My picky kids are in love with all types of pasta. You name it and they’ll eat it! So, we eat a lot of spaghetti sauce. Like, a lot of spaghetti sauce. And to try to make it a bit healthier, I’ve started sneaking in vegetables. At first no one noticed, you couldn’t taste the difference. Over time I’ve slowly increased the amount of squash and zucchini that I add to the sauce, and now if I don’t add the vegetables my kids complain that the sauce tastes funny and they don’t eat as well. It’s a festivus miracle!
Hiding Vegetables in Spaghetti Sauce
Hiding vegetables in food is nothing new really. Moms have been doing this for ages, but if you really want a reference that will help you do this more often I’d check out The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine. I have this cookbook, but I fully admit I have barely looked at it since buying it in a frenzy of toddler pickiness breaking a few years ago. I also have some tips for hiding vegetables in food.
In general, hiding vegetables in food isn’t something that I can do often as my girls seem to be bloodhounds and will immediately find the smallest bit of healthy food that is out of place.
I usually dice as small as possible, start with a few and work your way up. My normal routine is to actually run the squash and zucchini through a mandoline, creating about 2-3 mm slices. I then put the slices into a vegetable chopper, so they quickly become small cubes.
I’ve found that while the small diced vegetables work best for me, all that really matters is that the vegetables are small. Here you can see that I’ve actually grated the vegetables. They were picked in July from my garden, and to skip flash freezing them I simply grated and then froze them in the right amount to make a batch of spaghetti. In general though, I’ve found small cubes work best for this.
Note that the amount of vegetables you can see here is pretty typical of how much I mix into my sauce. When added right after browning the meat, I have about 1/3 vegetables. Be sure to check out my top tips for hiding vegetables in food!
About Those Cans of Tomatoes…
I frequently change up what tomatoes I add to my sauce. I always use 3 cans per pound of meat, usually a mixture of what you see above. Note that the pureed is definitely thicker than “sauce”.
Most of the family likes to have chunks of tomatoes in the sauce, and the smaller size of a petite dice is my favorite. Currently my 3 year old refuses any chunks of tomato though, so these will likely fall out of favor soon.
Fresh Herbs, Dried Herbs, or… Frozen?
As much as I like the taste of fresh herbs, they are time consuming and not always as abundant as I’d like. I usually fill in with dried herbs, but I recently found these frozen cubes of basil at the grocery store and I’ve been loving them!
Each cube is about 1 tsp of fresh herbs, and that’s equal to about 1/3 tsp of dried herbs. The frozen garlic is my favorite way to buy it now. Each cube is about 1 cloves of garlic and I’ve found the taste is much better than garlic in a jar.
An easy spaghetti sauce recipe with hidden vegetables! Your picky kids won't even realize that the zucchini and squash are there.
- 1 pound Ground Beef
- 1 large Onion diced
- 1 1/2 cups Squash and Zucchini finely diced
- 3 cans Tomatoes
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 3 tsp Fresh Basil
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
Brown the beef and onions in a large dutch oven. I season the meat with a pinch of salt and a little pepper, this makes it more flavorful later.
Next, I add in the vegetables. I let it brown and soften up a bit with the meat before adding any thing additional. I add enough vegetables that I have about 1/3 vegetables and 2/3 meat, but if you're just starting out with hiding vegetables I suggest starting smaller and working your way up.
Finally I add in all of the tomatoes and spices. Note, the amount of spices and garlic to add is a personal choice, I've included what I typically use here. I always taste the sauce and adjust as needed.
Let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes, 60 is even better.
Because this is cooking at home and not in a factory, there might be some variation between how I prepare this recipe and what you create at home. As such, all nutritional information are estimates and may vary. If you like this recipe or find it useful, you can rate it by clicking on the stars above. A 4 or 5 rating would be greatly appreciated!