Hidden Veg Pasta Bake with Chicken Strips

Some parents are lucky enough to have children that actually welcome whole vegetables on their plates, however with my boys, most veg needs to be encouraged or even disguised. Vegetable soup or even vegetable curry is better received when there is no visible evidence of healthy vegetables lurking in their bowls. I dread rows at the kitchen table so in a bid to avoid them I generally try to cook foods in a way that I know my kids will eat and more importantly enjoy. Anyway, I find that day to day life runs a little smoother when all in the house have eaten well!
My reliable hand blender has become an invaluable piece of equipment in my kitchen. When blending a sauce or soup you are still introducing lots of wonderful flavours and nutrition to a dish without suspicious little ones realising what they are enjoying.  Luckily I know this fussiness is short lived and I won't be forever reliant on my trusty hand blender. Until then I am content to blend my sauces in a bid to keep peace at mealtimes.

Hidden Veg Pasta Bake with Chicken Strips


For the Pasta Sauce

25g Butter
drizzle of olive oil
1 red onion, diced

1/2 stick of celery 
1/2 courgette, diced
1/2 red pepper, sliced

100g mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp caster sugar
1tsp chilli powder

2 x 400g tinned tomatoes
100mls water
2 tsp Fresh Basil, chopped
150ml cream

For the fried chicken
3 chicken fillets, cut into strips
2 tbsp plain flour 
knob of butter and drizzle of rapeseed oil

500g cooked wholewheat pasta
50g Parmesan, grated

125g mozzarella, sliced


 Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.
1. Melt the butter with the drizzle of oil in a large saucepan, and add the onion, courgette, red pepper, mushroom and garlic. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the sugar.
2. Cook on a medium heat for about five minutes until the vegetables have just begun to soften. Add the tomatoes and water. Cook for a further ten minutes.
3. Add the chilli powder, cream and basil to the pan. Simmer until the mixture has reduced, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, as necessary. Blend the sauce together using a hand blender.
4. Toss the chicken in the seasoned flour. 

5. Melt the butter with a drizzle of oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken strips. Cook on both sides until golden and cooked through.
6. Add the cooked pasta and cooked chicken strips to the pasta sauce and stir well.
7. Transfer all to an ovenproof casserole dish. Sprinkle the cheeses over the top.
8. Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the dish is golden.

This article was published in Issue one of Easy Parenting.


Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

Some kids are fussy! I have a nephew who given the option between a burger and a salad would choose the salad every time!

Your recipe looks delicious!

Nicola/Simply Homemade said...

Sounds delicious, I make a similar pasta sauce for my girls as they too prefer to not 'see' their vegetables, my son on the other hand is breaking my heart at the moment, he's refusing to eat anything other than toast :( Although we did have a bit of a breakthrough yesterday, after visiting the lovely Ballycross Farm here in Wexford. I bought some delicous apples so he's decided that 'apples fresh from trees are nice'..........LOL!

Sue/the view from great island said...

Very clever! I'm Sooooooo happy I'm past that stage now, my girls are appreciating the wonderful world of veggies. The pasta looks great, especially the huge thick slices of mozzerella.

Nessa Robins said...

I am lucky that the boys aren't terribly fussy. They like plenty of different flavours and texture but it's often difficult to encourage them to eat whole veg. I don't worry about it as overall they have a very balanced diet. I have gone through times that they refuse everything but perseverance is important.
I wonder is your little man old enough to help out with the meal preparations, Nicola? I see your young girl helps you so maybe if he makes a shopping list with you and gets involved it might encourage him to eat. There is an article on fussy eaters in this months Easy Parenting. As you well know this fussiness will pass :) It is frustrating though as a parent!

Nicola/Simply Homemade said...

I've tried all sorts to encourage him to eat his vegetables and like you say it's so frustrating especially when I think back to all the lovely veg he was weaned onto. He'll be six this year so perhaps if I encourage him to help prepare his food a little more that will in turn encourage him to eat it.
Thanks Nessa :)

Kristin said...

I do something very similar when I make ratatouille - I just blend everything together and use it as a pasta sauce and the kids are none the wiser. I think in this case it's not "what they don't know won't hurt them", but rather "what they don't know is good for them"!

Nessa Robins said...

Nicola I'm sure your little man won't be able to resist your lovely cooking for long. With any bit of luck he'll be eating all around him soon :)
What a super saying Kristin!! It's certainly good to have the upper hand at the dinner table. If it means they eat a better dinner I will always blend it!

Irishbaker said...

This looks delicious-I love pasta bakes.