When we were in Tuscany two summers ago, there were too many good meals to count. So it really says something that one of the most distinct dishes I remember eating was a white Bolognese sauce.
The restaurant was in a small square, in a tiny town with a population of 200. It should tell you something about Italy’s sensitivity to celiacs that even this mom and pop shop had gluten-free pasta options. Which is how I got to try this epic white Bolognese.
If you’re Italian you’re probably already bristling. I was in Tuscany, not Emilia Romagna, so this sauce wasn’t technically a Bolognese, but a ragu. But for those not from the motherland, you are probably more familiar of the concept of this meat sauce.
Instead of tomatoes and red wine which are the two acidic flavor enhancers of a traditional Italian Bolognese, this white version uses white wine (and probably a little cream) to tease out the fatty pork and ground chuck.
What I loved most about this version is that you can really taste the aromatic vegetables and herbs—celery, carrots, thyme, fennel seed. It almost tasted like the filling of an Italian sausage. Slightly sweet, with a hint of anise, and lots of fatty goodness.
I’ve been meaning to recreate it for years now, but it was only recently when I was out of canned tomatoes and looking for something to do with my Butcher Box grass-fed ground beef that the idea popped into my head.
I used coconut milk instead of cream, added a generous handful of frozen spinach to the meat mixture, and used the sauce to top paleo spaghetti squash spaghetti. It was an incredibly earthy, rich and satisfying bowl, and easily adaptable for various diets.
For AIP just omit the fennel seeds (you can add regular chopped fennel if you like). For low FODMAP, use half a stalk celery, only green scallions and swap garlic for garlic-infused oil. You can also serve it over regular gluten-free noodles.
Read on for the recipe for this white Bolognese sauce / ragu inspired by my Italy travels, which you can read more about it here.
With health and hedonism,
p.s. If you’re interested in trying Butcher Box, Feed Me Phoebe readers get a free package of sugar-free, paleo bacon and free shipping with their first order. It’s my absolute favorite, and I always have some of their bacon and ground beef in my freezer at all times to whip up quick, easy meals like this white bolognese sauce. Plus, their meat is the best quality for the value. It’s been a meal prep game changer in our house, and has cut down tremendously on our grocery bill. Find out more here.
Spaghetti Squash with Paleo White Bolognese Sauce
This tomato-free bolognese sauce is the perfect topping for spaghetti squash noodles. The whole combination is paleo and AIP-friendly. Just omit the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes if following an autoimmune paleo protocol and sub chicken stock for the white wine. You can add regular chopped fennel to the sofrito!
- 1 medium spaghetti squash about 2 1/2 pounds
- Sea salt
- Olive oil
- 1 pound grass-fed ground beef
- 1 rib celery thinly sliced
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock (see note)
- One 14.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 cup beef or chicken stock or water
- 2 cups frozen chopped spinach or 5 ounces fresh roughly torn
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Using the largest chef’s knife you have, cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. It’s helpful to put a crumpled dish towel on your cutting board to stabilize it, or to remove a little bit from both ends so you can stand the squash upright without it wobbling. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the center cavity.
Season the cavity and arrange both cleaned squash halves cut-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Add 1/2 cup water to the pan (this will help steam and soften the squash). Bake in the oven until the squash is tender, meaning a fork can easily be inserted from flesh to skin, about 45 minutes. Flip the halves over to allow them to cool. When safe to touch, use a fork to shred the spaghetti strands from the squash: begin along the edges, pulling the strands towards the center, then scoop the bundle into a bowl.
While the squash is roasting, make the sauce: in a large wok or skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil over high heat. Add the beef and brown over high heat, breaking it apart with your spatula into bite sized pieces, until golden brown and cooked through. Fold in the celery, scallions, garlic, fennel seeds, sea salt and red pepper flakes. Cook two minutes more, until fragrant. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits that may have formed. Simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated. Pour in the coconut milk and stock. Gently simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce has thickened by at least half, about 10 minutes. Continue to cook over low heat, adding more liquid as necessary, until the squash is ready for the next step, about 20 minutes, or up to an hour. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, fold in the spinach.
Combine the cooked spaghetti squash with the white Bolognese sauce and serve immediately.
To make this Whole30 friendly, simply swap chicken stock for the white wine! You can also add a tablespoon of apple cider or white wine vinegar to get a little acidity.