*Ok, you’re correct in saying it hasn’t won any awards. However, my partner is an actual fully-fledged chef and my son eats it time after time without any complaints. In fact, he always says it’s “lishous” (delicious for the non-baby-talkers). So actually it’s better than any other award winning pasta. Fact. On with the show…
Welcome everyone to the first in what I’m calling the ‘Fussy eats’ series, aimed at parents who struggle to get the good stuff into their little ones’ diets. By good stuff, I of course mean fruit and vegetables! I’m not claiming to be a nutritional expert, a good cook by any means, or great with encouraging my son to eat. In fact, this pasta is one of about 4 things he will happily consume. I’m just here to let you know my tricks on preventing scurvy in my toddler. Don’t ya hate it when that happens.
1. Knife skills
As mentioned, my partner – when he possesses the patience of a saint – teaches me the way around the kitchen. Before I met him almost 6 years ago, I knew nothing. One time I tried to warm up spaghetti hoops in the microwave for all of 30 seconds and wondered why they weren’t hot on my burnt and butchered toast. Lovely.
Don’t be scared of big, sharp knives. A sharp knife is a safe knife. Easier said than done; when I saw Mr A’s knife collection, I simply referred to them all as machetes . However, bar the tears, I can happily (and quite quickly) dice an onion with the biggest knife in the draw.
For my batch pasta, I use a carton/tin of chopped tomatoes, a whole red onion, most of or all of a bell pepper – all dependent on size and what I fancy, really – and a whole carrot. I chop everything up as finely as possible, so if you’re not confident with a knife, practice with this dish! You’ll soon be confident once you know the veg is well hidden.
2. Choice of pasta
Choice of pasta is incredibly important in our house. N will only really eat fusilli, which is great, but with this dish you want to be steering toward pastas that hold a lot of the ragu, hence conceal the vegetables. Penne and rigatoni work well, too, especially for little hands exploring the use of cutlery. The bigger and more twisty, the better. Steer clear of spaghetti or tagliatelle as there’s nowhere to hide! Slip central!
If pasta is bland then nevermind the child, I won’t like it either. Salt and pepper just won’t do. I love to experiment and usually throw in oregano (fave), rosemary and thyme at a minimum. As I use beef mince in our sauce, throughout the cooking process I’ll grind in black pepper around 3 times – once when the meat is browning, then when I add in all the other dried herbs (after the tomatoes), and finally just before serving.
Today, as we’re out of most herbs, I used thyme, All Purpose and garlic powder. Failing kids eating their veggies, herbs and spices are extremely beneficial! I love to use garlic in most of N’s food because I know just how beneficial it is to his health.
So, up to this point we have: fried off the mince (or other substitute you usually use) along with the onions; added other veggies once the meat is browned and softened those for a few minutes; added chopped or plum tomatoes – or even fresh if you’re feeling fancy (fresh taste amazing); and we’ve added our choice of seasoning.
What’s next, I hear you desperately plead…
4. My secret ingredient
Ok, so not secret for much longer and actually a tip my mum taught me. I’ve never looked back!
Gravy granules. No, really.
I’m stating the obvious here, but there are loads of different varieties of gravy granules, so if you’re especially worried for example about the salt content, reduced salt granules could be your option! I don’t actually add any salt throughout the cooking process, so towards the end when I can see everything has softened, I pop in about a tablespoon of gravy granules to bring everything together. Why? They give the sauce a richer colour, they thicken the sauce so that there isn’t run-away veg and of course develop a more wholesome flavour!
5. Add pasta to the sauce… not the other way around
Another lesson I’ve been taught. I’m not sure why, but it works. The Jamie Oliver trick when he drains the pasta and keeps a little of the water to throw in? Do that, too. It prevents your pasta drying out.
Now I know a lot of us aim for el dente. It’s not my personal preference and in the grand scheme of getting your child to eat the veg, stodgy, soft, soggy, sticky – whatever you want to call it – pasta works. For us it works. It’s lishous.
There we have it; batch cooked, award winning pasta, which forces acceptable nutrition into my two year old’s body. Do let me know if you use any of these tips and if you have any tips for us! Anything at all – we’re all struggling out here!