Veggie Pesto Pasta Sauce is creamy and delicious, but secretly packed with vegetables. Call them monster noodles to convince kids to give them a try, but after one bite your picky eater will be begging more. Ricotta cheese and Parmesan add creaminess and mask any ‘veggie’ taste that might scare off kids, but spinach and peas will add a serving of vegetables to a kid friendly dinner that is sure to please the whole family.
A few weeks ago, Ryan asked me for some “little green things.” Peas. He was asking to eat peas. Without anything else.
Is there any moment in motherhood more sweet than your kid asking for something healthy? Major pat on the back moment.
While I wish I could sit here and tell you my kids regularly ask for peas and carrots and kale, it’s just not the case. At the time of writing this, my boys are 3.5 + 22 months – prime time for picky eating and opinions on just about everything that goes onto their plates.
Some days the best I can do it give them a fruit and veggie pouch, use some of my tips for making boxed mac and cheese healthier for dinner, and pray tomorrow will be easier.
We are not a “hemp hearts, kombucha, chia seed pudding” kind of family. While I totally admire those moms who can get their kids to eat leaves of spinach on the reg and never have to hear a 3 year old ask for cookies at 7 am, it’s just not a reality for us. I believe in doing what you can, encouraging healthy eating, indulging in treats, and getting a little sneaky when necessary.
Which is why I love hidden veggie meals – pack your kids full of vegetables (okay, and maybe your husband who thinks that you can offset a pound of bacon by eating a yogurt) without having the dinner time struggle of, “just try it! I promise it’s good!” or “one more bite!” or “I swear to all that is good in the world, if you do not take a bite of your dinner I will lose it.” <– please, I know it’s not just me.
This veggie pesto pasta sauce is a staple in our house – we have it at least once a week and it’s not uncommon for me to double the recipe and eat it as cold leftovers or pack it in school lunches. It’s that good and the green cheesy goodness is secretly packed with veggies.
Tips for making veggie pesto pasta sauce
- Start with just 1 clove of garlic and work up from there – our family REALLY likes garlic and the ricotta definitely tones it down, but kids are definitely sensitive to strong tastes like that. (especially raw!)
- You can also roast the garlic to done it down and add some sweetness. I go over how to in this post!
- I can’t recommend using frozen spinach. It makes the texture super smooth (too smooth) and isn’t my favorite. If you use it, defrost, squeeze out ALL of the liquid, and only use about 1/4 cup.
- This isn’t a science – to be honest, most nights I make this I totally wing and eyeball the measurements.
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If you don’t already own a food processor, you totally need one. Not only can you make things like pesto, but nut butter, oat flour, and even pastry and biscuits. This one has great reviews and it super inexpensive.
This recipe is perfect for those picky eaters in your life – in fact, I recently made this without telling my husband there was veggies in it. He ate it nearly every day for a week, and when he saw me making it again, he was totally shocked! You seriously can’t even tell there is the healthy stuff in there, just creamy, garlicky goodness. Scouts honor.
Veggie Pesto Pasta Sauce
Veggie Pesto Pasta Sauce
Veggie Pesto Pasta Sauce is creamy and delicious, but secretly packed with vegetables. Call them monster noodles to convince kids to give them a try, but after one bite your picky eater will be begging more.
- 1 cup fresh spinach*
- .5 cup peas
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1-4 garlic cloves
- .5 cup ricotta
- .5 cup grated parmesan
- .5 cup olive oil (more as needed)
Add basil, spinach, peas, garlic and olive oil to food processor. Process until smooth, adding extra oil if needed.
Add cheeses to processor and blend until smooth. Add pepper and salt if needed.
Serve on top of pasta, hot or cold, or as a spread on sandwiches or dip for veggies.
-Start with less garlic and build to your family's preference.
-Add more ricotta if you think the veggie taste is too strong.
-Use freshly grated Parmesan - not the shelf stable shakable kind.
-Do not use frozen spinach. I've made the mistake and it gives a very odd texture.
Want to get the kids involved?
Have kids remove the basil from the stems and add to a bowl – no need to complicate life but exposing them to the food processor blade. When everything is added to the food processor, lock the top on and allow your kids to press the button and/or stream in the olive oil.
I love this veggie pesto pasta sauce when paired with pasta, chicken, and grape tomatoes hot or cold, but it’s also amazing smeared on a sandwich or stirred with shredded chicken for a fun twist on chicken salad. You kids will love the creamy, cheesy flavor, and you’ll love the hidden veggie factor. For brownie points, use with hidden veggie noodles!
Okay, so tell me – would your kids like this? Is your husband a veggie hater? Let me know in the comments!
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Got a picky eater?
My kids eat their veggies every day without complaining. Want my secret?
Grab the Outsmart your Picky Eater cheat sheets to get the inside scoop on how to add veggies to food your kids already love.