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What’s for dinner, Mum? Yes it comes around seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, with hopefully some time off to chillax by yourself or with the family.

With school runs, homework, soccer, dance classes and so on, the daily dinner demand can become exhausting and relentless. You still want dinner to be healthy, something to please every member of the family, but some days you would love it to involve no effort – or even no cooking at all!

A smart way to buy time in this busy world is to batch cook for freezing. Batch cooking favourite dishes, such as soups, stews, bolognese sauce, curries; fish, meat or vegetarian pies, helps plan the family’s menus for the weeks ahead as well as saving cooking time.

For example, when cooking some family favourites, you can double or triple the quantities and pop extra servings in the freezer. Stocking the freezer with wholesome dinners saves money and is a great way to make sure you have a healthy, homemade dinner on the table that everyone will enjoy. Just remember to label and date the dish and mark the number of portions.

Here is a dish that’s a standard favourite with most families, and some ideas on how to transform the basic bolognese recipe into a completely new dish.

Serves 4-6 or more

Spaghetti Bolognese

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced1 large celery stick, finely diced
  • 2teaspoonss crushed garlic (2 large cloves), finely chopped
  • 10 grams fresh thyme leaves, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or dried basil leaves
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 100 grams diced cured serrano, parma ham or smoked bacon
  • 500 grams round mince (lean)
  • 2 large rounded teaspoons tomato puree
  • 500 ml passata (Basilico basil passata is good)
  • 250 ml beef stock (approx ½ Kallo beef stock cube)
  • Required almount of wholemeal spaghetti, penne or pasta shape of choice (for gluten free, use corn or rice pasta)

Other Options

Cottage pie:

Sauce needs to be reduced slightly (sauce is thicker). Place into a deep casserole dish and top with creamy mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potato. Cook in oven for 25-40 minutes at 180C until heated through and lightly golden on top.

Chilli Con Carne

Add a half-teaspoon chilli flakes and a half-teaspoon cumin with a little oil in a deep saucepan. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute. Add leftover bolognese sauce and more stock if necessary. Lastly, add in a drained tin of aduki or kidney beans. Cook for five to 10 minutes and serve with brown rice, quinoa, cous cous, or over baked potato.

Lasagne

Layer bolognese sauce in deep dish, alternating with wholemeal lasagne sheets, and top with cheese sauce. Cook in oven for 40-50 minutes at 180C until heated through and lightly golden on top.

Baked Potato

Bake unpeeled potatoes in oven as normal (roosters or maris pipers are best). Cut a cross on baked potato and squeeze some of contents out. Spoon bolognese sauce or chilli sauce over the potato and top with cheddar cheese.

Vol au Vents

Follow baking instructions on pack of vol au vents. Top with warmed bolognese sauce and grated cheddar cheese.

More ideas

Use leftover bolognese for tacos, flour tortilla, savoury pancakes, pitta filling, pizza topping etc.

  • Family Friendly
  • Dairy free
  • Gluten Free
  • Low GI
  • Beef
  • Paleo
  • Dinner
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Method

  1. Sauté onion, carrot, celery, thyme, oregano and bay leaf until soft and translucent, add garlic and sauté for another 30-60 seconds.
  2. Add ham and cook for one minute, add in raw mince and break up with back of spoon, then cook until brown.
  3. Add tomato puree, mix in passata and beef stock, stir and allow to simmer for 40-50 minutes.
  4. 15 minutes before serving, cook pasta of choice.
  5. Serve together in large pasta serving bowls with grated parmesan.

Maggie's Tips

  • If your kids are fussy about vegetables, grate or puree them really fine so they disappear into the sauce when cooking.