Bolognese Surprise/Chilli Con Carne

This is my own version of a classic Italian recipe: Bolognese sauce. I call it Bolognese Surprise because you can sneak in a load of veg, which makes it a perfect recipe for fussy tots (and naughty husbands who won’t eat their veg!), and provides them with their portion of meat and veg for the day.

It is such a versatile recipe, which you can adapt to your own taste by adding/substituting various veg. You’re not a huge veg fan? That’s fine; just chop the veg smaller, so you still get the nutrients but not full veg flavour and texture. What is also great about this recipe is that by substituting some of the veg, it can turn into a great mince sauce to use as chilli con carne! So you can use this with pasta or rice and/or tortillas.

I always make this recipe in bulk, so you can freeze half of it to use it for an easy meal during the week. You can also use a hand held blender to blitz it up at the end, to make it easier for your little one to chew (I often do this for my little boy as he doesn’t like the texture of the mince).

The best part of this is that it involves minimal washing up, as everything is cooked in one frying pan!

So have fun with this, play around with it and see what your partner and kiddie think!

This recipe is for bulk cooking. So only use half of it to eat straight away and freeze the rest.

INGREDIENTS (Half the recipe Serves 2 adults and 1 child)

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30-40 minutes


  • 500 grams Beef or Turkey mince. It can be full fat or reduced fat, it’s up to you.
  • 1 small Carrot
  • ½ Onion
  • ½ Courgette
  • 3-4 Closed cup chestnut mushrooms, or white mushrooms
  • 1 Tin of Plum Tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Garlic granules
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Olive Oil for cooking
  • Parmesan cheese for serving


  • 500 grams Beef or Turkey mince. It can be full fat or reduced fat, it’s up to you.
  • ½ Onion
  • 1 Red/Yellow Pepper
  • 3-4 Closed cup chestnut mushrooms, or white mushrooms
  • 1 Tin of Plum Tomatoes
  • ½ Tin of Red Kidney Beans
  • 1 tsp Garlic granules
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 1-2 tsp Chilli Powder (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Olive Oil for cooking
  • Cheddar cheese for serving. It’s up to you how strong you want the cheese, but I would recommend Mild Cheddar if serving it to your little one.


Use this method for both recipes and watch out for the substitutions through the cooking steps.

1. Wash and chop all the veg. It’s up to you how big/small you want to chop it. Remember: you can blitz your little one’s portion at the end if she/he struggles with chunky portions.

2. In a large frying pan drizzle some olive oil. Fry the veg on a medium to low heat. Fry the carrot and onion first (Pepper and Onion for the Chilli), until they start to soften. I like to fry the veg with a lid so it also steams and keeps in all the tasty veg juice and nutrients in the pan. I use a pizza tray for my “lid”. Make sure to mix regularly so it doesn’t burn.


My makeshift lid with the veg

3. Add the courgette (skip this for the Chilli) for a further 5 minutes with the lid on. Then add the mushrooms. Fry everything together with the lid on until all veg are nice and soft. If they start to burn just turn the heat down to low. Mix regularly.

4. Remove the lid and add the mince to the pan a bit at a time. You will have to get your hands dirty to tear it up (it goes without saying but wash your hands after handling the raw meat!). Mix it with the veg and cook on a medium heat without the lid, mixing regularly until most of the juice has evaporated and the meat is cooked.

Mixing the mince with the veg

5. Add the garlic, mixed herbs (or paprika and chilli powder for the Chilli) and black pepper, and mix it all in the mince. For the Chilli mix in the kidney beans.

6. Add the plum tomatoes and “chop” them roughly up with a wooden spatula/spoon, and then mix them in evenly with the mince. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t dry out.


Use the spatula to chop the tomatoes up


7. For Bolognese sauce; serve with Pasta and Parmesan cheese. For Chilli con Carne; serve with rice and/or tortillas and a generous grating of cheddar cheese.


A tasty Pasta alla Bolognese


Chilli Con Carne

As mentioned earlier, this recipe is great for freezing. Eat half on the day and freeze the rest in an air tight container.

To defrost: take out the night before and leave it in the fridge. You can heat it in the microwave or in a pan and mix in with pasta or rice.

We hope you enjoyed this recipe! Please let us know what you think and how you adapted it to your style. We welcome any feedback.


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