Healthy bolognese sauce made with finely chopped carrots, onions and celery, with bison (or grass-fed beef) with fire roasted tomatoes. Served tossed with whole-grain pasta, it makes a healthy family friendly meal.

Bison Bolognese

I think one of the first real arguments I had with my husband was about what Chop Suey was.  You see, in my house growing up chop suey for dinner meant my mom was going to pull out the wok.  She was about to make the classic Chinese American stir-fry: a jumble of gingery, garlicky chunks of chicken, celery, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts.  It was delicious and I thought that was the only kind of chop suey out there.

Meanwhile a few states to the north, in my husband’s childhood home, chop suey was a totally different ballgame.  To his family [and a lot of others in New England] chop suey is macaroni with meat and tomato sauce.  Even though now I know we were both right, I still don’t call it that. In other parts of the country it is Macaroni and Beef.  But the way I make it, it is more like what the Italians may call Ragu or Bolognese.

bison bolognese ingredients small

Even though it’s comforting and homey, it is actually really healthy. I load it up with finely chopped vegetables that cook right into the sauce. An old Italian Grandma would probably use her mezzaluna (a half moon shaped knife) and rounded out cutting board to chop the odori. Not me! I like to blast the veg in my food processor instead. I also like to use whole-wheat pasta. With all of the bold flavor in the sauce, the wheatiness of the pasta isn’t too overwhelming.

And then there is the meat. This is a great recipe to use grass-fed bison or beef. Grass fed bison and beef is much lower in fat and calories than conventional corn fed beef. Of the fat that it does have, it has a higher percentage of healthy Omega 3’s. The leanness and typically stronger flavor makes it hard for some people to switch to it from traditional corn-fed and/or finished beef. The garlic, smoky fire-roasted tomatoes and seasonings in this sauce stand-up to the meatiness beautifully. Seriously! Even though they aren’t sure what to call it, my kids eat this chop suey or um Bolognese so gladly they forget to breathe between spoonfuls.

Bison Bolognese

bison bolognese

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American


Special equipment: food processor. To make ahead: Store the sauce (not mixed with pasta) in the freezer for 3 months. Left-overs reheat well in the microwave.



  • 12 ounces whole wheat rotini, fusilli or macaroni
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground Bison or lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, such as Muir Glen (see ingredient note*)
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, fit food processor with steel blade attachment, close lid and turn motor on. Drop garlic through feed spout and continue processing until the garlic is minced. Open lid and add carrot and celery. Process until the carrot and celery are finely chopped. Open lid, add onion and pulse until the onion is roughly chopped. Alternatively, use a knife to mince garlic, finely chop carrot and celery and dice onion.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Crumble in bison or beef, and cook, stirring and breaking up chunks of meat until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable mixture, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are cooked down and browned slightly, 8 to 12 minutes. Pour in wine and cook until mostly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomato and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, once the water boils, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
  5. Mix the pasta and sauce together and serve sprinkled with parsley.


0 g Added Sugar, 33 mg Cholesterol, 255 mg Phosphorus

ingredient note* Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Tomatoes are amazing.  If you can get them in your area they are a convenient way of adding depth of flavor and subtle smokiness.  Hunt’s is now making them too.  If you can’t find either, regular crushed tomatoes works fine.


  • Serving Size: 1 2/3 cup each
  • Calories: 330
  • Sugar: 5.8 g
  • Sodium: 590 mg
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49 g
  • Fiber: 7.6 g
  • Protein: 20 g

february 13 2011 026 star