Crouching Turkey Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce | (Cooking for) Kiwi & BeanAmongst parents of young kids, the “hidden veggie” debate is just about as raucous as the co-sleeping, nanny vs. daycare and vaccination ones.

In one camp are the moms and dads who think that vegetable-feeding, and food generally, should be full-disclosure, and that kids should be taught to love veggies and not coerced to eat them. In the other are parents who just want their kids to eat vegetables (darn it!) and have no issue conducting covert cauliflower operations in order to make it happen.

I fall somewhere between the two camps, I think. I serve my kids lots of fresh vegetables at every meal: steamed, sautéed, roasted and mashed. But I am more than happy to sneak in a few extras for good measure. Not just for the kids’ health and longevity, but for mine and Kiwi’s too. There is no such thing as too many vegetables.

A big pot of bolognese is about the best spot to sneak in extra veg, not only because it is easy to disguise them in all that creamy smooth tomatoey goodness, but also because a hit of veggie puree actually makes a tomato sauce significantly more delicious (true story). And what kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy a big plate of pasta with tomato sauce, not to mention!

Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce | (Cooking for) Kiwi & Bean

This recipe makes a whackload of sauce, and I like to freeze it in Ziploc freezer bags (I can get about three to four family meals out of one batch) for quick weeknight meals.

If you want to supercharge the health-quotient of this meal, there are some amazing bean pastas on the market now. (Yes, that’s pasta made exclusively with beans!) They are gluten-free and full of fibre, protein and iron. I recently served this meat sauce over a big plate of black bean spaghetti, and my kids slurped it up. They had no idea that there were vegetables AND beans hidden inside. Cue the raucous parenting debate.

Crouching Turkey Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

Clear all the veggies from your fridge, and separate them into the ones your kids like, and the ones they won't touch. The untouchables get pureed into a smooth tomato sauce, so the kids won't notice 'em. Bonus: the whole thing is adult-approved, and dinner-for-two-with-a-bottle-of-wine worthy.


  • 2 + 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetables, diced (see note below)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 large (28 oz/796 ml) cans whole plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste (or about 1 small 6 oz/156 ml can)
  • 2 pounds ground turkey or other ground meat (see note below)
  • To serve: your favourite pasta, fresh basil, parmesan cheese


  1. Separate the vegetables into vegetables your kids will eat (the “Yum Vegetables”) and veggies they won’t (the “Ick Vegetables”). It’s absolutely ok if all the vegetables fall into the latter category!
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and the Ick Vegetables. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, and then add the tomatoes (including all the juices) and tomato paste.
  3. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook until the vegetable are very soft.
  4. Take the pot off the heat and puree the entire mixture with an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the vegetable-tomato mixture to a blender and blend, in batches, until smooth, and then return the blended mixture to the pot.
  5. Dump the Yum Vegetables into the tomato mixture; bring the whole thing to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer.
  6. In the meantime, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat, and cook the meat until it is cooked through. Transfer the meat to the simmering tomato sauce using a slotted spoon (leaving the excess fat behind).
  7. Simmer the whole mixture for an hour or so.
  8. Serve over whole grain pasta or black bean noodles, topped with finely grated parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil.
  9. Freeze the remaining sauce in airtight containers or zipper bags.


You can use whatever veggies you have on hand, but it's important to pick ones that won't alter the colour or flavour too much. Your best bets: celery (which adds AMAZING flavour and is highly recommended), peppers, squash, yellow zucchini, mushrooms and carrots. Avoid broccoli and cauliflower. Leafy greens are fine but will turn your sauce a brown-ish colour. I prefer to hide leafy greens elsewhere.

You can also use whatever ground meat you like. Ground turkey and chicken are relatively low in fat, but not particularly flavourful. I like a combination of ground turkey or chicken and ground lamb. The lamb adds a nice depth of flavour to the sauce.

If you don't have an immersion blender, buy one! I use mine several times per week to whiz up soups, sauces and dips.

23 Responses to Crouching Turkey Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

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