cook until the tomatoes begin to bubble. Lower heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, so the sauce develops its flavor. After the sauce has simmered, taste, add more salt if desired. Also, if too acidic, add the teaspoon of coconut sugar (or cane suagr). Remove from heat.
When the sauce is almost done cooking, cook the pasta according to package instructions.
Drain pasta and add back to pot. Pour in desired amount of sauce and toss with tongs. Divide among plates.
Top with fresh parmesan, torn basil leaves, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with a side of French bread.
Serve and enjoy!