Nonna’s Pasta Bolognese: #1 of 1000 Sustainable Food Experiments

This is my Italian grandmother’s recipe for pasta with a rich, flavorful meat sauce. With a few of my own twists to make it a favorite at our dinner table.

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($10.50 total)

1 lb dry pasta (rigatoni, fusilli, spaghetti, whatever you like) – $1.49
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, chopped – $0.15
1 lb organic ground beef – $5.99
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.10
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil – $1.59
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino romano cheese to sprinkle on top – $0.50


1. In a medium/large pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion then garlic. Stir until soft and just starting to brown, about 5-8 minutes.

Add the ground beef and Worcestershire sauce to the onion and garlic, and thoroughly mix to break up the beef. Cook until the meat starts to brown.

2. Blend the crushed tomatoes in a blender until smooth, then add to the meat. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes to 2 hours (longer is better if you have the time). Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water if desired. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook for the time indicated on the package.

Drain the pasta, put it back in the pot, and stir in a ladleful of the sauce. Serve hot to the table. 

Serving tips: Since we have lots of different preferences in our family, I like to let people scoop their own pasta, scoop their own sauce, then add cheese if they want to. A pepper grinder at the table never hurts either. This dish is nice paired with a light salad and a glass of red wine for the adults.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings:  3 = lots of leftovers
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco):  3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 2 = moderate impact
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 15/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

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