I’ve been known to use a few impastas (lower calorie pasta alternatives) in my recipes, but this fettuccine bolognese uses real, fresh fettuccine and an ultra-rich meat sauce. It may sound like there’s no way a dish like this could be a healthier option, but each serving has more protein than carbs and just 315 calories.
That leaves room for freshly grated parmesan on top and a side salad or maybe roasted asparagus. Or maybe a second serving since the bolognese is packed with veggies anyway!
How to Make Bolognese Sauce
If you’ve tried my low carb lasagna, this fettuccine bolognese uses an almost identical meat sauce. Inspired by J. Kenji López-Alt’s ultimate bolognese from his cookbook, The Food Lab, this meat sauce uses a base of onions, carrots, and garlic cooked in bacon grease. Everything cooks down to create a rich and flavorful bolognese that sticks to the pasta and makes you happy inside.
To make the bolognese, you’ll need to spend a few minutes prepping the bacon and veggies. Or if you’re a minimal cook, I bet you could find everything pre-diced and minced except the bacon.
Once you’ve cooked the bacon, remove it from the pan leaving its grease behind. You’ll want to use a bit of red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan or remove any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. (See far right image above.)
It’s all gravy from here. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes before adding crushed tomatoes, a few spices, and the cooked bacon.
Cook that for a few minutes before adding cooked ground beef to the tomato sauce mixture. Let that simmer while you prep the pasta, and you’re essentially done.
Add the cooked pasta and a bit of pasta water to the bolognese, toss everything together, and serve!
Update 2/21: I have a new and improved pressure cooker bolognese you should try if you have an Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi.
Fettuccine Bolognese Ingredient and Recipe Notes
Though the ingredient list may look long at first glance, it’s really quite simple beyond preparing the vegetables. I’ll run through a few ingredient modification questions I got for the low carb lasagna.
Red Wine Vinegar, Fish Sauce, and Bay Leaves
The red wine vinegar does have a unique flavor, but the recipe only calls for two tablespoons. If you have a different vinegar on hand, you could certainly make do.
Fish sauce is the wild card ingredient, in my opinion. In J. Kenji López-Alt’s original recipe, he uses both anchovies and fish sauce. While I’m not a fan of anchovies, a fish sauce made from anchovies does wonders for the flavor of the bolognese.
Like every ingredient in this category, you can get by without fish sauce. Though you’ll want to add a bit of salt as it provides a fair amount of saltiness and umami to the bolognese.
And as always, bay leaves provide some great flavor but aren’t entirely necessary. You have my permission to rock on without them if necessary.
Using a Different Pasta
I should have mentioned this somewhere in the intro, but I’m far from expert when it comes to Italian cuisine. Heck, I’m pretty much a rookie. But in my research of bolognese pasta pairings, I learned that flat and wide pastas are ideal.
Pappardelle and tagliatelle are two commonly used with bolognese, but they’re not as common as something like fettuccine. So, here we are.
I’ll save you the research—there aren’t really any impastas out there for this style of pasta, for whatever reason. One of my favorite impasta makers, Banza, has something like 29 types of chickpea pasta without a single wide and flat pasta.
They do, however, make a penne like I used in my Cajun Pasta Bake and a rotini like I used in my Southern Style Pasta Salad that would both work here. And if you’re a low carb eater, you could always use Palmini noodles like I used in my Low Carb Pasta Carbonara.
Update: Check out the Carba-Nada high protein fettuccine I used for my Dan Dan noodles and creamy sausage and mushroom one-pan pasta recipes.
The type of pasta used may slightly affect the pasta water that goes into the bolognese. Typically, starch that’s in the pasta water helps bind the sauce to the pasta. I wouldn’t worry about fixing this, just a note.
Okay, that’s a wrap. If you have an ingredient question I failed to mention, drop a comment at the bottom of the post. And don’t forget to let me know what you think about this fettuccine bolognese!
A high protein pasta recipe made with a beef and bacon meat sauce and fresh fettuccine.
