This Veggie-Loaded Tomato Sauce is a great way to get even the pickiest of eaters to eat their veggies! Filled with tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, leeks and red peppers, this sauce is full of nutrient dense veggies all while still tasting like a delicious homemade tomato sauce. Your kids won't even notice the veggie in this sauce!
I feel safe saying this next statement because I am hiding in the corner of my local coffeeshop hidden behind my computer screen all the way over on the other side of the internet. This makes me feel safe because I know I can't get impelled with the daggers you are about to shoot my way.
Here it goes...
In theory, I don't believe in hiding veggies from toddlers and kids inside of food (here is when the daggers and eye rolls begin) and I think kids should just learn to love to eat (most) veggies on their own.
My toddler and kid totally don't share that same theory as me.
Sometimes they will be amazing and eat all of the broccoli that is on their plate. While other times they refuse to eat anything I serve including their favorite food as of that morning. Kids, especially toddlers, can be tough when it comes to food preferences and eating.
That's why I am totally fine hiding veggies into food staples like sauces, pestos, smoothies and waffles.
Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do.
And if you need to sneak in some extra veggies into a delicious sauce (or any food you can think of) that you know they will eat, then just go with it. I'm calling that a #momwin!
That's why this delicious and nutritious tomato sauce is perfect for the kiddos that eat all of the veggies as well as kiddos that refuse to eat any veggies. This sauce can be served chunky with the veggies standing out loud-and-proud or you can puree the crap out of it for a super thin marinara style sauce where they won't be able to see (or taste) any of the veggies you loaded into this sauce.
Either way you serve this, it's a win for both you and your kiddo.
And when push comes to shove, the only thing that really matters is if your kiddo is eating any food at all and is healthy and happy. Broccoli eating is just a bonus.
Now, do you want the dagger that is in the side of my head back?:)
Tasty Add-Ins To Kick Up Your Sauce Making Game
Pumpkin Tomato Sauce - While pureeing the sauce, add in 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup feta cheese and 1/2 teaspoon dried sage.
Cheesy Tomato Sauce - Follow the directions below. Reserve half of the sauce for another use, then put half of the sauce back into the sauce pan. Add in 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, stir to combine.
Classic Meat Tomato Sauce - Before starting sauce, brown 1 pound of ground turkey, chicken, beef or crumbled sausage in the stock pot in a little olive oil until cooked. Remove cooked meat and place on a paper towel lined plate. Pour out any excess grease from the meat. Make sauce according to directions. Once the sauce is pureed, add the meat back into sauce. I like a very meat heavy pasta sauce, so I reserve half of the sauce for another use before adding the remaining sauce to the meat. Let simmer over low heat for 10 minutes and then serve.
Yummy Ways to Use this Sauce
Pasta - Served over your kids favorite pasta
Pizza - Spread over a homemade or pre-made pizza crust and topped with cheese and maybe even more veggies (here's to wishful thinking;)
Chili - You can use this tomato sauce in a warm chili instead of the called for canned tomatoes
Tomato Soup - Thin out the tomato sauce with more chicken or veggie stock and serve as a tomato soup
Grilled Cheese - Spread in-between layers of bread and cheese to up your grilled cheese game
Egg Dish - Use for a base in your Eggs in Purgatory
Pizza Potato - Spoon some sauce over a cooked baked potato and let your kiddos load theres up with their favorite pizza toppings.
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce - Place your favorite homemade or pre-made meatballs into a skillet filled with the sauce and simmer over low for 30 minutes. You can use cooked or uncooked meatballs with this method. The uncooked meatballs will be a soft on the outside which I find is better for young toddlers or babies, while pre-cooked meatballs will retain their slightly crispy outside.
Veggie-Loaded Tomato Sauce for Toddlers + Kids
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, roughly chopped
1 medium to large carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 leek (approximately 1/2 cup), roughly chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, cored and roughly chopped
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 teaspoon Italian herb mix
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1-2 cups of water, veggie or chicken stock (optional)
1. Heat a medium stock pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil. Stir in the onion and cook for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add in the garlic, stir, and cook for an additional minute.
2. Add in the zucchini, carrots, leek and red bell peppers and cook for 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring.
3. Add in the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, italian herbs, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and butter if you are using. Adjust heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once you reach a boil, bring down the heat to low and simmer for 15-30 minutes.
4. Puree the sauce using a handheld immersion blender or working in batches, transfer the sauce into a blender and puree on high until you achieve your desired consistency. If your sauce is too thick, add in water or stock in 1/2 cup increments. I used 1 cup of chicken stock in my sauce and it was still a little thick for us, but I always add in some additional pasta water to my sauce when re-heating and serving. If you want a thin sauce, add additional liquids.
Age: 9 months and up, great for picky toddlers
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: at least 25 minutes, but can simmer for up to 2 hours
Yield: 1 large serving or 2 small servings
Frozen: This sauce is great frozen. Just pour into a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Take out of freezer and put into fridge 1-2 days before you want to use it. If you are in a rush, you can always take it out of the freeze, place into a sink full of hot water for 15 minutes before placing the sauce into a saucepan and reheating it on the stove. It will still be a lump of sauce but as it gets hot it will thin out.