I grew up in an active family. We all played multiple sports and Saturday was generally spent on a netball field or at a sailing club.

That also meant Mum and Dad were seasoned pros at juggling my brothers and I and getting us to our various trainings. Even now, Wednesday evenings make me think of netball training and the meal Mum would often put on the table for us before shuttling me out the door. Wednesdays were for spaghetti bolognese.

Truthfully it wasn’t my favourite meal then, as I wasn’t a big fan of either meat or pasta. But it’s one I have grown to love and Steve and I now regularly put on our weekly menu, rolling the leftover meat into puff pastry-wrapped pies to freeze for dinner another night.

It’s also a meal both kids love, and as I’ve adapted my version so it simmers on the stove for hours ahead of our 5pm dinner, the smell makes us happy long before I spoon it into our bowls (and I’m doubly happy because it also means no cooking during arsenic hour. Huzzah! Bless the slow cooking gods).

My version is pretty different to the one I grew up with, which allowed Mum to get a good dinner on the table quickly, but I hope it’s just as tasty. And a note on the can of lentils. Well, what I can say? I’m a fan of beefing up the taste and nutrition of our meals, and brown lentils disappear into mince while also adding a good hit of fibre and plant-based protein. Need more convincing? One can also almost doubles the amount of food for about $1 so you can extend that goodness into other meals and help your budget along.

So here we go:


  • 500g beef mince
  • 400g can of brown lentils, well rinsed
  • 700ml passata
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • two carrots
  • one brown onion, diced
  • two garlic cloves (although we regularly add  three or four)
  • two sticks of celery
  • leftover veg such as mushroom, eggplant, broccoli, and old tomatoes all work well too #saynotofoodwaste
  • salt and pepper
  • one teaspoon dried oregano
  • one teaspoon garlic powder
  • one teaspoon onion powder
  • half a teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • one to two star anise (depending on how strong you like the aniseed flavour)
  • one cinnamon quill


  • Using a large, heavy bottomed lidded casserole dish or dutch oven, heat a good whack of olive oil over a medium heat. Add your onion and a bit of sea salt.
  • Once the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes) add your garlic, and after about two minutes throw in your chopped veg and can of lentils.
  • Let the vegetables soften for 5 minutes or so, before adding your mince and letting it brown.
  • Add your milk – trust me –  stir it through and then add your passata and seasonings.
  • Bring it to a fast simmer, turn the heat right down and pop on the lid.
  • Let it do its thing for 2 to 3 hours, stirring regularly so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.
  • For the last half hour remove the lid and let the liquid reduce.
  • Serve over pasta and put an indecent amount of parmesan on top.

If you want to jazz it up even more, a good splash of red wine (a tasty one) added to the pan to deglaze it after browning the meat is also a great idea. Just make sure you pour yourself a glass too and drink it while eating dinner.


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