- 2 lbs Ground Beef, I used 96/4 from HEB
- 6 slices Center Cut Bacon, cut into thin strips
- 1 medium (200g) Sweet Onion, diced
- 2 medium (150g) Carrots, peeled and finely grated
- 4 cloves (20g) Garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp (30g) Red Wine Vinegar
- 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
- 1/2 Tbsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 Tbsp (30g) Fish Sauce*, optional
- 3 Bay Leaves, optional
- 9 oz Buitoni Fresh Fettuccine , or your choice of pasta
- 1/2 C Pasta Water
- Add the ground beef to a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until no pink remains. Set aside.
- Add the bacon to a second skillet (stainless steel if possible) over medium-high heat and fully cook. Remove the bacon from the skillet, leaving the grease behind.
- Carefully add the vinegar to deglaze the pan (remove any stuck bits on the bottom) before adding the onions, carrots, and garlic. Stirring often, cook until the onions and carrots soften, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, cooked bacon, fish sauce, and spices to the onion and carrot mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously, before reducing the heat to medium-low.
- Add the bay leaves and stir well before adding the beef. Continue cooking over medium-low while the pasta cooks, about 10-15 minutes. (Remove the bay leaves before adding the cooked pasta.)
- Cook the pasta in salted water. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the bolognese and stir well before adding the cooked pasta. Toss everything together and remove from the heat.
*If you omit the fish sauce, you'll likely want to add a bit of salt.
What is pasta without bread? Check out my air fryer cheesy bread or Domino's garlic parmesan bread twists copycat.
- Each serving has 6 Smart Points.
- Nutrition info for bolognese only: 1,802 calories, 228g protein, 93g carbs, 52g fat, and 24 Smart Points.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Servings Serving Size: 1 3/4 C (250g)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 315Total Fat: 7gCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 32g
Monday 28th of June 2021
You may want to check your “Nutritional Information for BOLOGNESE ONLY” it says 1,802 calories, 228g protein, 93 carbs and 52g fat and 24 Smart Points! I think this is off. ;). Can’t wait to make it later this week.
Wednesday 30th of June 2021
That's for the whole batch of bolognese without any pasta, not per serving.
Thursday 16th of April 2020
5 Star Rating! This recipe is a STAPLE in our house. While I love the recipe as it is written, we made a few adjustments in our household as I don't eat a lot of red meat. I used ground turkey and turkey bacon (my favorite is from Trader Joe's). The use of turkey lowers the fat macro in the overall caloric intake as well, so that fits with my current macro plan. The substitution of turkey products over beef and pork products was not even noticed by my husband or daughter. They frequently ask for this recipe as it is not only delicious, but also "comfy" food for them. I use traditional fettuccine noodles for them, but I use Banza pasta for myself to increase fiber and protein in the overall meal.
Wednesday 15th of April 2020
I LOVED this recipe. I cook and count macros for just myself, and this sauce was amazing reheated first the next several days. I have made it several times but the first time, I forgot about the bacon and the fire alarm kept going off. My apartment was so smoky it was hard to see but I turned off the stove and pulled a chair over to below the fire alarm and just stood there for probably 25 minutes just pressing the reset button every time it went off while running back and forth to fan the smoke out of the apartment. Even after all that, the sauce was BOMB and well worth the extra exercise I got from running back and forth. I do omit the fish sauce because that’s not my thing but I still think it’s amazing!! Also well worth it to top with graded fresh parmesan.
Wednesday 27th of November 2019
I made this three times in two weeks because I couldn't get enough of it! Each time I made it I didn't use the fish sauce or the bay leaves and just added a bit of extra salt. Also be warned have your onion and carrots chopped before you start because the first time I made it thinking I could chop while the bacon cooked and the pan deglazed I was sweating trying to throw everything together at the right time intervals and it looked like a tornado hit my kitchen after I finished cooking since I usually clean as I go. I saved the sauce in the refrigerator and just made fresh noodles each time I wanted some and reheated the sauce in the microwave and it was delicious!
Monday 25th of November 2019
My husband is a meat and potatoes man... he’s always suspicious of Me when I wanna attempt a healthy-ish/macro friendly recipe for dinner. He takes his meat sauce and pasta very seriously and raised an eyebrow when I wanted to attempt this spin on bolognese. This recipe is excellent as is and does not sacrifice the traditional flavor of bolognese sauce. I served his over regular noodles, and mine was great over zoodles. Great comfort food!