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Shortcut Vegetable Ragu is a healthy, hearty gluten-free dinner that will be on the table in 30 minutes!

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Hello friends, happy Monday – I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

As planned, Lincoln and I hit the slopes, aka the sludge left hiding from the sun in the shade of the fence, for a sledding session though I had to move the timing up since we reached 55 degrees on Friday afternoon, and I was afraid all the snow would melt before we had a chance to get out there. (RIP red yarn hat ball. Lincoln tore it off at World Market the other day and it literally disappeared into thin air. So sad!)


The sled was a HIT (here’s the one we got) and Lincoln signed “more, more, more!” as I ran up and down the fence line as fast as I could for a good 20 minutes. All I can say is, glad it was the middle of the day on a Friday so the neighbors weren’t around to witness me tearing it up. ;) It was warm enough to pull out the slide, walk around the yard, check out the pond, and in general bask in the wondrous sun for about an hour. Got me so excited for spring!


Alas, all good things must come to an end. ‘Til next time, unseasonably warm winter afternoon! (Don’t worry, he had gloves on in this pic.) ;)


The following couple of days were about as unadventurous as they come. I tackled some home projects and made a batch of Shortcut Vegetable Ragu, which is quickly climbing my food obsession list. Although the temperatures are warmer right now, they’re bound to drop soon and this pasta with hearty ragu is a cozy yet healthy winter feast!

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Ragu is essentially an Italian meat sauce that’s made with carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes, herbs, wine, and sometimes milk or cream, that’s simmered low and slow until thick and rich. So, so satisfying and awesome for a slow cooked Sunday supper when you’ve got some extra time to spend in the kitchen.

But what about the rest of the week when we’re all crazy busy? That’s where my 30-minute Shortcut Vegetable Ragu comes in!

A plethora of healthy vegetables including minced carrot, celery, and mushrooms are sauteed until tender then simmered with browned ground beef, chicken broth, and, wait for it, store-bought, high-quality marinara sauce for just 10 minutes which results in a hearty ragu that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours. Tossed with gluten-free or regular spaghetti and you are off to the races, my friend!

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Lincoln is in a weird food phase right now – some days he’ll annihilate anything I put in front of him then the next day he’s put all his favorites in the proverbial rearview mirror. Over it! One thing I can always count on him craving though is spaghetti and meat sauce. This ragu is a great way to give him what he wants AND get a little extra bang for my buck since it’s full of healthy vegetables including mushrooms which are crazy high in vitamin D. Those warm, outdoor romps aren’t going to happen with regularity for at least another 3 months, so getting vitamin D from food is especially important right now.

Since the ragu already tastes rich and slow cooked from the pre-made marinara sauce, I ditched the wine commonly called for in ragu recipes, and the milk, too. I 100% didn’t miss it, plus it means the whole family can enjoy the dish since Lincoln is allergic to dairy and, well, underage.

This Shortcut Vegetable Ragu is freezer-friendly, too. Just cool then scoop into a Ziplock freezer bag and freeze flat. A friend of mine is expecting her 4th baby in the next couple of weeks so I’m making a double batch for her to have on hand then thaw for a cozy, comforting dinner anytime she needs it!

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Start by prepping your veggies which were all minced lickity split thanks to your friend and mine, a food processor! If you don’t have a food processor you can of course chop everything real small by hand, but boy does having one of these babies help move the process along.


To the bowl of your food processor pulse 1/2 onion that’s been roughly chopped with 3 garlic cloves until minced then add to a large skillet with high sides over medium heat with 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Saute until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.


Meanwhile, pulse the rest of your veggies until minced. You want all the vegetables to be the same size and real small so they kind of melt into the ragu. It’s so good!!

You’ll need 1 large peeled carrot and 1 rib of celery, both roughly chopped, along with 4oz sliced mushrooms. By the way, I used to HATE mushrooms yet I’d still pulse them up into a mince then saute with ground beef for tacos or spaghetti. Not only are they indetectable and add vitamins, but they make your ground beef go farther for not a lot of money!


Add the vegetables to the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until tender, about 5 more minutes.


Next add 1lb ground beef (I used 85/15,) season with salt and pepper, then saute until no longer pink, breaking the ground beef up as it cooks.


Time for the star of the dish – a 24oz jar of store-bought marinara sauce which will make your Ragu taste totally homemade and slow simmered in a fraction of the time.


Like I mentioned up top – make sure you are using high-quality marinara sauce. This is no time for Prego or, ironically, Ragu brand. Like I always say, central Iowans you’ve got to give Ginos a chance (my Mother-in-law stocks up on pallets when she comes to visit!) otherwise look for a local version at your grocery store. It makes so much difference in the taste of the ragu!


Simmer the marinara sauce with 1/2 cup chicken broth for 10 minutes with the lid partially on then stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil. Love the pop of fresh flavor the basil brings to the dish.


Cook up some spaghetti while the ragu simmers (I love Barilla gluten-free spaghetti,) then toss together and serve!

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu


Shortcut Vegetable Ragu is a healthy, gluten-free dinner that will be on the table in 30 minutes!


serve 5-6

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large carrot, peeled then roughly chopped
  • 1 rib celery, roughly chopped
  • 4oz sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper
  • 1lb ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 24oz high quality marinara sauce (I used Gino's)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1lb gluten-free or regular spaghetti


  1. Add onions and garlic to the bowl of a food processor then pulse until minced, or mince by hand. Heat oil in a large skillet with high sides over medium heat then add onions and garlic and saute until softened, 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add carrot, celery, and mushrooms to the bowl of the food processor then pulse until minced, or mince vegetables by hand. Add to skillet then turn heat up to medium-high. Season with salt and pepper then saute until vegetables are tender, 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef to skillet, season with salt and pepper, then saute until no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks. Add marinara sauce and chicken broth then stir to combine, turn the heat down to medium, and then place a lid partially on top and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in fresh basil then taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then drop in spaghetti. Cook until al dente then serve tossed with ragu.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.


That slow-cooked flavor with the vegetables that just melt into the sauce with the tender beef – I am telling you – there’s nothing better. Take spaghetti night up a notch with this Shortcut Vegetable Ragu, and enjoy!

Shortcut Vegetable Ragu #glutenfree | iowagirleats.com