Hi friends! For me and a lot of you it’s back-to-school time. This means school shopping, events, making lunches again, getting back into a routine, blah blah blah. While everything’s so transitional, it’s nice to have some things that are predictable and easy. This week I decided to make a simple spaghetti for dinner. But what sets it apart from the norm is that I made a meat sauce with an undetectable veggie presence inside. For kids with aversions to veggies, this is crucial. Lol!
I’m not trying to be sneaky, per se, but it’s true that you really can’t tell there are veggies in this sauce! The carrots are shredded and the mushrooms are finely chopped, so both cook down small and inconspicuously. The veggies bring great flavor, without the obvious chunks. On the flip side of keeping the veggies a hidden secret, your kids might be amped to see how the veggies work so well into the sauce…especially if they’re helping you cook. [See Kids Make Simple Spaghetti with Turkey Marinara & Hidden Veggies].
My secret veggie idea was definitely inspired by a cookbook I have used a bunch of times. Double Delicious: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives is a cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld. The coolest thing about the cookbook, to me, is that Seinfeld incorporates vegetable purees in all of her dishes. So, every dish gets a boost of nutrition…important for kids who refuse to eat veggies, right?! I came across the cookbook when my kids were babies and I was already making purees for their baby food. I was like…might as well use the leftover puree in some real food for the adults! Anyway, our recipe doesn’t contain a puree, but it does contain incognito veggies. Lol!
In a perfect world everything would be homemade, but here we decided to just use a jar of our favorite marinara sauce. That’s what makes this a simple spaghetti sauce. And I think that’s perfectly fine. I prefer Newman’s Own as a brand because it’s pretty good, you can find it at most markets and most importantly Newman’s Own gives 100% of everything they make to charity.
🌈 KIDIFY THE MEAL 🌈
🍅Sauce on the side! We always say this, but maybe separate out some plain noodles before you mix in the sauce. Some kids may need to be eased into the sauce flavor.
🍴 MODIFY THE MEAL🍴
🍅Make it Dairy Free! Replace the parmesan cheese with a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Or just eliminate the cheese altogether. It’s not the most integral part of the recipe.
🍅Make it Gluten Free! The only ingredient in this dish that contains gluten for sure is the noodles. You can remedy this very easily. Some of the gluten-free noodle products I like are Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta (just be careful not to overcook cause it can get mushy) and Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta. Another option is rice noodles. Also make sure your marinara sauce doesn’t contain gluten.
🍅Make it Vegetarian! Replace the turkey with pea protein crumbles. I’m a huge fan of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles. I’ve used them for years to make vegetarian chili and they are soooo delicious. I’m definitely a meat eater and I can’t tell the difference. Worth noting is that these crumbles are high in protein and also gluten-free.
🍅Make it Vegan! See above for replacing the turkey with pea protein crumbles. And eliminate the parmesan cheese.
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- 1/2 T olive oil
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 3/4 cup carrot (peeled & finely grated, likely 1-2 medium carrots)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 oz mushrooms (finely chopped)
- 2 t salt
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 24 oz marinara sauce (your choice)
- 1/2 t ground black pepper
- 12 oz thin spaghetti
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
Heat olive oil in a medium-large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic and cook until vegetables are tender, ~ 5 mins. Add mushrooms and cook 2 mins more.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil water and cook pasta according to instructions on package. Prior to adding the noodles, salt the water with 1 1/2 t of the salt. Strain noodles when done and return to empty pot.
Add turkey to veggie mix in pan and cook until no longer pink, ~ 5-7 mins. Stir frequently, breaking up the meat chunks as you go.
Stir in the marinara sauce, pepper and remaining 1/2 t salt. Cook sauce on low for 10 mins.
Pour sauce on top of noodles in pot. Add parmesan and mix everything together until the cheese is completely melted and everything is well incorporated.
We recommend that all meals for children be served with milk.