food

3 pasta dinners to help sneak some veggies into your kids' diet.

San Remo
Thanks to our brand partner, San Remo

Kids are funny little beings, especially when it comes to their food. Parents of fussy kids get me. I can hear the nodding from where I am.

There is nothing worse than having a fussy eater, and while lots of professionals are quick to label it ‘just a phase’, it can be tough when you’re the one responsible for serving up something each and every night.

My first born was always that way. I’d offer up a nutritious meal, and he would turn his nose up at it.  All he wanted was pasta or cheese sandwiches. It drove me crazy because I knew he needed a proper diet, but I had images of the poor thing getting scurvy, and me standing in the doctor’s waiting room, trying to explain what a battleground dinner time was.

What child doesn't love pasta? Image: iStock.

But luckily we had pasta. That was one thing I knew he would eat, without the mass meltdowns. Pasta was always a hit and thankfully, it’s also the perfect vehicle to sneak in some extra veggies during those ‘I don’t eat anything green/yellow/orange/remotely healthy’ phases.

Pasta is also a winner for us mums because it’s quick and easy to make, and you can do it one-handed with a baby hanging off your hip, or a toddler attached to your leg.

But it can get a little tired serving up the same thing night after night. If you’re after some pasta inspo that the kids will like (and you’ll avoid mum guilt about what they’re eating) here are some to add to the repertoire.

1. Spaghetti Bolognese.

My kids always eat spaghetti bolognese, and while they might think of it as ‘meat sauce’ in actual fact, you’re able to get a stack of veggies in that stuff without them wising up to it. After you brown your meat, add some onion, carrot, celery or zucchini in to a large frypan. If your kids are really anti-veggie you can grate it in to tiny pieces, they won’t even notice, I promise.

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A tip I got from another fellow fussy eater mum was to choose a different shaped pasta rather than the traditional spaghetti. Elbows, spirals and penne are all great choices because the sauce has lots of places to hide! Mix it up by using the same base for meatballs and you’ve got yourself another easy mid-weeker.

"Tip: choose a different shaped pasta rather than the traditional spaghetti." Image: iStock.

2. Mac and Cheese.

How do you hide veggies in creamy sauce, you ask? Well, my friend, you get tricky with it, that’s how. If your kids are in a mac and cheese phase, run with it. But make sure you add some puree cauliflower to the situation. It’s light colour and subtle flavour make it undetectable when paired with some mature cheddar cheese and a teaspoon of mustard. Just partially-boil the cauliflower florets and then whizz them through a processor until it’s smooth.

pasta recipes with veg
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"Make sure you add some puree cauliflower to the situation." Image: iStock.

For something different you can use farfalle, also known as bow ties, which do just as good a job as the traditional macaroni, but are a bit more fun for the kids. San Remo does great versions of both of these.

Cover the pasta with some freshly grated cheese and it will go down a treat.

3. Napolitana Sauce.

Vegetables can easily be hidden in a good tomato passata. Image: iStock.

I have a sauce that I like to call the ‘hidden veg’ sauce because –wait for it – there’s vegetables hidden in it. All you need is a good blender. Cook up some carrot, mushrooms, zucchini, onion (or whatever you like, really) and whiz it in a food processor until silky. Then, add your vegetable mix along with some herbs, a stock cube and some passata to the pan and mix well. You can add a can of chopped tomatoes if you want too. Top with some parmesan cheese and sit back smugly as they gobble it all up! It’s also a good idea to change up your pasta and let the kids take turns in choosing which shape they like. That way, the focus is on the novelty of a different pasta and not on the sauce. Tantrum avoided!

What are some ways you sneak more veggies into your kids meals?