Meat Sauce with Hidden Vegetables – A hearty meat and tomato sauce filled with hidden pureed vegetables. This healthier sauce is loaded with flavor and you’ll never know it’s filled with veggies. Serve with spaghetti, lasagna, stuffed peppers, roasted vegetables, and more!
When I was a child, spaghetti with meat sauce was a staple in our house. My mom would either make a quick pot of meat sauce on the stovetop or a slow simmered batch in the crock pot. We would eat it over pasta, layered in lasagna, or by the spoonful standing over the stove. And every Halloween, we would have spaghetti with meat sauce before trick or treating.
It was no surprise that once I started cooking for my own family, pasta with meat sauce made its way into a regular rotation. My kids love pasta and I appreciate making a meal that I know my kids will actually eat. Both of my kids are willing to eat a variety of veggies, but I still feel like they could be eating more. I started adding pureed vegetables into my meat sauce to bump up the nutritional value.
This is just a typical sauce made of ground beef, marinara, crushed tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. The vegetables impart little to no flavor, and since they are pureed, there are no veggie chunks that might deter picky eaters. If you have kids (or adults) in your family that aren’t eating enough veggies, then this is the way to change that.
For this batch I used a mixture of carrots, celery, red bell pepper, onion, and spinach. This combination lends a little sweetness to the sauce without adding a strong vegetable flavor. Feel free to swap around the vegetables to suit your taste or just use what you have on hand. Mushrooms are great in here too!
If you’d prefer to skip the pasta, you can enjoy this sauce spooned over roasted vegetables (pictured below). Because here’s the thing (sigh), I can’t eat pasta as often as I’d like. My metabolism is slowing to a glacial pace, and my hips punish me if I eat too many carbs. Lately I’ve been roasting a big batch of vegetables and topping them with this meat sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Although, let it be known that plenty of times I will take a piece of crusty bread and drag it right though this sauce and into my mouth. Calories consumed while standing over the stove don’t count, right?
Last but not least, can we quickly talk about kids and veggies? I take my kids’ nutrition seriously. Good nutrition is essential to good health, and we all want our kiddos to be healthy, right? I introduced my kids to different fruits and vegetables from a very young age. Some they like, some they don’t, and some they like one day and hate the next. My one piece of advice to all the parents/future parents out there is not to give up on picky eaters. My 5 year old went through a super picky phase where he disliked most vegetables. I kept offering veggies at every meal and eventually he came around and started eating a large variety.
I know all kids are different, and if you’re struggling to get your kids to eat their veggies there’s no shame in sneaking them in. Also, in an effort to keep things real, you should know that my kids insisted that tonight’s dinner be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and baked cheese puffs. And yes, I gave in. Not every meal is a win, and that’s OK!
NEVER MISS A RECIPE!
Meat Sauce with Hidden Vegetables
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 carrots chopped
- 1 large stalk celery chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper seeded and chopped
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 heaping handfuls fresh baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 2 25 oz jars marinara sauce
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch of sugar if desired
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute ground beef in olive oil until brown, periodically breaking it apart with a wooden spoon. While the meat is browning, place all the vegetables and garlic in a food processor and puree until completely smooth. Add the vegetable puree to the meat, and cook, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated (the mixture might look unappetizing at this point, but it will look better after adding the tomatoes). Add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, marinara, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and a pinch of sugar. Stir to combine. Simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary.