Rustic Red: Loaded Vegetable Bolognese

“Are you ready for it?” I look up from examining the fall themed decorations on the break-room table, a co-worker has addressed me and been greeted with my expressively critical face, “pumpkin everything is coming – it’s already here.”  My expression softens, and I laugh, “Yeah actually, I put pumpkin in everything, literally; like soups and chili and spaghetti sauce, so I’m excited for it to be abundant and on sale.” It’s her face now that scrunches up. She tilts her head, “Spaghetti sauce?”

Yeah. Spaghetti Sauce.

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd

So there it is. That right there is one of the best tricks I ever learned in my quest to feed myself right. I was looking for ways to thicken soup that were friendly to a near-paleo diet. Nothing I ever found recommended online was suitable. Arrowroot powder and other methods added unnecessary empty carbs and starch. I wanted something that wasn’t a compromise. I wanted something that would increase the nutritional quality of whatever I was cooking, and achieved the denser consistency I was seeking.

Enter pumpkin puree. I can’t exactlyremember what first sparked the idea, but it seemed so obvious once I started. I added it to everything. Every soup, sauce, every apple dip, everything. I’m sure I owe credit to somebody’s Pinterest idea. Whatever inspired it, I’m never looking back. Not only does pumpkin improve the nutritional and textural quality of many recipes, it improves the flavor.

Everything is just deeper. Things taste homey. Nostalgic, almost – pumpkin adds an earthy rustic touch that is so satisfying. This lovely winter squash compliments both savory and sweet.

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd

It made perfect sense to add it to spaghetti sauces.

When noodles went off the list (not anymore!!!) I began making chunkier, more vegetable laden and dense spaghetti sauces, and ate it much like a stew; or used a pasta replacement like zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash (which I highly recommend.) Adding pumpkin puree takes an already hearty and healthy  recipe and makes it really stick to your ribs.

This Bolognese sauce is very tasty, absolutely packed full of nutrition from an abundance of produce. I challenge you to find a healthier and more satisfying Bolognese.

I’m going to be using this sauce in a lot of future recipes here on the blog, so make sure you make this big batch and freeze portions for future use!

So, before we get to the recipe, let’s take a look at some of the key nutritional information of our ingredients

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd

Ground Meat

Feel free to leave the meat out of this recipe if you are opposed, but meat is full of nutrition like bioavailable proteins, amino acids, and B vitamins .in forms that are much more readily digestible to us than from most plant sources. We are omnivores! Not only that, but it’s not really Bolognese without meat.

Any ground meat works great in this recipe. For a more hearty taste, go with ground beef, bison, venison, or lamb. For a lighter flavor profile, try ground turkey or chicken.

Red Onion

Onions are serious business when it comes to nutrition, Red Onions in particular due to their higher concentration of antioxidants in comparison to white onions!

Part of the same family as garlic, onions provide an ample amount of health benefits when eaten on a regular basis. Onions are known to improve cardiovascular health and promote healthy cholesterol levels.

Onions are one of the greatest natural sources of quercetin (an important anti-inflammatory antioxidant.) The contain good amounts of biotin, vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, folate, copper, vitamins B 1 and 6, and manganese.

Peel as little skin as necessary, nutrition is more heavily concentrated in the outer layers.

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd


Using fresh garlic is part of a heart -healthy diet. Eating it every day can help improve your cholesterol levels, and helps to regulate blood sugar and pressure.

Crushing fresh garlic and letting it sit for about twenty minutes previous to cooking allows the allicin to reach more optimum levels.


Mushrooms may seem unassuming, but they are actually antioxidant powers houses. They are beneficial to the immune system, help support brain and heart health, and decrease inflammation, among many other benefits.

Set mushroom caps out in the sun for 20 minutesI previously mentioned how mushrooms can soak up sunlight and convert it into vitamin D just like we can. This process also helps to dry them a bit, making it easier to brush off dirt.

Anaheim Peppers

Anaheim peppers contain quite a bit of vitamin C, vitamin A carotenoids (antioxidants) and more vitamins and minerals than I can even reasonably list here. Check out this nutritional analysis of my favorite pepper of all time!

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd


I will never forget when I first set out to lose nearly half of my body weight, that a ‘weight loss’ company I went to seek help from told me that I couldn’t eat carrots because they had too much sugar, but that I should eat toast.  I left immediately.

Carrots are great for you. Using them in Bolognese instead of sugar is a super idea.

This evidence based article goes a bit more in depth, but I can tell you here that carrots are rich in Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vitamin K, potassium, fiber, and a wide array of antioxidants. Eating them frequently is known to help improve eye and skin health, lower cholesterol levels and help protect against cancer.


