Big Batch Bolognese

My first taste of meat sauce for pasta came as a child when my Mom would use a name-brand seasoning packet which shall go nameless here. It was delicious but full of processed stuff. When I had a family of my own, I tried to recreate those flavors without all that processed stuff and came pretty darned close. Then, a while back, I was invited to dinner at a fancy restaurant in town where they made a fantastic bolognese sauce with pork, Italian sausage, beef and a touch of red wine. It was divine! So, I set about figuring out how to make THAT at home as well, feeling like I was graduating a bit from that first attempt at sauce.

I think I’ve done it and wanted to share the recipe with you. I’ve made this recipe numerous times now and it always draws raves. I love putting half the sauce in the freezer, knowing that on a busy night, I’ve got another great meal ready.

Big Batch Bolognese - finished

This makes a big batch of bolognese sauce! Our family of six can get two full meals out of it. It freezes beautifully (I think it actually benefits from some time chilling out) so depending on the size of your family, portion it off in freezer bags for easy defrosting and reheating. Also, note that this is not a saucy sauce that’s going to run over your plate. It’s thick and meant to cling to your pasta. I recommend spaghetti, fettuccine or wide papperadelle noodles or campanelle which is small but ruffly and catches bits of sauce beautifully.

Big Batch Bolognese
Serves up to 12


1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce plus about 1/2 a can of water
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 pound ground beef – 80/20 or 90/10 lean/fat are fine
1lb bulk, hot Italian sausage
1 lb ground pork
Fresh or dried basil, oregano, rosemary – see below
1/4 cup red wine that you’d drink with the meal
Salt to taste
Pasta of your choice
Parmesan cheese to taste


Big Batch Bolognese - meat

Save time by cooking the meats, onions and garlic all together.


1. In a large pot, drizzle a little olive oil and heat until just before it starts to smoke.
2. Add the onion, garlic and meats, breaking them up and mixing all ingredients as they brown. Keep cooking until the fat diminishes. You want to have some left for flavor but you don’t want it to be swimming in it.
3. Carefully add the cans of tomato sauce and the tomato paste plus the 1/2 can of water. Keep the cans nearby in case you have to add a little more water as things thicken. This is a good way to also get every last bit of sauce out of the cans and prepare them for the recycling bin.
4. Stir everything together, breaking up the tomato paste.
5. At this point, add about 1/4 tsp. of each of the herbs. If you are using dried herbs, crumble them between your fingers and mix.  
6. Add the sugar and mix. This is an old trick to tang some of the acidity off of the tomato sauce and to give it a more well-rounded flavor. Add too much and you’ll ruin the sauce so be conservative. You can always add more. 
7. While the sauce is cooking over medium heat, get another big pot of salted water boiling and make the pasta. The sauce can be left waiting but the pasta can’t. 
8. Cook the sauce until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan. 
9. A few minutes before serving, add another 1/4 tsp. of each of the herbs. I do this because I like the layering of herb flavors that have cooked with the dish and the ones that are more pronounced on their own. 
10. Sprinkle in some parmesan cheese and leave it out to serve with the finished meal.
11. Add the wine and stir. 
12. Drain your pasta and serve the sauce over it or mix the two together before serving if you’re going to eat it all. Don’t freeze pasta and sauce together – it doesn’t reheat well. 





In The Kitchen with Chef Dan

Mad Greens - Chef Dan's finished plate

Weeknight Kale and Italian Sausage Pasta. Photo courtesy Mad Greens.

Getting kids into the kitchen is one of the easiest and most fun ways to get them excited about  cooking and eating better. That’s why Chef Dan Long, MAD Greens Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Inventor, has come up with some easy-to-prep and prepare recipes that are great for busy families who may not always have a ton of time to make a healthful meal.

The dish below is designed to be easy – incorporating a pre-made sauce base that saves time during the cooking process. The sauce can be made in advance and portioned out to be used in various recipes throughout the week.

“In addition to being easy to prepare, another goal with this dish was to incorporate vegetables in a fun and tasty way to help get kids excited about what they’re eating,” says Long. “The recipe can be used as a starting point for both kids and adults to play around with. Feel free to change up the ingredients to match the taste preferences of everyone in the family.”

