Sunday, July 29, 2012

Baked Spaghetti with Garden Vegetable Marinara

How much do I love this dish? Let me count the ways....

For starters, the sauce incorporates a plethora of summer veggies - perfect for taking advantage of summer farmers' markets and the whole eating a rainbow concept.  

And since the sauce is blended, it's a great way to include some otherwise intimidating vegetables (like zucchini, mushrooms and green pepper) in a picky eater's diet. Not that I'm a fan of hiding the veggies. I'm not. A dish like this can get veggies into little bellies, but more importantly, it can be a gateway to a more adventurous palate. It's not just about getting kids to eat their veggies, it's about getting kids to like (or even love!) eating their veggies. We made this dish in Kids' Table classes not long ago, and the kids knew very well what was going into the sauce - they chopped up all the ingredients. The vast majority of kids loved the end result. So the next time they come across zucchini, mushrooms or green pepper, maybe those veggies won't seem so scary.

This dish also gets big points for its versatility and time-saving potential. It can be assembled in advance, stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days and baked when you need it. You can also make a double batch of sauce and freeze half for another time.  I've used the Garden Vegetable Marinara as pizza sauce, and my mouth waters at the thought of baking it with goat cheese and serving with crostini.

Last, but certainly not least, it's delicious!
Photo by Daniel Stranahan

Baked Spaghetti with Garden Vegetable Marinara

1-2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow squash or zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
8 crimini mushrooms (or 1 large portobello), chopped into 1/2 cubes
3 roma tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 cubes
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes (with juices)
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
10 large basil leaves
1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
12 oz mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 oz grated parmesan

To make sauce, heat oil in a pot over medium heat.  Sauté onion, pepper, carrot and garlic for 5 minutes. Add squash and mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add fresh and canned tomatoes (breaking up whole tomatoes with your fingers or a wooden spoon), tomato paste, oregano and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Coarsely tear basil leaves. Remove sauce from heat and stir in basil. Let sauce cool a bit and puree in pot with an immersion blender or transfer to blender to puree. Season sauce to taste with additional salt, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add 4 cups sauce and stir well.  Add up to another cup of sauce if you'd like. The pasta will absorb some sauce while it bakes (particularly if you plan on refrigerating it and baking later), so err on the saucier side. Stir in cubed mozzarella. Transfer mixture to a 9x13 inch baking dish. Top with grated parmesan. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for later baking. If baking immediately, bake for about 10 minutes, until mozzarella is melted and the top is browning. If baking later, remove from fridge while oven preheats. Bake covered for 30 minutes, uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Makes 8-10 servings

Photo by Daniel Stranahan

What kids can do (with appropriate tools & adult supervision)
*Chop vegetables (At Kids' Table, we use wavy choppers to minimize the risk of injury. Whether using choppers or knives, make sure vegetables have a flat and stable surface. Halve onions, carrots, squash and pepper and have your child to work with the cut side down. If you are working with a wavy chopper, you might want to cut pepper and tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices and have your child cube them. The skins can be hard to get through with a chopper, so it's easier to position the skins on the side, instead of on the top or bottom.)
*Break apart canned tomatoes with their fingers (a little messy, but fun!)
*Measure out tomato paste, oregano and salt
*Remove basil leaves from stem and tear
*Cube mozzarella and grate parmesan
*Stir and taste

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