A tasty, quick and simple sauce, this Weeknight Zucchini and Beef Ragout is full of garden vegetables and will be a hit with the family.
I'm one quarter Italian, and even though I never had the opportunity to cook with my Italian grandmother (she passed away when I was very young) I take my Italian cooking heritage very seriously. And by that I mean I love to cook and eat all things Italian. Similarly, my husband is from upstate New York where Italian food is king and though he's not at all Italian he shares my nostalgic love for the style of cooking. It's not surprising, then, that our 3 year-old daughter is obsessed with pasta and sauce. I'm not exaggerating when I say she asks for pasta every single night.
For all these reasons pasta with homemade sauce is definitely my go-to dinner on a busy weeknight. I make sure to keep a handful of ingredients in the pantry, fridge and freezer so that I can whip something up anytime. These days I make a special effort to keep the meal light and full of veggies, while at the same time creating something that we will all actually eat (including the 3 year-old). This Beef and Zucchini Ragout is the perfect weeknight family-friendly dinner because it's quick to make, requires no fancy ingredients, and as an added bonus it sneaks in a few extra servings of vegetables.
This sauce is so popular in our house that I'll often make a double batch and freeze the leftovers in jars for a night when there's no time to cook. It's easily adaptable and ground turkey or chicken will work in place of the beef if you prefer not to use red meat. You can also make a vegetarian version of this recipe by omitting the meat altogether and doubling the veggies.
I like to serve Weeknight Zucchini and Beef Ragout over whole wheat pasta, gluten free noodles, or zoodles. I often make pasta for my daughter, zoodles for myself, and a combo of zoodles and pasta for my husband. If you're serving over zoodles, toss the zoodles in the hot sauce just prior to serving so that they warm through and cook just slightly. As written, this ragout is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo friendly.
Kid-friendly notes. This Weeknight Zucchini and Beef Ragout is a hit with kids. Here are some options for adapting the recipe for resistant eaters:
- Peel the zucchinis before grating them for the sauce. Without the green skin they will be barely detectable in the sauce.
- Instead of grating the onion, carrot, and zucchini puree them in a food processor. Simply cut each vegetable into small pieces, whir away in a food processor, then proceed with the recipe. This trick works particularly well for kids who resist the texture of veggies in their food.
- Serve the sauce tossed with the warm pasta or serve the sauce on the side.
- Top with grated parmesan cheese.
Now, on to the recipe!
Weeknight Zucchini Beef Ragout
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef (grass-fed if possible)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
1 small onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, grated (about 2 cups)
2 large carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoons salt and garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat or oil from the pan. Alternatively if the pan is dry add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
3. Add the onions, zucchini, carrots, and ¼ teaspoons salt and garlic powder. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 5-10 minutes.
4. Add the cooked beef back to the pan along with the tomatoes and ½ teaspoons salt and garlic powder. Turn the heat to high and bring the sauce to strong bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. The sauce can simmer longer if you have more time, but 10 minutes is all that's necessary.
5. Serve over cooked pasta (whole wheat or gluten free) or zoodles.
Notes: I used this Spiral Vegetable Slicer to make the zoodles for this recipe.
Making this recipe? Let me know what you think and any adaptations you make in the comments. I really love hearing from you!
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