 Weeknight Kale and Italian Sausage Pasta 

This pasta dish combines fun-shaped noodles (seriously, who doesn’t smile when they scoop up a spoonful of farfalle noodles?), a hearty dose of Tuscan Kale and a delicious homemade pasta sauce and makes any weeknight meal just a little more awesome. Enjoy!


Mad Greens - Chef Dan cooking Kale

Chef Dan prepares the kale. Photo courtesy Mad Greens.

1/2 lb. Pasta – farfalle or another interesting shape

1/3 lb. Mild Italian sausage – you can substitute spicy sausage

1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as black or lacinato kale) – cut into ½ inch strips. Discard the stems

1 ½ c. Dan’s homemade pasta sauce (recipe below) or whatever pre-made pasta sauce you have on hand

1 c. Reserved pasta cooking water

Parmesan – to taste

3-4 leaves Basil – cut into very fine slivers


  • Start cooking pasta according to directions on package.
  • While pasta is cooking, break apart sausage and cook in a large saute pan. Once sausage is nicely browned and cooked through, add kale. Cook until kale starts to wilt and then add about ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid.
  • Add tomato sauce, allow to come to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer.
  • When pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of the water and then drain the pasta. Add the pasta and reserved water to the sausage and kale. Mix everything together until pasta is well coated. There should not be much (if any) loose sauce in the pan.

Top with freshly grated Parmesan and basil. Serves 4.

Mad Greens - Chef Dan prepping pasta

Chef Dan adds shredded Parmesan to the dish for a finishing touch. Photo courtesy Mad Greens.

Chef Dan’s Zesty Homemade Tomato Sauce

This flavorful tomato sauce can be used as the staple ingredient in several recipes. It is a base that can be made in advance, frozen and subsequently used for several different dishes over time.


4 Cans “San Marzano” style whole peeled tomatoes – drain off the juice

2 Onions – medium dice

4 Cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 tsp. Salt

1.2 tsp. Fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. Dried oregano

4-5 Sprigs fresh thyme

1 TBS. Balsamic vinegar

1 TBS. Honey or agave – adjusted to taste


  • Over medium heat cook onions until they start turning translucent.
  • Add garlic, let cook an additional 1 min. Add tomatoes.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients.
  • Let cook for 2 hours over very low heat the sauce should be barely bubbling. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce from burning.

After the sauce is cooked you can use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth or you can leave it as is. This is entirely a personal preference. Use within 3-4 days or freeze.


About Chef Dan

Chef Dan Long is the Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Innovator at MAD Greens. Long and business partner Marley Hodgson founded Colorado-based Mad Greens – Eat Better in 2004. They were intent on addressing the lack of fresh, fast and healthy fare available to the average American consumer.




Go-To Meals, Part 1 By Edan Goode

When I’m able to be really organized, I plan a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, shopping for ingredients, defrosting in stages, etc. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m very proud of having my act so together. That scenario doesn’t happen very often.

At best, I scan the fridge, freezer and kitchen cabinets in the morning and come up with a plan for that night. Even then, I still feel pretty good about myself for knowing what I’m going to make that night.

Now, the reality is more like this: no Sunday planning, no time for a quick plan in the morning and suddenly it’s 4:00 and the kids walk in the door asking what’s for dinner. “Um, I haven’t decided yet” is my usual response. I hate that. It takes an already busy, stressful day and tops it off with even more stress. I scramble to come up with something (often the scrambling of eggs ends up being involved, ironically) but it’s haphazard and a tense situation.

What I need to do is come up with a list of Go-To meals (as opposed to To-Go meals!) that I can keep the ingredients on hand for and assemble quickly when need be. In the next few blogs, I’m going to share with you what I’m coming up with in hopes that some of the recipes might help you too. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. I invite you, dear readers, to share your recipes with me as well. I’d love to share them in this blog space so we can help each other out.

Here’s my first recipe, a beef ragu sauce that can be made in the crockpot (which, yes, requires planning from the morning but then it

Beef Stew Ragu doing the hard work for me, in the crock pot. Steamy goodness!

Beef Stew Ragu doing the hard work for me, in the crock pot. Steamy goodness!

comes together quickly at dinnertime) or it can be made using a pressure cooker in about 20 minutes. Please share your recipes in the Leave A Reply area below. Thanks!

