As an athlete and mother of two young children, Lani is always looking for new ways to present her family with tasty and nutritious meals.
Eat Your Veggies!
It is not always easy to get kids to eat more vegetables and healthy foods. Even for my broccoli loving, salad craving, somewhat sugar-phobic children, it can be a challenge. When it comes to spaghetti, it can be even more difficult.
Let’s be honest; the conventional American interpretation of spaghetti is already void of creativity and vegetable variety. Most variation in this dish is in the form of herbs, spices, and meat choice. Many of us are accustomed to adding a simple side salad to this meal to round out the nutritional value. I have always found the “side salad” remedy to be too much food—especially when saving space for garlic bread. Every once in a while, you may discover mushrooms, olives, and onions featured individually. The recipe that follows offers infinite options for vegetable inclusion, quickly increasing nutrition value and taste.
*This recipe requires a blender or food processor
- 3 cups chopped vegetables (e.g., carrots, onions, zucchini, celery, baby spinach, mushrooms, red/green/yellow/orange peppers, butternut squash, etc.)
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- ¾ cups oil (vegetable, olive, canola)
- ¼ cup white or red wine vinegar
Herbs and Spices
All optional, be creative. Only choose one or two, as these herbs are often already present in the actual tomato-based spaghetti sauce. Generally, I add only fresh herbs to the vegetable starter and leave any dry herbs for the final sauce. These are my go-to choices:
- Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary (fresh or dried, depending on the season)
- 1 large can of your favorite spaghetti sauce
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 to 2 lbs meat of your choice (I like ground turkey, Italian sausages, and smoked sausage)
- Chop all your vegetables into medium to large pieces and set aside.
- Add ¾ cups oil to a large skillet, saucepan or wok on medium heat and allow the oil to heat up before adding all your vegetables, minced garlic, red/white wine, cumin, and other herbs and spices.
- Stir the mixture well, distributing the oil throughout the veggies. To avoid burning your vegetables, resist the urge to turn up the heat.
- Over medium heat, simmer your vegetables until your hardest veggies soften up, this may take up to 20 or more minutes depending on type and thickness of your vegetables.
- Once your veggies are soft enough, move the entire mixture (liquids and all) to the blender and put it on a high revolution setting such as smoothie or puree. Blend your veggies until there are no chunks. At this point in the summer, the majority of my vegetables are straight from the garden; during the colder months this recipe is equally excellent with store-bought produce.
- When the vegetables finish blending and you are satisfied with the consistency, your vegetable starter is finished. If you've made a big batch, you can pour the portion you're not using now into canning jars and seal them up for later use.
- Next, if you are planning to include meat in your sauce, brown the meat in your in a pot or saucepan. Add your veggie starter mix to the browned meat and stir thoroughly.
- Add any remaining herbs and spices you’d like (I usually add an Italian blend of dried herbs and cumin to the final sauce during this step).
- Let the sauce simmer on medium to low heat for at least 10 more minutes.
- Boil your noodles while simmering your sauce.
- Once your noodles are to your liking, portion them out to your hungry family members and/or friends and enjoy a nutritious twist to a wonderfully traditional meal.
How to Brown Ground Meat
How to Cook Perfect Pasta
Did you try it? What did you think?
© 2019 Lani Morris
Liz Westwood from UK on August 17, 2019:
Great idea. I always used to sneak vegetables into dishes like this if I could.
Lani Morris (author) from Seattle, WA on August 15, 2019:
Same here!! It really is more of a case of food quantity than sneaking veggies. I do not have to sneak my kids veggies but I know other parents do. I add these veggies to avoid fitting in a salad or other side because we all just want to max out on as spaghetti as possible:)
TurtleDog on August 15, 2019:
Funny, I do basically the same thing....but for myself. I guess I'm still a kid at heart :)