It’s so interesting how kids go through weird food phases. Some days my three cherubs will annihilate anything I put in front of them, and the next day they’ll stick their noses up at the exact same dish. (Except hot dogs, everyone always loves hot dogs! ?) One dish (besides hot dogs) that I can always count on all of them to happily eat is spaghetti and meat sauce. Recently I decided to sneak in a bunch of vegetables to see if they’d notice and happily they did not. Vegetable Ragu has all the familiar flavors of spaghetti and meat sauce, yet is PACKED with healthy ingredients!
What is Ragu?
Ragu is an Italian meat sauce that’s includes vegetables, herbs, wine, and sometimes milk or cream, that’s simmered low and slow until thick and rich. So, so satisfying and perfect for a slow cooked Sunday supper when you’ve got 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 store-bought, high-quality marinara sauce for just 10 minutes. The result is a hearty ragu that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, yet will be on the table in just 30 minutes. Tossed with gluten-free or regular spaghetti and you’re off to the races!
Since the ragu already tastes rich and slow cooked from the addition of pre-made marinara sauce, I ditched the wine commonly called for in ragu recipes, and the milk, too. I didn’t miss it, plus it means the whole family can enjoy this dish since we have dairy allergies in the house.
Also want to mention that my shortcut Vegetable Ragu is freezer-friendly. Cool then scoop the cooked ragu into a Ziplock freezer bag and freeze flat. Additionally, this is a GREAT recipe to take to family and friends in need, whether they’re sick, just had a baby, or need some assistance. I recommend making a double batch so they can enjoy one fresh then freeze the second batch for down the road!
How to Make this Recipe:
Start by prepping the vegetables by adding them to a food processor and giving them a zip. If you don’t have a food processor you can of course mince everything by hand – the food processor just saves so much time and is what makes this a true 30 minute meal.
To the bowl of your food processor pulse 1/2 onion that’s been roughly chopped with 3 garlic cloves until finely minced. Add to a large skillet over medium heat with 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil then saute until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
Next add 1 large peeled carrot and 1 rib of celery, both roughly chopped, plus 4oz sliced mushrooms to the food processor and process until fine.
Add the vegetables to the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, season with salt and pepper, 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 store-bought marinara sauce which will make your Ragu taste 100% homemade and slow cooked in a fraction of the time.
As I mentioned, be sure to use a high-quality marinara sauce. This is no time for Prego or, ironically, Ragu brand. Like I always say, central Iowans: Gino’s is the only way to go!
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.
Toss the ragu with cooked spaghetti and you’re on your way! I hope you love this easy, tasty way to take spaghetti night up a notch – enjoy!
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Shortcut Vegetable Ragu
Shortcut Vegetable Ragu is a healthy, vegetable packed dinner that tastes slow cooked but will be on the table in just 30 minutes.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.