Edan’s Go-To Beef Ragu Sauce                           

Note: This can be served over pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes

1 large carrot, diced finely

1 medium onion, chopped finely

Go-To Beef Ragu

Go-To Beef Ragu

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can tomato paste

2 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 tsp. each thyme, oregano and basil

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

2 pounds beef stew meat cut into bite-size pieces

Pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes for the sauce

Grated parmesan for serving

In a crockpot:

Combine all ingredients except pasta/polenta/potatoes and parmesan in a slow cooker. Cover and put on low for 6 hours or on high for 4. Check the liquid levels periodically to make sure it isn’t reducing too much. If it is, add ¼ cup water at a time. But no more than that you don’t want to make the sauce too runny.

The sauce is done when the meat and carrots are fork tender. Ladle over whatever base you choose and sprinkle with parmesan.

In a pressure cooker: 

Brown the meat and onion, adding the minced garlic after the meat has started to brown. Add enough water to just cover the meat mixture. Put the lid on and cook over medium high heat until the pressure has clearly started to build up (how and when this happens depends on your pressure cooker). Lower the heat to medium and simmer, with lid on, for 15 minutes. Follow the directions for how to release the steam and open the lid. Drain off most of the liquid.

Put the pressure cooker back on the stove and add the tomato sauce, paste and seasonings. On medium heat, simmer until the sauce is heated through. Meanwhile, prepare your base and prepare as above.

Share your Go-To recipe under the Leave A Reply section below.

Come, E.A.T. with us!

Twitter: @CoParentEATblog



Where to “Use Your Noodle”: In Search of Pasta Restaurants for Kids By Edan Goode

Kids and pasta are a natural combination. Maybe it’s that spaghetti noodles look like worms. Or that you can slurp them. Or that they are bland. Or that they come in lots of interesting shapes with interesting names that are fun to say like “fusilli” and “rigatoni”.

Although pasta is one of the easiest things in the world to cook at home, it’s a lot of fun to go out for pasta because you know there won’t be any arguments from the kids about what to order.

Here are a few of my childrens’ favorites:

  1. The Old Spaghetti Factory –   With its interesting décor and train theme, including

    An example of a birthday balloon hat you can get at The Old Spaghetti Factory.

    an actual box car you can dine in, it’s an event to go to Old Spaghetti Factory. For a birthday, count on the staff singing to you and the balloon artist coming ‘round to make a fanciful and wonderfully embarrassing hat for you to wear.  Meals are a good deal with the price including soup or salad (salad or applesauce on the kids’ menu), drink, entrée and dessert.

    (Read a review of  The Old Spaghetti Factory).

  2. Noodles & Company – The Wisconsin Mac and Cheese is, hands-down, my childrens’ favorite dish in the world with its mixture of creamy cheese sauce, topped with two kinds of shredded cheese that melt over the whole mess as you eat.  My youngest says the plain buttered noodles with herbs and parmesan is “the best thing ever”.
  3. Pei Wei – Because noodles aren’t just Italian, the Lo Mein noodles with chicken on the kids menu are a big hit with my kids. They also like the Dan Dan Noodles from the main menu for something a little spicier. With soy sauce, chicken, scallions, garlic, bean sprouts, cucumbers on egg noodles, it gets them out of their simple pasta rut, for which I am grateful.
  4. Olive Garden  – These folks are smart. They give kids a sense of control while keeping them within the confines of the kids’ menu. One of their most popular menu items is the “Create Your Own Pasta” where kids pick the kind of pasta they want, then the kind of sauce and finally the protein they want to add like grilled chicken, Italian sausage or a meatball.

Where are your favorite places to take the kids for pasta?  I’ve only mentioned chains here, unintentionally, only because we haven’t discovered any “mom and pop” places yet. Have you discovered any? Let us know!

Comment below and share your favorite spots for pasta with the family. Mangia!

The Rock rolls into town by Edan Goode

There aren’t that many places where the sound of a child having a fit blend in with the overall din of a place… except perhaps at a

There's nothing like watching your future dinner being flung high into the air!

football game, by the side of the road at rush hour or at The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits, which made its Colorado debut at Belmar in Lakewood.  Now this is nothing against The Rock. It’s just to say that it’s a noisy place, what with the fairly loud rock ‘n roll playing, the raucous conversations going on and the kids well, being kids.  It’s all turned into magnified surround-sound by the floor-to-ceiling hard surfaces, cool though they may be!

