I’m not sure why it’s taken so long to make this as I remember thinking when we first had this, I needed to make it. I say “we” but this hidden vegetable pasta sauce is based on a dish – ‘orange orzo’ – my son had when we were in Cyprus. It was part of the very good kids menu in the place we were staying. In fact he liked it so much, he had it a couple times. My version went down well with both boys (and us) too, so I think it will be on the menu much more now.
I’ve shared a couple of the dishes we enjoyed as part of our Cyprus and Greece trip (eg chicken gyros, youvetsi and baba ghanoush) as there were so many great local dishes. But the hotel also had some great options on their kids menu, like this orange orzo my son loved.
I hardly ever ate from a kids menu as a child, partly as we didn’t go out all that much but also most kids menus were nearly always basically junk food. Many still are which frustrates me- I get kids can be hard to please, and when you are out you don’t want tantrums, but there are ways to make things a little better. Veggies can be hard, but you can be sneaky if they don’t go for that many. My two both have a few they like, and I do sneak more in favorites like potato spinach gnocchi, as well as baked goods like chocolate beetroot brownies and chocolate zucchini muffins. I also find fritters (variations on the German potato pancakes theme) go down well and pasta is normally a winner too.
This hidden vegetable tomato sauce is a variation on your basic marinara that packs in more vegetables but very much appeals to kids. Along with tomatoes, there are carrots and pepper, but you could also add zucchini if you want to. Using orange juice with orzo is actually more common in Mediterranean cooking than I first realized, but it adds a lovely flavor and natural sweetness to the sauce.
After cooking down the onion, carrot and pepper a little you add the tomato and orange juice then let it simmer. Blend it up and it’s ready to either use there and then or store it a couple days in the fridge. You can also can it properly (make sure you follow proper canning instructions). To serve, you can cook the orzo or other pasta in the sauce or separately – it will take on the flavor more if you cook in the sauce but you’ll need to add a bit more liquid.
- ½ large onion
- 5oz/145g carrots
- ½ red pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- (optional - 1 medium/small zucchini/courgette)
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 17.6oz/500g can/packet chopped or crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup/ 120ml orange juice
- (if cooking orzo in sauce - add approx ½cup (or more as needed) water/stock and 12oz/340g - 1lb/450g orzo)
- Peel and dice the onion and carrots in a small dice and chop the pepper in small dice. Finely chop or crush the garlic. Dice the zucchini small, if using.
- Warm the oil over a medium heat in a medium-sized pan. Add the onion and soften for a couple minutes then add the carrot, pepper and garlic (plus zucchini, if using). Cook a couple minutes until pepper softening slightly, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes and orange juice. Stir to mix then cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer around 20min until carrot is just tender. You can leave the sauce chunky if you like, but for kids especially I would recommend blending until smooth. Either use immediately or store for later (either put in container in fridge for a day or two or can properly for longer storage).
- To serve - either cook pasta separately and mix through sauce, or you can cook the pasta in the sauce. If cooking in the sauce, add approx ½cup/120ml water or light stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until pasta is cooked through. You may need to add a little more liquid. This sauce is about right for approx 12oz-1lb pasta.
See all the kid-friendly vegetable recipes being shared today:
- Cinnamon Zucchini Muffins by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Creamy Kid Sized Smoothies by The Freshman Cook
- Sweet Potato Crust Quiche by Pies and Plots
- Sweet Potato Muffins with Veggie Cream Cheese by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Cauliflower Mac and Cheese by Food Lust People Love
- Chicken and Broccoli Shells and Cheese by Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Eat Your Veggies Beef Tacos by Simple and Savory
- Hidden Vegetable Pasta Sauce for Orange Orzo by Caroline’s Cooking
- Veggie Ramen by NinjaBaker.com
- Broccoli Tots by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Cheesy Cauliflower by Bottom Left of the Mitten
- Kid-Friendly Baked Potato Fries by Hardly A Goddess
- Salad on a Stick by My Imperfect Kitchen
- Zuppa di Ravioli by Gourmet Everyday
- Dairy Free Veggie Ice Pops by Our Good Life
- Healthy Homemade Taquitos by Cricket’s Confections
- Vegan Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies by A Mind Full Mom
- Veggie Egg Rolls by My Savory Spoon
For even more kid friendly vegetables check out these Vegetable Recipes for Picky Eaters by The Sunday Supper Movement
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