A Vegetable-Packed Pasta Recipe

Penne with veggie Bolognese

Trouble getting your kids into veggies, and veggies into your kids? Here’s a pasta recipe that slips them in on the sly. It’s a modified version of a Bolognese sauce, bulked up so that it’s packed with vegetables, but it’s so good the kids won’t even notice.

Keep in mind that you could add other vegetables to this sauce – the ingredients here are just a basic guideline. Cauliflower, for example, is benignly flavorless enough to chuck in. Mushrooms are a nice addition. Also keep in mind that amounts listed here are also open to variation and experimentation. I’m a former chef, so I rarely measure anything anyway.


  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 handfuls of washed spinach
  • 1 eggplant, peeled
  • 1 pound (500 grams) ground beef OR (even better) 4 Italian sausages
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 cans of peeled plum tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (or so) sugar (yes, sugar)


Roughly chop carrots, onion, celery, bell pepper, eggplant and garlic. Heat oil on medium-low heat, and add vegetables. Cover and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You don’t want to brown the vegetables, just soften them. Add your spinach and let it wilt.

In a separate pan, brown the ground beef or cook your sausages.

When the vegetables have softened (onions will be translucent), add the tomatoes and beef or roughly chopped sausages. Let simmer about 20 minutes.

Using either a food processor or a hand-held blender (these are inexpensive and indispensable – if you don’t have one, think about remedying that situation) puree the sauce until fairly smooth. If you use a food processor you’ll probably have to work in batches. Add the sugar, and adjust the taste with salt.

I’m not a big fan of spooning sauce over naked pasta – I find it much better to add sauce to pasta cooked just al dente in the pan, and stir it for a minute before serving it up. This coats the pasta completely and permeates it with the flavor of the sauce.

This if good with any kind of pasta – simply use what your kids like best. Our eldest went through a phase when, for reasons clear only to his 3 year-old brain, he would eat nothing but penne. Kids are weird.

Enjoying some of the finished product

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