Adam was telling me about a pasta dish his granny used to make for them as kids. It sounded like a good way to get kids to eat their veggies and a comfort food meal for adults as well. I have naturally tweaked it to make it my own. And I have kept it as simple as possible so that it's easy to make and have kept the flavors as neutral as possible so that even the fussiest kids would eat it.
Serves 4 – 6
A selection of neutral or yellow/orange-coloured veggies. I used:
2 cups butternut, cubed
1 ½ cups carrots, peeled and cut into coins
½ a large onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 cup cabbage, shredded
250g uncooked macaroni (I used penne rigate), cooked and drained
2 Tbsp butter (optional)
¼ tsp of mild curry powder (trust me!)
Salt to taste
2 cups of grated melting cheese (I used a white cheddar)
Get your pasta cooking and lightly steam the veggies. It is so important not to overcook the vegetables as this is when they get that sulphurous flavour which put most kids off them. If you have a steamer, use as directed. I simply put about 2cms of water in a pot the right size for the amount for veggies and got that boiling. I added the chopped butternut as that was the hardest veg I was using. The smaller the cubes the faster they will cook. I then added the carrots about five minutes after the butternut (that’s how long it took me to wash, peel and cut them). I let that steam for about five minutes before I added the roughly chopped onion and garlic. Steaming onion and garlic removes their strong flavour and brings out their natural sweetness. I steamed that for a further five minutes.
Use a sharp knife to check if the veggies are cooked through. They must not be mushy. I added the chopped cabbage and then switched the heat of the pot off and left it for a further five minutes. Check if the cabbage is tender, if not, leave to steam further in the pot with no extra heat.
Drain the rest of your pasta until you are ready to use it. Puree the veggies with the butter, curry powder and salt. I find a stick blender the easiest to use as you don’t have all the extra bits to wash up. Grate the cheese and combine half with the pureed veggies and mix in the pasta. You can serve this directly onto plates and top with the remaining cheese or place this into a casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake under the grill just before serving until the pasta has heated through and the cheese is bubbly and brown on the top.
1. I have purposely left the flavouring very mild for this dish to make it suitable for small children. If your family likes spicy flavours, add more curry powder and lots of black pepper. You can also add bacon bits or chicken to add a lovely meaty flavour.
2. Appropriate veggies to use other than those I used: cauliflower, baby marrows, mushrooms (these would need to be lightly fried in a pan – not steamed), gem squash, sweet corn, patty pan squashes, turnips, sweat potato. If your kids aren’t too averse to greens you can add spinach and broccoli. I would avoid tomatoes as they are too acid and would mess with the mild creamy flavour. I would avoid peppers (even the yellow and orange ones) as when they are cooked they have a very strong flavour but that it a personal opinion.
PS - if you want this recipe in a nice printable word format, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly mail it to you.