This tasty vegetable pasta sauce is so easy to make and packed with tons of healthy veggies. Blended to a smooth texture, its a perfect way to eat more vegetables without noticing it. Little picky eaters won't see a thing! I will also guide you on how to hide more veggies when making pasta dishes and improve your health with less effort.
Hiding veggies in food is one of my favorite thing to do in the kitchen. It is such a satisfying cooking skill to acquire for a mom and plant based foodie like me.
You can easily hide veggies in muffins, smoothies, tofu spread and cheese dips.
But, pasta sauces are my favorite food to hide an extra dose of veggies. It's usually perfect for a family friendly and super fast weekday meal.
Why pasta sauces are a great place to hide veggies
Kids won't notice:
As a mom of two, I know how hard meal time can be! What I learned with time is that most kids will eat any type of pasta without fussing too much. So using a base of noodles to have your child eat more veggies is a very good place to start.
If your child is picky with food, leaving chunky veggies in the sauce might not pass the test. In this case, blend the sauce packed with sneaky veggies to a creamy texture and I promise, they won't realize it's there! They will eat healthier, with less stress at the table.
Adults need to eat more veggies too!
The concept of a blended pasta sauce for adults is not that much to hide the veggies, of course. The idea is more to vary the way we eat vegetables to keep things interesting and help us eat more of them.
Veggies are a great base for creamy pasta sauces
Blended veggies help get a high volume of sauce while keeping it lower in fat. All this without the extra calories or processed ingredients that you want to avoid.
These blended veggie sauces will freeze nicely, which is great when planning your meals. Make double batch and freeze half of it for a time when meal planning slipped out of your schedule. Also, freezing a sauce with whole or diced vegetables will have you lose on the texture once thawed. On the other side, freezing puréed vegetable sauces will keep most of the initial creamy texture even after thawing it.
Should I hide veggies in my kids's food or not?
My answer is yes and no.
YES, hide veggies in your children's food
Hiding veggies in food will allow your child to enough of them with not much effort. All this without a battle at the table. This can significantly reduce stress at meal time, which can be a big win for parents like us.
Their taste buds can also get used to some of the veggie flavors gradually without a fight. This can eventually help them accept the intact veggie later on.
But, NO, do not only hide the veggies
Kids need to also be exposed to different textures and colors to eventually accept a new veggie over time. So, put a new veggie on their plate, every day, then repeat and repeat again. Even if they refuse at first, with time, they will taste and eat it. Especially if you eat it too with excitement in front of them! Be patient and persistent while keeping a positive attitude.
How to have kids eat more veggies
Hiding veggies in food will have a short term benefit of getting good nutrients for that specific day. But, exposing them regularly to a large variety of whole veggies will have a long term benefit by getting them used to real food and showing them how to make healthy choices.
What I recommend to do is a combination of both.
Hide veggies + Offer lots of intact veggies, every day.
And I do this regularly using pasta sauces for my own kids.
Take for example these hidden vegetables Mac and cheese or Lemony alfredo noodles. Their sauces are made incognito either from butternut squash or cauliflower. And packed with flavorful extra ingredients, so they want to eat it. This will secure their minimal veggie consumption for that meal and make mama happy. Easy peasy.
BUT ALSO, top or mix in whole intact veggies, like chopped broccoli, carrots or green peas to expose them to different textures, tastes and colors. They might eat them, or might not. But, you won't need to fight over it since you know how much pureed veggies they just ingested from the pasta sauce. Less stress at the table means healthier eating habits over time and happier family dinners.
How to make delicious hidden vegetable pasta sauces
Making a pasta sauce out of vegetables is so easy and delicious, but there are a few tricks to bring it to the next level and make it a GREAT meal:
Boost the taste with spices
Dried herbs are perfect all year around. I love using dried oregano or dried basil for most tomato based hidden vegetable sauces. If in the summer, add fresh basil to freshen up the dish. Also, nutritional yeast is a game changer for many creamy sauces. I always add some to dishes I want to make cheesier, like in this Primavera pasta bake or this Mac and Cheese.
Sweeter is better
Most of the time, I choose to include a veggie that has a good amount of natural carbohydrate. For example, red pepper, carrot and butternut squash all work great. Tomatoes can be quite acidic, so if making a sauce with lots of them, you might need to add a sweetener to neutralize the acidity of the sauce. In this case, add a hint of maple syrup or brown sugar (one or two tablespoon is usually enough). I love using cherry tomatoes for tomato based sauces since they are naturally sweeter than other kinds of tomatoes.
