From Food Columnist, Elizabeth Hewson. Founder of Saturday Night Pasta.
*Full recipe for Elizabeth's Veggie Loaded Pasta at end of blog.
To no surprise to anyone, pasta is a religion in our house. From an early age, Louis and I have made pasta together, and like most toddlers, it makes up a big chunk of his diet. We’ve been through the butter and cheese pasta faze, but lately he’s much more open to enjoying it with sauces – Bolognese, my green “hulk” pasta (it’s all about the marketing) and a veggie loaded tomato pasta sauce.
In celebration of world pasta day today, I’m sharing this family favourite pasta sauce recipe.
This versatile sauce is packed with a mountain of veg and bone broth, then pureed for a smooth, creamy consistency. The appearance is a lovely tomato pasta sauce but hidden inside is a treasure trove of nutrients. It’s a great base for a number of dishes but today it’s studded with le puree’s house favourite beef and liver meatballs. A super-meatball that’s jam-packed full of the good stuff for little people (and big people!). And of course, tomato sauce and meatballs aren’t complete without pasta. Tossed all together, this is a favourite meal that the whole family can enjoy.
The creamy consistency of the sauce is thanks to the sweet potato. One of the most nutritionally dense vegetables out there. The rest of the line-up includes onion, garlic, celery, carrots, red peppers and zucchinis. Feel free to play around with other veggies you have in the fridge – pumpkin, spinach, parsnip, eggplant, even mushrooms but do be aware this may change the colour of your sauce slightly. The bone broth is important to help thin the sauce out and pack it with add extra flavour and nutrients. Le puree’s frozen bone broth cubes mean I always have a stash in the freezer. I simply pop these out directly in the sauce. If you like a thinner sauce, you can simply add more.
Even though the sauce is “hidden” with vegetables, I like my toddler to understand that it’s full of vegetables.
We talk about how that means this sauce is “super” good for us, but also focus on how delicious vegetables can be too. To get him involved, I get him to “gather” the ingredients and lay them out on the bench. This idea came from the brilliant picture book, “Off to the market, a celebration of markets, cooking and fresh food” by Alice Oehr. This book has helped him build an interest in ingredients and he loves identifying them in our kitchen (and the shops, when I’m brave enough to take him).
This sauce makes a large amount on purpose – I like to freeze half so in true Le Puree fashion, I always have something nutritious and delicious in the freezer. I use about half for a family of four.
For the best pasta sauce here are a few essential things to follow
Cook pasta in plenty of water. Season your pasta water well and bring it to a rapid boil.
Combine the sauce and pasta together, do not serve sauce on top of pasta. Tossing your pasta through your sauce allows it to become one. Be forceful in your stir.
Add pasta cooking water. This helps create a lovely creamy consistently thanks to the starch. Add ¼ cup at a time, stirring between to help emulsify. Some pasta and sauce will lap it up (like this sauce), other sauce’s only need a splash. I like to add some fat here too – butter, olive oil and/or cheese. This will result in a lusciously, silky sauce.
Veggie loaded tomato pasta sauce with Le Puree’s Beef and Liver Meatballs.
- 2 tbs olive oil/ghee
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 200 g sweet potato, roughly chopped
- 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
- 1 zucchini, roughly chopped
- 2 x 400 g whole tomato or passata
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 6 x Cubes Le Puree Organic Bone Broth
- Handful of basil leaves
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to season
- 6 x Le Puree Meatballs (1 Pack)
- Knob of butter (optional)
- Parmigiano Reggiano/Parmesan to serve
- Pasta of your choice (I like a short one that catches sauce in all it’s curves and crevices!) I’ve used my Saturday Night Pasta Trottoloni.
Place a heavy, deep sided pot on medium heat. Add oil, followed by onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Cook for 5 minutes to soften but not colour. Throw in sweet potato, capsicum, and zucchini. Cook vegetables for 20 minutes. This step is important as it gives your vegetables time to soften, adding sweetness and depth of flavour for your sauce. Usually, I’d season well here but If I’m going to serve it to my baby, I’ll hold back on seasoning until the end.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste and bone broth. Give everything a good stir and bring up to a simmer. Turn heat down to low and put the lid on. Simmer away for about an hour until soft, thick and rich. Throw in basil leaves. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly for basil to infuse.
When ready to eat, bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Season well. Cook pasta to al dente – you want it to have a good bite as you’ll finish cooking it in the sauce.
Blend your sauce until smooth and creamy. You can either do this with a stick blender or in a blender. I prefer the consistency I get in a blender, but I have to do it over two batches. As this pasta sauce makes a large amount, I usually freeze half and then pour the rest back into a clean pot. If I’m serving it to my baby, I set aside some sauce for her now (sometimes I’ll add an egg yolk to the hot puree for her to enrich the sauce and boost her nutrients).
Bring sauce up to a simmer. Add frozen le puree meatballs and heat them through in the sauce.
Scoop pasta out and throw directly into the sauce – or drain pasta making sure to reserve a cup of cooking water. Add ¼ cup of pasta cooking water at a time, along with a knob of butter (if using), zest of 1 lemon and a good handful of cheese. If you haven’t seasoned yet, make sure to give it a good season here. Give it all a forceful stir. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash more cooking water until you settle on a consistency you like. You’re after something loose and relaxed but still coats the pasta and meatballs.
Serve with extra cheese. I always add chilli oil to mine but also love it with ricotta or feta!