Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce (Great for Picky Eaters!)
This Hidden-Veggie Pasta Sauce is a great way to get even the pickiest of eaters to eat their veggies! Filled with tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, leeks and red peppers, this sauce is full of nutrient-dense veggies all while still tasting like a delicious homemade tomato sauce. Your kids won’t even notice the veggies in this homemade sauce!
Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
This delicious and nutritious Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is perfect for kiddos that eat all of the veggies 😋 as well as kiddos that refuse to eat any veggies at all 🙅!
This sauce can be served chunky with the veggies standing out loud-and-proud or you can puree it into a super-thin marinara-style sauce where they won’t be able to see (or taste) any of the veggies you loaded into this sauce👍.
Either way you serve this, it’s a win 🏆 for both you and your kiddo.
And when push comes to shove, the only thing that really matters is that your kiddo is eating any food at all and is healthy and happy. Broccoli eating is just a bonus 😊.
Reasons to Love this Pasta Sauce
- hidden veggies (!!)
- can customize the recipe by using all of or some of the veggies in the recipe
- great for toddlers, kids and adults
- can be used in place of any pasta sauce – pizza, subs, tomato soup, etc
- great meal prep item
- make once – serve multiple times
- one meal for the entire family – baby, toddler, kids and you
While this ingredient list is on the long side, this is a very simple recipe to whip up. Plus is stores in the fridge or freezer nicely, so you can cook once and use multiple times.
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes
- Tomato Puree
- Red Pepper
- Veggie or Chicken Stock
- Olive Oil
- Italian herb mix
- Sugar or Maple Syrup (optional)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper
Veggie Tip: feel free to use one of the veggies above or all of them! Even adding carrots to the sauce will boost the veggie count! Starting small and working your way up to all the veggies is a great tactic for kiddos that are very veggie adverse.
- Cook Onion and Garlic: heat a large stockpot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Stir in the onion and cook for a few minutes. Add in the garlic, stir, and cook for an additional minute.
- Cook the Veggies: add in the zucchini, carrots, leek and peppers and cook. Feel free to use all of the veggies listed or just some of the veggies, you can start with just one and go up from there.
- Add in All Other Ingredients: add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, Italian herbs, veggie stock, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and butter if you are using.
- Boil and Simmer: Adjust heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once you reach a boil, bring down the heat to low, cover and simmer.
- Blend: using a handheld immersion blender puree the soup. Or working in batches, transfer the sauce into a blender and puree on high until you achieve your desired consistency. If your sauce is too thick, add in water or stock in 1/2 cup increments. I used 2 cups of chicken stock in my sauce.
- Taste: depending on how many veggies you use (the more veggies the more intense veggie flavor), you may need to add in additional olive oil, salt or sugar depending on the taste of your sauce.
- Pumpkin Tomato Sauce – While pureeing the sauce, add in 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup feta cheese and 1/2 teaspoon dried sage.
- Cheesy Tomato Sauce – Follow the directions below. Reserve half of the sauce for another use, then put half of the sauce back into the saucepan. Add in 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, stir to combine.
- Classic Meat Tomato Sauce – Before starting the sauce, brown 1 pound of ground turkey, chicken, beef or crumbled sausage in the stockpot in a little olive oil until cooked. Remove cooked meat and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour out any excess grease from the meat. Make sauce according to directions. Once the sauce is pureed, add the meat back into the sauce. I like a very meat-heavy pasta sauce, so I reserve half of the sauce for another use before adding the remaining sauce to the meat. Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes and then serve.
How to Serve this Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
One way you can serve this to baby is by putting a few pieces of a chunky pasta (not spaghetti as it’s too hard for baby to hold) that has been mixed with a small amount of pasta sauce onto a plate. You can serve it will whole pieces of steamed broccoli and quartered pieces of blueberries. I love using this fork for baby-led weaning to give baby an easier time to self feed slippery food.
Most toddler loves pasta, so this might not be a hard sell. I fun way to get them involved in the meal is to have them help put some Parmesan on the top of their portion of pasta. This makes them feel empowered to eat their meal. I would also serve with steamed broccoli and cut blueberries.
For picky eaters, you can serve the pasta sauce on the side and leave it as an option for your kiddos to eat or not eat. The goal isn’t to force them to eat the sauce, rather the goal is to expose them to the sauce and let them decide if they eat it or not. Serve with a plain butter pasta, steamed broccoli and blueberries. If the broccoli and blueberries are not safe foods (ie – foods they enjoy eating) sub in a food you know they like instead.
This would be the goal – pasta with a thick serving of hidden veggie pasta sauce, a good portion of steamed broccoli and blueberries. It should also mirror your own plate. I would personally eat the pasta and broccoli with a side salad with blueberries on top, and I would offer salad to my kids but not make it required.
Other ways to serve this sauce
- Pasta – served over your kids’ favorite pasta.
- Pizza – spread over a homemade or pre-made pizza crust and topped with cheese and maybe even more veggies (here’s to wishful thinking;)
- Chili – you can use this tomato sauce in a warm chili instead of the called for canned tomatoes.
- Tomato Soup – thin out the tomato sauce with more chicken or veggie stock and serve as a tomato soup
- Grilled Cheese – spread in-between layers of bread and cheese to up your grilled cheese game.
- Egg Dish – use for a base in your Eggs in Purgatory.
- Pizza Potato – spoon some sauce over a cooked baked potato and let your kiddos load there’s up with their favorite pizza toppings.
- Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – place your favorite homemade or pre-made meatballs into a skillet filled with the sauce and simmer over low for 30 minutes. You can use cooked or uncooked meatballs with this method. The uncooked meatballs will be soft on the outside which I find is better for young toddlers or babies, while pre-cooked meatballs will retain their slightly crispy outside.
More Family-Friendly Meals
- 40 Dinner Ideas for Toddler and Kids
- Chicken Parmesan Meatballs (family-favorite)
- Instant Pot BBQ Chicken (toddler, kid + adult approved)
- Easy Cheesy Garlic Broccoli Pasta (a family favorite!)
- Crispy Seasoned Fish with Pineapple & Avocado Chunks
- Cast Iron Stockpot
- Immersion Blender or Blender
- Baby, Toddler and Kids Plates
- Baby-Led Weaning Fork
- Silicone Muffin Liner
DID YOU MAKE THIS PASTA SAUCE?
I’D LOVE TO KNOW HOW IT TURNED OUT! LEAVE A COMMENT AND A ⭐️ RATING BELOW 👇
Get the recipe: Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small zucchini, roughly chopped
- 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
- 1/2 leek, approximately 1/2 cup, roughly chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cored and roughly chopped
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1-2 cups of water, veggie or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tsp Italian herb mix
- 2 tbsp butter (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp sugar or maple syrup (optional)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large stockpot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Stir in the onion and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add in the garlic, stir, and cook for an additional minute.
- Add in the zucchini, carrots, leek and peppers and cook for 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, Italian herbs, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and butter if you are using. Adjust heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once you reach a boil, bring down the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes.
- Using a handheld immersion blender puree the soup. Or working in batches, transfer the sauce into a blender and puree on high until you achieve your desired consistency. If your sauce is too thick, add in water or stock in 1/2 cup increments. I used 2 cups of chicken stock in my sauce. Taste: depending on how many veggies you use (the more veggies the more intense veggie flavor), you may need to add in additonal olive oil, salt or sugar depending on the taste of your sauce.