Zucchini are one of many delightful squash variety. They are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin, C, and B complex. They contain folates, and a reasonable amount of antioxidants I won’t list here. Read more about Zucchini here!

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd

Pumpkin Puree

Now I’m super excited about this recipe, because it’s one of the first I bring to you where I use pumpkin puree. This has been one of my single greatest secrets in improving my health. Adding pumpkin to an incredible amount of my recipes as a thickener not only increases its flavor profile in an earthy, rustic way, but adds stellar nutrition and a whole lot of fiber. It adds so much to this Bolognese

Other than contributing a whole lot of fiber, pumpkin provides ample amounts of Vitamin A, K, C, E, etc. The popular squash also contains notable amounts of minerals; Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, and Manganese.  Read a full nutritional analysis here!

Tomatoes: Diced, Puree, and Paste

Fresh, ripe tomatoes are so good for you! Tomatoes contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; they are an incredible source of lycopene, and a good source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, beta carotene, vitamin K, chlorogenic acid, and more. Eating tomatoes is known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, like prostate, lung and stomach. Tomatoes are particularly heart healthy, and may also improve skin health!

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd

Red wine

Red wine is pretty essential when making this Bolognese. It adds such great flavor! While it is just added empty carbs, red wine does contain some pretty solid nutritional benefits.

Red wine has notable antioxidant content; it is rich in resveratrol, proanthocyanidins, catechin, epicatechin. Benefits from these may include improving heart health, and reducing oxidative damage within. Curious about Red Wine? Read more here

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices add incredible hidden nutrition, flavor, and depth. Explore with your nose and play around, I guarantee when you do this frequently you will become a better cook!

Herbs I used included a pretty hefty amount of basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, lavender, salt, and pepper

If you have an Italian herb mix or something that you would like to use, go for it!

Hearty, rustic red meat sauce. Packed with vegetables, this delicious and satisfying meal will please any crowd

Enjoy this hearty Bolognese!

Rustic Red: Loaded Vegetable Bolognese

Hearty, rustic Bolognese. Rich in flavor and nutrition, this will surely be your go-to red meat sauce

30 minPrep Time

4 hrCook Time

4 hr, 30 Total Time


Recipe Image
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  • 2 lbs. lean Ground Meat
  • 2 medium Red Onions, Diced
  • 1 head Garlic, Minced
  • 2 cups Mushrooms, Cubed
  • 1 ½ cups Anaheim Peppers, Diced
  • 2 large Carrots, Shredded
  • 1 large Zucchini, shredded
  • 2 cups Fresh Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 15oz can Pumpkin Puree
  • 45 oz. (3 standard cans) Tomato puree
  • 6 oz. (1 small can) Tomato Paste
  • 187ml – 1 cup Red wine
  • ¼ cup freshly ground Herbs and Spices (see notes)
  • 3 Bay Leaves


  1. In a stock pot, add; Ground Meat, diced Onions, minced Garlic, cubed Mushrooms, and diced Anaheims. Sprinkle in half of your freshly ground herbs and spices. Hash with a spatula until the meat has broken up to reach your desired level of “chunk”.
  2. Add bay leaves. Add shredded carrot and zucchini, stir and cook until these have ‘wilted’, and meat has cooked through. Add your remaining herbs and spices.
  3. Add your diced tomatoes, pumpkin puree, tomato puree, tomato paste, half of your red wine, and stir.
  4. Simmer low and slow for a minimum of three hours. Stir occasionally; add the rest of your wine thirty minutes prior to serving
  5. Serve alone as a ‘stew’, with spaghetti squash, zoodles, or a pasta alternative of your choice!
Cuisine: Italian |


Herbs used include basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, lavender, salt, and pepper, to taste. Explore with your palate and adjust to your taste!

Simmer low and slow for as long as possible. All ingredients after step two may be added to a crock-pot for worry free cooking!


How will you serve this Bolognese?

With Spaghetti Squash, alone, or some other way? Let me know, and tell me how you liked it in the comments below!





Now, for the disclaimer – I am not a vet, adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.

Join us for the journey!


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About Danielle

I’m a twenty something with a weakness for puppy kisses and horse breath, always seeking knowledge and adventure

6 thoughts on “Rustic Red: Loaded Vegetable Bolognese

    1. I love making sauces be able to stand on their own and eat like a stew for those who don't want to eat noodles! I love soup because I make them all hearty meals on their own. Bring on the dense food lol
  1. This was very tasty. At your suggestion I started using pumpkin purée as a thickener in as many recipes that I can. It adds a wonderful depthness to the dishes.

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