I taught my daughters to eat vegetables by finely mincing boiled potatoes, carrots or kalabasa (squash) with rice and broth as soon they were old enough to eat table food. I taught them to eat fresh fruits in the same manner. So, I never really had problems feeding them vegetables. Of course, they have personal preferences too. Alex does not like talong (eggplants), for instance, and Sam hardly ever touches carrots these days although it was among her favorites as a very young child. Okay, you’re wondering what the heck all that has to do with pasta sauce. Patience… I’ll get there.
So, as I was saying… my daughters eat their vegetables without threats, bribery or cajoling–things that are common with many of my friends and their kids. We have a group of friends whom we see most Saturday nights for dinner. We take turns hosting the dinner parties and it’s usually a pot luck arrangement unless someone had a birthday or someone’s kid graduated, and so on. Some of our friends’ kids are real headaches to feed. They don’t eat vegetables. Most don’t eat anything but fried chicken and pasta. These kids are old enough to know what’s on their plate and they’re no longer trainable the way my daughters were at six months old. There came a point when I started losing my humor about these Saturday dinners. Even eating out had become a repetitious exercise. Wherever we went, we’d order the same things over and over again… I’ll get to the pasta sauce, I promise.
So, anyway, that was the situation when we hosted that small dinner party for my husband’s birthday. One of the dishes I planned to serve that night was baked spaghetti. You know, all kids eat spaghetti and my friends’ hard-to-feed kids are no exception. It so happened that I was short on tomato paste. If I were cooking for just the four of us, no problem, but it was a dinner party for 15, so I had to do some fast thinking. What I had plenty of were carrots. And tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes because we were also serving a salad to go with the roast turkey. I took my Thunderstick, pureed a kilo and a half of tomatoes with about 3 large onions, 2 carrots and plenty of red bell peppers and fresh basil leaves. Then, I cooked the pasta sauce.
It was a gamble. I mean, when I cook pasta for my kids, even when there’s tomato paste around, tomato paste is often just for added color. Fresh vegetables are a must unless there’s really none in the house. It happens; I won’t deny that. But when I add vegetables, they are not pureed but hand chopped for added texture. It’s a formula I never tried with other kids. And, on my husband’s birthday, I knew I could end up with plenty of uneaten spaghetti. I went ahead, pureed the vegetables and cooked the pasta sauce anyway. Point is, those hard-to-feed kids couldn’t see all those vegetables in the pasta and they devoured it. I suppose it shows that children’s prejudice against vegetables is not so much about flavor but about appearance. And the prejudice could be overcome even with older children.
I didn’t tell anyone that night about the pasta sauce. In fact, I wasn’t going to blog about it because some of my friends read my blog. I don’t want them telling their kids because it might make the kids wary about pasta dishes that I will serve in the future. I just want to keep feeding them with the pasta, and all those vegetables, and when they have learned to appreciate the difference between a pasta sauce with real vegetables and those ready-to-pour sauces, then I’d let them know. But then I considered how many mothers, and kids, might benefit from my experience. Hence, this entry.
My secret pasta sauce
- 1/2 kilogram belly bacon
- 1 and 1/2 kilograms tomatoes
- 3 large onions
- 2 medium carrots
- 6 to 8 bell peppers
- 2 whole garlic
- 1 large handful basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 kilogram Italian sausage (the kind used for pizza topping), crumbled
- 2 to 4 cups bone broth
- cup tomato paste
- Finely slice the belly bacon.
Peel the onions and cut into eights.
Cut the tomatoes and carrots into the same size as the onion.
Core bell peppers, removing the seeds and cutting off the membranes, then dice them.
Peel the garlic.
Place everything in a blender or food processor, add the basil leaves and pulse. You may do coarse or you can puree until smooth. At home, we like texture so I don't process the vegetables to smithereens.
Heat the olive oil with the butter in a large sauce pan.
Add the Italian sausage and bacon and cook until lightly browned.
Pour in the broth, add the pureed vegetables, stir in the tomato paste then season with salt, pepper and a little sugar.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thick.
Toss with cooked spaghetti.