The Rock already has locations in Washington State, Oregon and Canada. They hope to open three locations in Colorado in the next year or so.  Seems like an odd collection of locations but what do I know. The premise behind The Rock is to blend a love of rock ‘n roll with good food and drink.  That explains the gritty, heavy, brick and iron atmosphere with rock ‘n roll artwork everywhere.  It was all I could do not to break out into an air guitar solo as soon as I walked in.

The menu is varied and creative both in names and combinations.  You can eat as heavy or as light as you want from salads to meat-laden pizza.  We dined there within days of the opening and witnessed both eager-to-please service and a few mishaps like a forgotten entrée.  Overall though, The Rock is a welcome option for family dining as well as a place to meet friends for a beer and a bite.

Here are the highlights and lowlights from our visit:

Appetizer– Being wing freaks, we had to try Rocks Wings. Plump and meaty, they had an odd doughy-ness and sweetness that were disappointing.

Salad – Both the Garden Salad with its variety of veggies and the Caesar with oven-baked croutons were fresh, crispy and had dressings that didn’t overwhelm their greens.

Pizza – The pepperoni-lovers at our table were perfectly happy with the “Classic Rock” with plenty of pepperoni and mozzarella. We also loved “Flirtin’ with Disaster” with hot Italian sausage, Andouille sausage and caramelized onions. Whatever the toppings, The Rock’s pizza crust is delicious, crispy and chewy with the right amount of tug.

Pasta – Although a work of art, the colorful ravioli in a pesto cream sauce in “Elvis Sighting” was lackluster.  Our resident alfredo fan proclaimed the “White Room” typical-tasting yet really creamy.  We couldn’t get enough of the “Can’t Get Enough”. We kept passing it around the table again and again, snatching another forkful, much to the dismay of the daughter who ordered it. Deceptively simple, it was a creamy red sauce with chili flakes, ground hot sausage and meatballs on fat fettuccine noodles.  Although those ingredients sound simple enough, somehow the combination became something fantastic – seriously one of the most delicious dishes I’ve had in a long time!

The imperfectly-shaped pizza crust is delicious.

Prices hover between $9 and $12 for most entrees.  Kids’ meals are a good deal ranging from $2.49-$4.49 including a drink. There’s a good variety for them including salad which I’m so glad to see a restaurant offer. There are several variations of pasta, a peanut butter and jelly pizza, chicken and burger.  You can also get a kid-size smoothy for just a little more.

Give The Rock Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits a try for the food, the atmosphere, the conversations it will start about which Rolling Stones album was best and because your child can pitch a fit and they’ll just blend right in.  Rock on!

The Rock, Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits, 7399 W. Alaska Drive, Lakewood, CO. Open daily from 11:30am – midnight.  303-454-3282.

You can get cavities from that!?! By Edan Goode

I once heard that a certain aquatic-shaped snack cracker, beloved by my children and me, was responsible for causing cavities. I was devastated. I love those things whose-brand-name-shall-go-nameless.

However, I was extremely proud and grateful for my childrens’ cavity-free streak, so I resolved to never buy said crackers again – just as soon as we finish off the ginormous container of them we had sitting prominently in our kitchen! Turns out, those little morsels aren’t the sole evil culprit they were made out to be. It is merely that they are made from white flour which has been shown to cause cavities.

This led me on a hunt to find other foods that seem innocent, but that are cavity-causers. Sure, we all know the obvious stuff like candy and soft drinks but some of the other problematic foods may surprise you.

First, a little lesson in how cavities form, courtesy of the American Dental Association :

When you eat, food passes through your mouth. Here it meets the germs, or bacteria, that live in your mouth. You may have heard your dentist talk about plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love sugars found in many foods. When you don’t clean your teeth after eating, plaque bacteria use the sugar to produce acids that can destroy the hard surface of the tooth, called enamel. After a while, tooth decay occurs. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

So cavities are formed by anything sugary (or that becomes sugary) that gets jam-packed into the grooves of our teeth or enrobes them and then SITS there.  These include:

  • White-flour-based products including Bread, Crackers, Pasta and Pretzels                                                               
  • Cereals
  • Potato Chips
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches because of the obvious sugar in the jelly but also the added sugar in some brands of peanut butter
  • Catsup
  • Salad dressing
  • Milk
  • Certain fruits and vegetables because of their natural sugars
  • Flavored waters

