One pot spaghetti bolognese that’s packed with vegetables

I have a few tricks to keep my kids eating at the table

Spaghetti Bolognese:  Cooking the pasta in the sauce makes it soften up more and soaks up the rich tomato sauce.

Spaghetti Bolognese: Cooking the pasta in the sauce makes it soften up more and soaks up the rich tomato sauce.

 

My hope for 2020, when it comes to cooking at least, is for my kids to get more involved. And I also hope for them to eat more vegetables and to taste more things. I love when they can identify certain elements like the subtle vanilla flavour of a Tic-Tac before the mint kicks in, or the few slices of chorizo I’ve added to a lasagne.

I have a few tricks to keep them eating at the table. One child in particular doesn’t seem to be able to actually sit through an entire meal without hopping off his chair at least 10 times, and feels full after two mouthfuls. He’s like a little sparrow at a bird bath.

So I ask them to guess each ingredient in a soup, or whatever they are eating. It introduces a fun element, and they all taste and eat more, trying to pick out what the exact flavour is. Before they know it the bowl is empty and we’ve all learned a new recipe.

Celery vs celeriac

My six-year-old guessed “something that’s celery but not exactly celery”, for a celeriac soup recently, and I couldn’t have been prouder! It’s encouraging for them and they are soaking up information all the time.

Numerous studies have shown that children need to taste something between 10 and 15 times before they accept it. Something they rejected as a one-year-old might now be just what they would like.

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A little raw vegetable platter is always good before dinner. Sometimes when I’m cooking and they are wandering in and out of the kitchen, I make a little plate of raw carrot, peppers, fennel and whatever else I have to hand and leave it on the table. It always gets eaten.

Any time I’ve served whole grain spaghetti, there have been complaints and pleas for the plain white pasta. This one-pot recipe is a nifty way around that. By cooking the spaghetti in the sauce it softens up so much more and soaks up all of the rich tomato sauce. I often make this sauce in the morning then add the spaghetti when I’m reheating. Served with a big green salad and garlic bread, it will quickly become a family favourite. 

ONE POT VEGETABLE-PACKED BOLOGNESE

Serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
380g minced beef
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
150g mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
3 tbsp red wine (optional)
1 tbsp Italian herbs (marjoram, basil etc)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
500ml water
500ml tomato passata
400g wholegrain spaghetti
Sea salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh basil pesto
To serve: grated Parmesan, green salad

Method
1
 Place a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and beef. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring regularly till any pink is gone from the beef.

2 Add the onion. Cook for a few minutes before adding the garlic, celery, carrots and mushrooms. Cook for five-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Add the fennel seeds and cook for a further minute.

3 Pour in the wine and increase the heat, to burn off the alcohol. Stir to combine well. Add the tinned tomatoes, passata, water and herbs. Stir gently and simmer for a few minutes. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary.

Add the spaghetti and simmer gently. Once the pasta has softened, stir well and place the lid on. Simmer for five-10 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Just before serving, drizzle the spaghetti with pesto. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan.

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