This is an easy stovetop Vegetable Bolognese that is full of meat, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. It’s delicious in a number of dishes and freezes well.
A flavorful meat sauce that’s packed with veggies is one of my favorite meals to serve. Since the vegetables are already present in abundance, I don’t really need to worry about too many sides or washing too many dishes. This veggie bolognese with Eggplant, Peppers, and Zucchini is perfect for this category.
In fact, it’s less a sauce than it is a stew. I’ve eaten it straight from a bowl. True story.
But, it’s equally delicious served over spaghetti squash, noodles, or cheesy polenta. And if you do dairy, well, a smattering of parmesan cheese is a nice topping. It’s also great made into lasagna. Yum-O!
As if that wasn’t enough to love, this bolognese is very freezer friendly. Make a big pot of it, enjoy it for dinner and then cool, label, and freeze the rest in meal-size containers. You’ll be doing your future self a great big, ginormous favor.
Props to Martha for giving me the idea for what to do with the eggplant I had on hand one day long ago.
How do you make veggie bolognese?
Start by heating olive oil in a large stockpot. Then add in your eggplant and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Then you will remove from the pan in order to cook the other vegetables.
Then go ahead and cook the onion, bell pepper, zucchini and garlic for about 7 minutes. Once those have softened and cooked through, add in your ground beef.
Once the beef has cooked through, add back in your eggplant as well as the tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, and herb of your choice. Then go ahead and then bring to a bubble and allow the sauce to simmer.
You can serve this vegetable bolognese over pasta, spaghetti squash, or polenta or use in recipes that call for bolognese.
Can I freeze this veggie bolognese with eggplant?
To freeze: cool sauce completely.
Wrap, label, and freeze in an airtight container.
How I make this good:
- Whenever possible I like to cook with plain old ingredients. While the convenience of mixes and canned sauces is nice, I feel better about feeding my family just real food whenever possible. (Go here for some of my reasons on all that.)
- The fact that this eggplant relies on lots of veggies, seasonings, and ground beef, means that it doesn’t rely on additives, preservatives, and sweeteners. It’s just good real food.
- I like the flavor that a little bit of red wine adds to the sauce, but if you don’t do wine or are eating paleo or Whole 30, simply use beef broth instead. Either option adds a little extra depth to the sauce.
How I make this cheap:
Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe more economical:
- Do a price comparison. I know that Costco is the best place to buy ingredients in bulk, like ground beef, olive oil, and tomato products when there isn’t a great sale elsewhere. I keep track of prices so that I know who has the best deal where.
- Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. For instance, when I see a great price on these vegetables at the grocery store, I buy a lot. Making this sauce is top on the list when I see eggplant on sale.
- Cook in bulk. It saves so much time and money to make more than one meal at a time and stash the extras in the freezer. It also helps me avoid pricey convenience foods or take-out on the nights when I just don’t want to cook. This recipe is the ideal bulk recipe.
- Stretch the more expensive items with less expensive counterparts. Ground beef can be expensive if you don’t find it on sale. You can stretch it or substitute it with ground turkey to offset the cost.
Tools I use to make this recipe easy:
Having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.
- plastic cutting boards – I have blue boards for veggies and white boards for meat.
- Ergo Chef chef’s knife – I’ve had my set for several years and they work well.
- chili pot – I love this pot which is a great size for making sauces.
- 6 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 eggplant peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
- 1 onion coarsely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper coarsely chopped
- 1 zucchini coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- black pepper
- 1 lb ground beef or turkey
- 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 24 oz tomato sauce
- ¼ cup red wine or beef broth
- 1 tablespoon dried basil or oregano
- In a large stockpot, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini and garlic. Cook for 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add ground beef and cook until cooked through, stirring often.
- Add back in the eggplant as well as the tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, and herb of your choice. Adjust seasonings. Bring to a bubble. Reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, or polenta or use in recipes that call for bolognese.
- To freeze: cool sauce completely. Wrap, label, and freeze in an airtight container.
Originally published October 21, 2010. Updated November 11, 2016.
I made this without the meat since I’m vegan. I added in an extra zucchini for bulk. The flavor is great! We enjoyed it over brown rice the first night and I’ve been eating the remaining portions over beds of baby greens and arugula.
Thanks for sharing your adaptations! Glad it was yummy!
This sounds yummy. We have a baby eggplant in the garden, so now I know what to do with it once it’s large enough to harvest. (Well, this or the Escalivada or Mediterranean Chicen Bowl. Maybe I should hope for more eggplants. 🙂 )
Yes! I had a glut of eggplants every summer/fall when we had a produce box, so I’ve got lots of eggplant recipes. 😉 There’s a stew recipe on Life as Mom that is really good.
The first time I made this I made a triple batch, and made three lasagnas and had a bunch of pasta sauce left over. Best lasagna ever! The next time I made this I made a double batch and divided into portions for meals for me and my husband and froze it. I would definitely recommend trying the sauce – it is now or go to pasta sauce!
I’ve been using Jessica’s freezer cookbook- Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead And Freeze Cookbook, and I have made a bunch of recipes out of it. It is fabulous, and me and my husband are major foodies. I can’t believe how much money it’s saved us!!
Yay! I’m so glad to hear it. I’m actually working on the second edition right now!
Roughly how many servings does this make?
It makes a good amount, probably at least 8 servings.