Some of these items, like fruit, veggies and milk shouldn’t be eliminated from our diets and some of them, well, would just diminish the quality of our lives if they were gone. The solution? That boring mantra: “everything in moderation blah, blah, blah.” Add to that these helpful tips to help get those bad sugars away from our teeth more quickly, preventing them from lingering and setting up shop:

  • Limit the number of snacks that you eat. Each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.
  • Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, which helps wash foods from the mouth and helps reduce the effects of acids.
  • Chew sugarless gum for 20 minutes after a meal to help remove the sugars.
  • Drink water after eating to also help wash away sugars.
  • Of course, brush and floss regularly to keep that nasty stuff off your teeth.

For more information on dental health, visit Colorado Parent magazine. The February issue focuses on dental health in honor of Dental Health Month.  Also, subscribe to this blog (at right). You won’t want to miss the upcoming blog on braces-friendly recipes. Keep smiling!

Carino’s Italian restaurant debuts healthier kids’ menu By Edan Goode

Carino’s Italian Restaurant                                                                                                       

Colorado Parent magazine recently had the opportunity to hold a focus group/taste test for the new, lower-calorie kids’ menu developed by Chef Chris Peitersen, Executive Chef at Carino’s Italian. We were honored to be the only media organization to hold such an event. We invited seven families to bring their 11 kids to the Parker location of Carino’s to sample four of the dishes from the new kids’ menu. At first the kids were a bit shy but were soon digging in, scooping up and offering their opinions. The parents got to sample some of Carino’s specialty items as well as salad and warm bread. It was a good and tasty time for all.     

The new kids’ menu, for ages 10 and under offers the following items, all under 500 calories:     

  • PIZZA PASTA — Chopped spaghetti tossed with tomato sauce, topped with sliced grilled chicken, pepperoni and mozzarella
  • CHICKEN & BROCCOLI PENNE — Penne with sliced grilled chicken and broccoli with alfredo sauce
  • KIDS PANINI — Mozzarella and turkey grilled panini sandwich served with mandarin oranges; also available as plain cheese panini
  • PIZZA DIPPERS — Cheese pizza slices served with tomato sauce for dipping
  • GRILLED CHICKEN — Grilled chicken with spaghetti and tomato sauce or Italian vegetables
  • CHEESE STUFFED PASTA — Cheese stuffed pasta with tomato sauce

Prices range from $3.99 for pasta with a choice of sauce to $4.79 for the meals listed above. All include a drink.     

Chef Peit, Exec. Chef at Carino's and creator of the new menu


As the single dad of a five-year-old daughter, Chef Peit, as he’s known, was willing to take a chance in removing some of the most popular and typical items on kids’ menus including mac and cheese and chicken fingers in favor of healthier choices. ” Instead of focusing on fried foods, I wanted to balance vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates,” Chef Peit says. “It is tough to make the change.  The top sellers on most kids menus are chicken fingers, grilled cheese and french fries because they are easy to fry up, easy to make and restaurants know they will sell.  It can be seen as risky to deviate from that from a business point of view.”     

Sampling one menu item at a time, the overall reaction from the kids was very positive. Chicken and Broccoli Penne was the clear winner with comments like “awesome!”, “Is there more?” and “I love the chicken and I never eat chicken.”      

Pizza Pasta was another favorite. The kids thought it was fun that two of their favorite things, pizza and pasta could be combined. Comments included “The pepperoni gives it a good kick”, “I want even more sauce and more cheese – yum” and “it could use even more herbs like basil”.     

Reviews for Pizza Dippers included “the bread itself is great but I don’t like that much cheese”, “really good” and “it’s fun to dip the triangles into the sauce.”     

The last item, the Kids Panini was served with a dish of mandarin oranges which was a big hit. “Good, melty cheese”, “the bread is really crunchy but I love the oranges”, “the oranges look pretty on the plate”, “awesome.”     



Our thanks to Carino’s and General Manager Erick Lewis for this fun event. Would you like to hear about opportunities like this one and more? Subscribe to the Colorado Parent e-newsletter and “Like” Colorado Parent Magazine on Facebook to stay informed of special Colorado Parent events, contests, screenings and exclusive deals.