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Eating well

November 21, 2017

Mark McEwan’s bison bolognese

Celebrity chef Mark McEwan puts a healthy, uniquely Canadian spin on an Italian classic, subbing lean and delicious bison for the more usual beef.

The original version of this classic meat sauce came from Bologna, Italy – but you can be sure those Italian cooks never imagined using North American bison meat in their famous dish. Bison meat is high in protein and low in fat. It tastes much like beef, but perhaps slightly sweeter, and not gamey at all. You can find ground bison in many supermarkets or at your butcher. Try serving this sauce with your favourite whole-wheat pasta as a starter or as a main course.

Makes 1½ cups (375 mL), enough for 12 appetizer or 6 main-course servings.


  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
  • medium Spanish onion, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. (500 g) lean ground bison
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) chopped oregano
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) chopped basil
  • 1 tsp. (5 mL) toasted fennel seeds, crushed
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) white wine
  • 1½ cans (each 28 oz./796 mL) San Marzano tomatoes
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) tomato pastesalt and pepper


  1. In a Dutch oven or other heavy, large pan on top of the stove, sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat. When the onion begins to wilt, add the garlic and sweat a minute longer.
  2. Raise heat to medium high and add the bison, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring vigorously to prevent the meat from sticking.
  3. After about 10 minutes, when the meat is mostly browned with only traces of pink remaining, stir in the oregano, mint, basil and fennel seeds. Follow immediately with the wine.
  4. Continue cooking until the wine has nearly evaporated, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste, crushing the tomatoes with the side of your spoon as you stir.
  5. Bring to a simmer, season lightly with salt and pepper, and then reduce heat to its lowest possible setting.
  6. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes.
  7. Taste, adjust seasonings and keep at a bare simmer until ready to serve.

Nutrition per appetizer serving, sauce only (double figures for main-course serving):

Calories 120
Fat 4g
Saturated fat 1g
Cholesterol 30mg
Sodium 240mg
Carbohydrate 6g
Fibre 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 13g

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