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Next Steps Spaghetti Bolognese

Claire Wright

In season now


Beef (or pork/chicken/turkey) mince - approx 200-300g for a family of 4 - or veggie alternative

1 tin cooked green lentils, drained OR 1/2 mug of red lentils

400g homemade tomato sauce OR 400g tin chopped tomatoes (add a pinch of salt, one of sugar, and 2 tsp mixed dried herbs if using tinned tomatoes)

300g dried spaghetti

A handful per person of 1-2 veg (see suggestions in recipe)


We suggest you do this in stages, slowly, and go as far as works for your family, here’s how your final recipe might come together…


Set a frying pan over medium heat, and pop a saucepan of water with a pinch of salt on another burner to bring to the boil while you make the sauce.

Add 1 tbsp oil to the frying pan and heat for a minute until it is hot, then add the mince and cook for about 5 mins, stirring frequently to break up the meat, until it is browned all over. If you want to use fresh veg, add it in with the mince so it can soften for at least 5 mins (10 mins for harder veg like carrots). Great choices here are onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peppers, aubergines or courgettes – chop them as finely as you can to make sure they cook quickly. (Top tip: adding a small pinch of salt or covering the veg with a lid for a few mins can speed up the softening.)

Is your saucepan of water bubbling now? When it is, add your spaghetti (if it’s too long for the pan, just snap in half first). Check the packet for how long this should cook, but it’s usually about 8-10 mins. If using red lentils, hold off on this step until the sauce has been bubbling away for 10 mins as they take 20 mins to cook through.

Carefully add the red lentils (if using) and sauce or tomatoes and seasonings to the frying pan with the meat (it may spit slightly as the pan and oil will be hot, so pour carefully from the side and turn the heat right down for a moment if you feel it needs it).

Heat until you start to get little bubbles in the sauce, then turn down the heat to low and let it simmer to cook and heat everything through, about 5 mins (or 20 mins if using red lentils). If using tinned lentils and/or frozen veg, add them as you bring the sauce to a simmer and give them 5 mins to heat through. (Check packet instructions on frozen veg to be 100% sure about the time it will take to cook.) Great choices for frozen veg here include: peas, sweetcorn, sliced peppers or mushrooms, mixed veg, chargrilled veg, and squash/sweet potato chunks.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain the water (or use tongs to just pick the spaghetti out) and mix with the sauce and meat.

Engaging Kids

Engaging Kids

Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating. Find out more here.

Kids in the kitchen

Kids in the kitchen

Why not get younger kids stirring the sauce into the pasta, putting the kettle on for spaghetti, sprinkling cheese over the dinner, or chucking a couple of handfuls of your chosen veg into the pan.

Older kids might be ready to learn how to chop some fresh veg to add at the start of the meal, stir everything together in the pan, and grate cheese to serve!

Find more ideas here.

Master these skills:

Tasting,  Grating,  Mixing,  Bridge chopping,  Claw chopping


Use arts & crafts as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. While you make your spag bol sauce, why not set a child up with:

Tomato Veg Crown

Tomato – Cutout ‘n Colour

Tomato – Evil Inside!

Tomato – Squash ‘Em!

Tomato – Totally Blitzed!

Find more arts & crafts and puzzles & games on our website.



Why not start with a spoonful of frozen peas and get them to describe what they see – maybe a pile of tiny green pebbles, alien poo, or ogre’s teeth! See if they want to chuck some into the bolognese sauce after having engaged with them. Get more tips, games and videos over on our Sensory page.



If your kids aren’t ready to be in the kitchen helping with part of the prep or cooking process, why not give them a job around the serving that could help them feel involved in the meal? You could ask a creative child to design some name cards for the table and a “Spaghetti Bolognese” menu card for dinner tonight. Get more ideas over on our Roles for Kids page.

Claire Wright

Editor: After leaving Exeter University with a degree in English Literature, Claire worked in various fields ranging from youth work and charities to publishing, before starting up a food-focused website when her first child was born. After being asked to project manage the publication of Veg Power's Crowdfunder book, Claire came on board as a fully-fledged team member in 2018 to take on the role of Communications Manager, then Editor, looking after Veg Power's website, content, recipes and social media platforms.

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