Last Updated on March 1, 2022
This is a guest post and recipe from Elyse Kopecky, co-author of Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. and the New York Times bestseller Run Fast. Eat Slow. Shalane Flanagan is a 4-time Olympian and silver medalist, who in 2017 became the first American woman since 1977 to win the New York City Marathon. Elyse Kopecky — who ran with Flanagan at the University of North Carolina — is a chef, nutritionist, and inspirational speaker.
When we began writing our first book, Run Fast. Eat Slow, in 2014, we knew we had an important message that could help runners. But it wasn’t until we set out on our book tour in 2015 that we realized what our cookbook meant to the running community. Runners from all over the country approached us to share their stories; they told us how reading and cooking from our first book cover to cover allowed them to break away from harmful diet habits and discover the benefits of indulging in real food.
When I turned 30, I was living in Switzerland, and my diet shifted drastically from low-fat yogurt to whole milk yogurt, from processed spreads to real butter, and from frozen veggie burgers to full-fat grass-fed beef. My time in Europe taught me that food should be celebrated and enjoyed — and that the indulgent diet many Americans labels “unhealthy” is, in fact, a way of eating that has made me stronger, happier, and healthier than ever.
Our “Marathon Bolognese” sauce was one of Shalane’s favorite dishes to eat during her training for the 2017 New York City Marathon and is on regular rotation on my own family’s table. Filled with healthy fats from the grass-fed beef and loaded up with veggies to maximize nutrition, this sauce is delicious over pasta, spaghetti squash, zoodles, or just about anything you can think of.
Traditional bolognese is heavy on the beef and skimpy on the veggies. As you’ll see in the bolognese recipe below, we prefer our sauce to be veg-loaded to maximize flavor and nutrition.
The first time you make this sauce — featured in the new cookbook — try it with the enticing combo below, but once you’ve mastered sauce making, experiment by using any assortment of your favorite veggies. We love our pasta as much as the next runner and like this sauce best on top of spaghetti. But if you’re following a gluten-free diet, it’s also delicious over brown rice or roasted spaghetti squash.
“Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. Marathon Bolognese”
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef or bison (preferably grass-fed)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- 2 heaping cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed or diced tomatoes*
- 4 cups baby spinach or chopped kale (optional)
- Parmesan (optional)
*It’s worth paying a little extra for a high-quality brand of canned tomatoes to get a sweet result. If your sauce tastes too acidic, add a teaspoon or two of sugar.
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently while breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes (if using), and sauté for one minute.
2. Add the bell peppers, mushrooms, and remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt (if your meat is lean, add another tablespoon of oil). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes
3. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Stir in the spinach or kale (if using).
4. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
5. Serve over pasta, rice, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash and top with grated Parmesan (if using).
Mix It Up: This sauce is also delicious with carrots, celery, and onions instead of the garlic, peppers, and mushrooms.