Blend to an extra smooth texture
High speed blenders (ex: vitamix) are great when making these sauces: they almost whip up the mixture to make it lighter and super silky. If using a regular blender, you might need to blend it for a bit longer, but you should get the same result (especially if your vegetables are soft and cooked first). The immersion blenders are not my first choice when making hidden veggie pasta sauces since they can leave some chunks behind.
How to store blended vegetable pasta sauce:
You can either keep it in the fridge or freeze it.
In the fridge, the sauce will stay good for about 5 days. I recommend you keep the cooked noodles apart from the sauce when storing for a few days in the fridge. This will help prevent the noodles from getting mushy (the noodles will soak up the sauce over time).
Most blended pasta sauces are also freezer friendly. So, don't hesitate to make double batch and freeze the extra!
- Let the sauce completely cool down before freezing.
- You can use any freezer safe containers or large plastic bags (reuse them!) to freeze it.
- Let the sauce thaw overnight in your fridge. I find that after thawing, the solids and liquids from my sauces sometimes separate a bit. So, what you can do if this happens is just to blend the sauce again for a few seconds in the blender. This should help the sauce regain its delicious texture.
- Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.
The BEST hidden vegetable pasta sauce
I regularly hide vegetables in recipes, but this vegetable pasta sauce might be my favorite so far. It is so delicious you won't believe what is in there! This pasta sauce made with mixed vegetables looks like a regular tomato sauce and tastes just like one too, but sweeter and more complex in flavor.
It has a cherry tomato base and combined with carrots, zucchinis, onions, red peppers and garlic. No complicated ingredients, only simple garden vegetables. Everything is cooked together in a large pot, until the veggies are softer and almost caramelized. Then everything in blended to reach an extra smooth texture.
The carrots and red peppers naturally have enough sugar to balance the acidity from the tomatoes. That sugar also helps the vegetables caramelize when cooking in the pot, which makes this sauce taste so delicious!
How to use it
This sauce is not only perfect for any pasta dishes (just use it as you would use your favorite tomato sauce), but also great as a healthy alternative to regular pizza sauce. Use that recipe when making these vegan lasagna roll ups to get an extra dose of veggies.
Great additions to this sauce
Most of the time, I simply serve this garden vegetable pasta sauce over whole wheat noodles, maybe with a green veggie mixed in. But, this sauce is also a great base to add extra ingredients and make it a different meal every time you serve it.
- Sauce rosé: Soak about ½-3/4 cup of cashews overnight, then when ready to blend the sauce, drain and rinse the cashews. Then, simply add them to the blender when blending the cooked vegetables. If the cashews make the sauce too thick, simply add a little bit of water and blend again for a few seconds. Repeat until you reach the right texture.
- Fresh basil: When making this sauce in the summer, don't forget to add a big handful of chopped basil AFTER the sauce has blended.
- Roasted mushrooms: They are perfect to add a delicious chewiness to the sauce and to boost the protein level.
- Kalamata olives and spinach: Wilt baby spinach in a pan or in the microwave until softened and add them to the sauce along with pitted and chopped kalamata olives for a mediterranean twist.
- Cooked lentils or crumbled tofu: Adding one of these will give you a meal much higher in protein and with an added fun texture. Or check out this vegan tofu bolognese for a chunkier tomato and tofu sauce.
- Spicy: If you love spicy food, add a dash of red peppers flakes to the pot so the spices can diffuse in the veggies while cooking.
Also, don't forget to check out this hearty marinara sauce for another quick and flavorful tomato sauce.
I hope this reading helped you find lots of inspiration into making veggie loaded pasta sauces. If you try this vegetable pasta sauce, please leave a comment below to let me know how it was!
Vegetable pasta sauce
- 4-5 cups cherry tomatoes - whole
- 1 large onion (red or white) - chopped
- 2 small zucchinis (about 2 cups) - diced
- 2 red peppers - diced
- 2-3 large carrots (about 2 cups) - peeled and diced
- 4 cloves of garlic - sliced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1-2 tsp salt - or to taste
- black pepper - to taste
- In a large pot, add all the ingredients, except for the cherry tomatoes. Cook on medium-high heat for about 8-10 minutes or until the veggies are slightly browned and softened. Stir regularly and use a small amount of oil or water to prevent the veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Then, add the cherry tomatoes, ½ cup of water and stir well. Keep cooking, covered and on medium heat, for about 10-15 minutes stirring frequently. Keep the mixture to a low simmer.
- When the cherry tomatoes are cracked and have opened up, you can remove the cover and keep cooking for a few more minutes to let the water evaporate a bit so the sauce is not too watery after blended.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until you reach a very smooth texture.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings. Also, if you want a thinner sauce, simply add a small amount of water and blend again.
- The sauce can be stored for 4-5 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.