My middle child, a girl, doesn’t eat vegetables. She likes broccoli. And salad. That’s it. All cooked vegetables are scary enemies to her….I think. So I cooked this meal with a heavy heart. I thought to myself, “Why am I even doing this? They’re not going to eat it.” But I did it because it was on the meal plan. So she was going through her meal, she’s four by the way, picking out the pasta. Just as I figured would happen. So I casually mentioned to her that she ought to try eating the vegetables as they tasted so good and if she didn’t at least try them she might miss something she really likes. And she did try it. And then she proceeded to eat about ten more bites of nothing but vegetables. That has never happened before to my knowledge. Even salad she has to be coerced to eat (as in, you can’t have anything else until you eat this) and then she’ll eat it. So, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Eggplant and zucchini of all things. Who knew? She may never eat them in any other form but at least I have a secret weapon in which to conceal two more kinds of vegetables. And, by the way, we’ve been loving your meal plans. They are so tasty. A side note is that we’re vegan, which may seem weird that we’re using your meal plans. And we’re living in China which makes things more complicated but I do like to cook new things so I’m enjoying tweaking everything to what we can get here and what we eat. It’s been fun and very, very tasty.
What red wine would you recommend using? I know as much about red wine as I do about football. Any direction would be great!
Will you drink what’s left? I like Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I use the Wine4.Me app. That has helped me learn which makers I like. Bogle is a decent lower priced label.
My favorite eggplant preparation we call zallouk and make it during the summer for a light dinner with tortillas and hummus and chopped raw veg. to make the zallouk cut one eggplant into half inch dice. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add eggplant and some minced garlic and minced/grated fresh ginger. Cook while stirring occasionally until nice and tender. Add some olive oil if needed. Season with Cumin, fresh lemon juice, some lemon zest, salt and pepper. Finish with some chopped fresh parsley.
I will definitely try this, maybe this week. Question: I see you removed the eggplant from the pan after cooking it in step 1. At what point do you add it back in? With the tomatoes? Or at the very end? I wouldn’t mind if it cooked down pretty well, all the better to fool my husband 🙂
Ha! I don’t read my own directions anymore. I haven’t removed it from the pan in years. I just let it cook down. Thanks for pointing out the error in the recipe. I’ll fix that now.
I love Punjab Eggplant – Google it for a recipe, so wonderful!!
For a quick meal I chop it into bite sized pieces and saute it with bite sized onions and peppers and minced garlic. Throw it into a tortilla with a mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese.
Or saute with arugula or broccoli rabe, top with roasted red peppers and mozzarella. Serve as a wrap, panini or sandwich on a long Italian roll. Or over pasta or rice the more I think about it.
I just cut an eggplant in half lengthwise, brushed it with olive oil and salt and put it in the broiler, then flipped it once it was cooked on one side.
When it was finished cooking on both sides, I took it out and served it drizzled with tahini dressing. Absolutely delicious!
i keep forgetting things.
another way to do the roasted veg salad above wld be to grill the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants on a hot griddle, chop them up and then stir in to the carrots, sweet potatoes and other hard veggies tt have been roasted in the oven with a sprinkle of the dried herbs n olive oil. and if you’re a garlic fan, just sit the entire bulb of garlic in the roasting pan, top chopped off but unpeeled, drizzled with olive oil. when it’s roasted n soft, pop out the cloves, mash them up and stir it into the salad for oomph flavour.
i also love eggplant in a simple roasted vegetable salad.
i chop a whole selection of vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, peppers, celery, pumpkin and eggplant (i make sure there’s every colour of veg to make it really bright n happy-looking). i also chop in 1-2 onions and pop in 5-6 whole cloves of garlic (depending on how much you love roasted garlic), drizzle olive oil over the whole thing, season with salt and pepper and add in fresh or dried herbs like basil, thyme and oregano and roast the whole lot in a hot oven till the veggies are soft and tender, with little charred bits on the onions and peppers. garnish with a good sprinkle of chopped parsley (or in my case coriander).
very good with a simple roast chicken. i’ve also done it for a Christmas potluck as well and it went well with the turkey.
i love eggplant or brinjals as we call it here in the east. try this for an asian eggplant side dish:
cut up your eggplant into largish bite-sized pieces. de-seed and chop roughly 1-2 red chillies (or more, if you like it hot). chop roughly 1 onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. heat 3 tbsp veg oil in a wok or large pan, stir fry onions and chilli, till slightly softened. add garlic and eggplant together and stir fry till softened slightly. season with 1-2 tbsp dark soy sauce, and 1 tsp light soy, dash of pepper and a 1 tsp of sugar and sprinkle 2-3tbsp of water to keep the eggplant and onions from burning. stir well so the sauce coats the eggplants, clamp on the lid and let cook for a 2mins till all is soft and tender and serve hot over rice.
to make it more substantial you can brown minced pork or chicken (seasoned with soy sauce n pepper) first then stir it back in at the end to coat with the sauce.
the other way to do the above dish is to roast the eggplant, onions and chillis in the oven (after stirring in some veg or olive oil) until soft, make up the sauce separately and drizzle over when the eggplant is cooked.
Steph @ The Cheapskate Cook
Eggplant is my friend. I like it in Babaganoush – a middle eastern spread served with pita.
I go on sprees, loving eggplant and hating eggplant. Right now, I love it. I have one ready to use.
I make the old standard eggplant Parmesan which we love. I also stick it, into dishes with rice or other vegetables.
I have recipes on both my blogs.