Does your toddler eat only the three S’s of the kiddy-food-pyramid: Salt, Sugar & Starch? My two year old, Little E, devours potatoes, bread and pasta but his mouth goes into shutdown mode if there is a healthy vegetable anywhere in sight.
Well, here’s a culinary Dad-hack that will make you the conquering hero in the kitchen. And it’s super easy!
SECRET-VEGIE PASTA SAUCE
[An ENORMOUS THANK YOU to Hannah & Marco for putting us onto this brilliant parent-hack!]
Phenom-A-Mum and I were let in on this trick when visiting friends back in Sydney. Marco suggested that the boys (Little E and his son, Little O) have vegetables for dinner. Oh how Phenom-A-Mum and I laughed. ‘Twas quite the giddy parental gas. However, the awkward looks from Hannah & Marco made us stop our faux-aristocratic laugh attempts and realise they were serious. Or crazy. It was up for grabs.
In came the pasta covered in vegetable mush. Onto the spoon, into the mouth, down the hatch and the spoon went back for more. Holy! How the heck did they do that?
You will need:
- A big pot
- 500g of fresh tomatoes
- 500g of other vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, spinach, eggplant, squash or pumpkin.
- 1/2 a bottle of tomato passata
- 1/2 cup of water
- 3 x bay leaves
- 3 x sprigs of thyme
- 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
- A stick blender
It’s super simple when you think about it. What’s the one thing most toddlers will devour? Pasta or lasagna. The concession they make to eating veggies is tomato sauce, the flavour of which is strong enough to cover most of the other ingredients, like the (usually pretty flavourless) minced meat. So we’re going to remove the meat and replace it with lots of vitamin and mineral filled vegetables.
Head down to the local fruit & veggie warehouse and buy up all of the cheap, soon-to-go-off goods. They are perfect for a sauce because you’re going to boil and blend them, and make this a very dad-wallet friendly recipe.
The rough equation I use is an equal weight of tomatoes to other vegetables. This ensures that the tomato flavour masks the others. This recipe makes about 1 litre of sauce, but I do it in big batches so that I can have loads of it in the freezer. It’s just as easy to make 5 litres of it and you’ll have it on hand should dinner ever collapse into a toddler starvation protest.
Step 1: Chop
Cut up all of the tomatoes and other vegetables into rough chunks. Don’t be too thorough. You just want to break them up enough that they will cook more quickly.
Step 2: Put it in a pot
Pop the tomatoes and veg into a large pot over a medium heat. Add the bay leaves and the thyme. Pour in the passata and the water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and leave for about an hour.
Step 3: Blend
Once the vegetables have softened, remove the bay leaves. Add the smoked paprika and allow it to cool. When it will no longer burn you at the touch, mush it all up with a stick blender. You can do it in a regular blender but that just makes loads more washing up. It is REALLY IMPORTANT to blend it until it’s just a puree. Any chunks will alert your toddler to the scam!
Step 4: BOOM! You’re a kitchen god.
Boil up your kids’ favourite kind of pasta (it’s dinosaur shaped pasta in this house) and add the sauce. I’ve found that sprinkling on some parmesan cheese when they’re watching you is a great distraction and makes them think it’s regular old bolognese.
Sit back and watch it all disappear without your toddler having any clue that you’re helping them to grow up big and strong. I also use it to make lasagna, or add meatballs and a roll to make an awesome meatball sub for lunch!
Healthy kids, an impressed wife and showing the next generation that dads can own the kitchen too. It’s that simple.
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