The Perfect Pre-Race Dinner: Pasta With Bolognese Sauce

In order to perform at their best, athletes of all ages need to train well, get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated and eat a nutritious diet that is well balanced and wholesome.

In the days leading up to a competition or race, it becomes even more important to eat well to ensure that the body has the energy resources required for the big day. The pre-race dinner plays an essential role in preparing the body for competition. The key objective with this important meal is to replenish the body with all the nutrients needed for peak performance. Pasta with Bolognese sauce meets that challenge and tastes great too!

This rich, meaty dish provides plenty of protein, along with complex carbs and good fat, to refuel the muscles. Add a crisp, green salad with fresh veggies and a loaf of crusty, artisan whole wheat bread and it’s a complete meal. Pasta with Bolognese sauce is a hearty and satisfying dish so a light dessert of fresh fruit is all that you need to finish it off. Try it before your next big game! Recipe serves 10-12 people.


· 1/4 lb. prosciutto, diced

· 1 lb. ground beef

· 1 lb. ground pork

· 1 lb. ground veal

· 1 large white onion

· 1 carrot

· 1 rib celery

· 2-4 cloves of garlic

· 1 bay leaf

· 2 (28 oz.) can whole Italian San Marzano plum tomatoes

· A large handful of fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and chopped (reserve a few sprigs for garnish)

· 2 tbs. table salt for the pasta water

· 1-2 tsp. Kosher or sea salt to taste

· fresh ground black pepper to taste

· 1 (14.5 oz.) can tomato puree (optional)

· 2 cups beef stock

· 1 cup red wine

· 2 (16 oz.) pkgs. pasta: penne, spaghetti, fettuccini or tagliatelle

· FRESHLY grated Parmesan cheese for garnish


1. Use a large, heavy stockpot or dutch oven for best results.

2. Cook the prosciutto over medium heat until crispy, about 10-12 minutes.

3. Add the beef, pork and veal and brown gently, stirring frequently to mix ingredients and ensure even cooking, about 30 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid and discard.

4. While meat is cooking, dice the carrot, onion and celery and mince the garlic. Combine in a small bowl.

5. Once the meat is done, add in the vegetables and the bay leaf and stir. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

6. Add the tomatoes, including the juice from the can. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the beef stock and red wine.

7. Add half of the basil leaves and season with kosher or sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If sauce is very thick, add the tomato puree to thin it a bit.

8. About 30 minutes before the sauce is done, put a very large pot of water (8 quarts/liters) on to boil over high heat. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add 2 heaping tablespoons of table salt and add the pasta. Stir gently and cook until al dente (firm to the bite). Reserve a 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.

9. Remove the lid and add the remainder of the chopped basil to the sauce. Mix gently.

10. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl that has been warmed in the oven (200 degrees for 5 minutes). Add a bit of the sauce and toss gently to thoroughly coat the pasta. Add a splash of the reserved pasta water to smooth out the sauce. Top with additional sauce, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and garnish with basil. Serve immediately.


If you don’t have ground veal, just double the beef or the pork. Bacon or ham can be used in place of the prosciutto. If using prosciutto, be careful with the seasoning as this type of Italian ham is very salty.