Do you “sneak” spinach into your kids’ pasta sauce?
I hear this a lot from parents, that the only way they’re able to get their kids to eat spinach and other vegetables is to sneak it into foods like pasta sauce. Personally, I don’t support this approach, at least not exclusively. Rather, I encourage parents to amp up their dishes with the addition of extra vegetables, but to be straightforward about it and even get the kids involved in cooking these dishes when possible.
Why? Because I guarantee you that once your kids are responsible for their own diets, they’re not going to sneak a darned thing into their dishes. Learning to appreciate vegetables on their own in addition to when they are included in other dishes is an important part of developing a diverse palate.
Personally, I put spinach in this sauce because my husband and I like to eat it this way, it’s easy and it makes the dish more nutritious. And since I’ve rarely served marinara sauce to my daughter any other way, she doesn’t seem to mind and she also eats spinach on its own from time to time.
But when you’ve got an eater who will only eat spinach or other green foods this way, I recommend this approach: Have the kid help you cook the meal (even if it’s just dumping the thawed spinach into another bowl) and talk about how you’re including spinach in the dish. Then, a few days later, introduce spinach on its own (perhaps sautéed with olive oil and salt) and remind your child it’s the same food they enjoyed earlier in pasta sauce. Maybe they’ll eat it, maybe they won’t, but it’s the exposure that counts. Keep it up!
I’ve paired my sauce with mini raviolis I picked up from Trader Joe’s but you can use the sauce on any type of pasta. I make it in a large batch and then freeze containers of the sauce to use at a later time. But if you can manage to find mini raviolis (sometimes called raviolinis) give ’em a shot! Their “kid-friendly” nature may make this dish feel more approachable to kids, and unlike chicken nuggets, these are one kid-friendly food that appeals to adults as well.
Mini Raviolis with Spinach & Meat Sauce
For the sauce:
- 1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach thawed
- 1 26 oz. jar prepared marinara sauce
- 1/2 sauce recipe above
- 6 oz. mini raviolis or other dry pasta cooked
- Parmesan cheese optional
To prepare the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large stock pan over medium heat. Saute diced onion and ground meat until onions become translucent and meat is fully browned (5-10 minutes).
Add jarred sauce and frozen spinach, stir to combine.
Divide sauce into two individual containers.
To serve: Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat sauce and combine with cooked pasta, served topped with Parmesan cheese if desired.