The slow cooker and I meet again for the final time this week for the deliciously easy syn free bolognese pasta bake.
It’s been a great pal for a busy soul and I’ve recently been chucking in my regular recipes and discovering new unknown limits every day. You might also want to check out my Bangers & Mash and Steak & Onions recipes as examples.
But yesterday I was on a mission to work through my to-do list (no procrastinating happened, I promise) but some things just propped up unexpectedly, meaning my idea of a healthy meat-feast pizza was out the window.
Maybe next time, eh? So then I needed to change direction and this amazing little number was created.
2018 update: I’ve since tried it with many pastas. Originally with spaghetti to serve 2 people and I love how versatile it is. I’ve since doubled the mince meat quantities and made a couple more marginal adjustments, but you could add as much speed food vegetables as you’d like.
Perhaps bulk it up with courgettes, peppers, more mushrooms and onions. You could even line the baking dish with thinly sliced potato for when the time comes to finish it of in the oven. It’s still going to be syn free and delicious.
But one thing I think is absolutely imperative is to completely cover the pasta to avoid drying it out. Particularly if you’re going down the spaghetti route.
There’s nothing worse than pasta that’s dried out so much, it’s like plastic. So once all the meat mixture has reduced down and caramelised, I pour my cooked penne or fusilli pasta in a large roasting tin. No frylight is needed.
Then, I spoon the meat mixture on top and level it with a large spatula to even it out, followed with a good sprinkling of low fat cheese and fresh or dried basil before and after cooking.
WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A SLOW COOKER?
Fear not, of course you can cook the meat and veg in a pan. If you do struggle for cooking time though and don’t have one, then I would seriously consider buying one.
Most supermarkets have a cheap basic one, but I bought the largest, most affordable one I could find on Amazon. There are so many great recipes out there (except the all day breakfast one… don’t touch that!)
Anyway. Getting back to the pan. Just bung all the ingredients in a large deep based pan and bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer, placing a lid on top and cook for 30 minutes to an hour until it’s reduced down.
FRYING THE VEG BEFOREHAND
You may notice that sometimes I brown my meat and saute veg first. And while it does help to reduce the ingredients down, giving a richer, sweeter and smoother taste on the palette, we don’t always have the time.
If you do, then go for it. It’s technically 10 minutes plus another pan to wash up. But there are occasions like these when I just don’t have the time and want to plan ahead. (Again, that’s the magic of slow cookers for you).
But by adding a dash of balsamic vinegar; sometimes 1/2 tsp more after cooking, it gives a sweeter taste to mimic the saute process.
SYN INFO IN THIS RECIPE
As long as you’re sticking with 5% fat mince meat or less, then the only thing you may need to syn is the low fat cheese at 6 syns per quarter of this recipe if you’re not using it as part of your Healthy Extra A.
There are several cheeses you can use as part of your Healthy Extra A on a Slimming World plan and the syns vary for full fat to reduced fat ones. If you’re unsure what a Healthy Extra choice is a food that’s either high in calcium or fibre that needs to be eaten for good health and may help your weight loss.
If in doubt, then as a paying member, you can always check the food search app. However, I almost always use Cathedral light mature cheddar cheese, or similar as I can usually find it on offer. And another tip to spread your cheese further is to use a smaller grater.
SIMILAR ITALIAN RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE
STORING LEFTOVERS & FREEZING TIPS
It’s very rare we have leftovers that are more than just an extra sitting. (Note, there’s just two of us in our house). But I find storing foods like this is fine in a storage tub with lid or tinfoil to avoid drying out and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
It’s also fine to freeze. Again, just place in a freezable container and store for a month (although sometimes I do go beyond this).
Just make sure you defrost it and heat it through thoroughly in the oven at around 180 degrees for 30 minutes with tinfoil to avoid burning the top.
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If you have any doubt about Slimming World quantities, then always ask your consultant or call the Syns Hotline on 09068 518 518.
I am not officially associated with Slimming World in any way, other than I am a paying member and love to create my own healthy but delicious meals.
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Slimming World Syn Free Slow Cooker Bolognese Pasta Bake
A super easy and delicious bolognese bake that's made mostly in the slow cooker. Let this syn free number cook for you while you're busy working. Then finish it off in the oven to melt the cheese!
- 500 g extra lean mince beef
- 1 large onion peeled & diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 fat cloves of garlic minced
- 1 celery stick washed & diced
- 1 oxo cube crushed
- 1 carrot peeled & grated
- 100 g mushrooms sliced
- 320 g dried penne or fusilli pasta *any dried pasta is fine
- 160 g lower fat cheddar cheese grated = 4 peoples' Healthy Extra B
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
Chuck in everything in to the slow cooker except the spaghetti and cheese and cook on high heat for 3 hours or low all day. Note: You will get a richer taste if you fry the garlic, beef and onions until softened in frylight before adding to the SC but sometimes I can’t be bothered with extra pans to wash up.
Once cooked, season to taste again if needed, remove the bay leaf and preheat your oven on 180 degrees.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti or pasta as per instructed on the back of the packet.
Drain the pasta and transfer to a oven proof dish and spoon the meaty mixture on top.
Now sprinkle with cheese and a touch more herbs and bake in the middle of the oven for 10-20 minutes.
You could always just skip the oven bit and stir in the cooked pasta and throw in your cheese to melt for a further 30 mins, but we love rich grilled cheese where we can!
And finally, if you enjoyed it, then why not tag me on Instagram @TastefullyVikkie (#TastefullyVikkie) so I know you made it?
IF NOT USING 40G OF CHEESE AS PART OF YOUR HEALTHY EXTRA, THEN THEN RECIPE WORKS OUT AT 6 SYNS PER PORTION.
NOTE THAT SYN INFORMATION CHANGES QUITE OFTEN, SO ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR CONSULTANT IF IN DOUBT.