The Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce contains over five different vegetables, yet your little ones will never even know it. It’s the perfect base for a weeknight meal the entire family will love, plus it’s simple to make and freezer-friendly!A bowl of whole wheat penne loaded with Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce, the perfect family-friendly freezer meal!

If you’re sick of struggling to get your toddler to eat anything of nutritional value, stuck in a rut with what to make for your family’s picky palates, or just ready to mix up your dinner game, this Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce recipe is for you!

You’re going to love that this recipe is packed with nutritional value, comes together with almost no waste, can be made well in advance AND makes plenty to cover at least two dinners for your family. Every mama’s favorite kind of recipe!

Why Hide Veggies in Your Food?

While it’s important to remember to continuously offer your baby or toddler vegetables in their truest form, there are several arguments to be made for hiding them in recipes whenever you can:

Textural Issues of Whole Veggies

First, it introduces your child (or hey, even your picky spouse) to a new flavor or flavors even if he or she can’t get past certain textural issues with the vegetables in their pure form. The texture issue is a real one for many picky kids and this is a great way to overcome it!

Increased Nutritional Value

Secondly, sneaking veggies into a recipe your family already loves is a fantastic way to up its nutritional value. Many little ones love foods like muffins, pizza and pasta, so why not make them healthier versions and get some extra nutrients in in the meantime?

Benefits the Entire Family

One of the biggest things I stress to my clients and course students is the importance of eating together as a family and everyone eating the same thing. If you’re always thinking of ways to add more veggies into what you’re making for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the entire family will benefit from the increased nutritional value.

Food Segue

Hiding veggies in foods your little one(s) already love is also a great way to begin a food segue. This is a gradual technique used for feeding babies and toddlers that eventually gets them to like a certain food in its purest form. You can read more about how to do a food segue with your baby or toddler here.

A dish of pasta topped with Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce.

Tips for Hiding Veggies in Food

I know what you’re thinking: But where do I start when it comes to hiding veggies in all my favorite recipes? Well, this Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is a great start, but here are some general guidelines you can follow when you’re experimenting with adding veggies to other types of recipes:

Match Colors and Shapes

Think of a vegetable that will compliment a food that your little one already loves – and looks like it, too! For example, pair diced beets with berries, or kiwi with avocado.

Make It Small

One of the best ways to slowly start introducing a vegetable to your baby or toddler is to do it in small doses and then gradually increase the amount. Shredded or puréeing vegetables are perfect ways to work them into the mix.

Take Advantage of What Your Little One Already Likes

If your babe is already obsessed with sweet potato, slowly start working some butternut squash into the mix. If he or she can’t get enough of muffins or pancakes, play around with the different ways you can up their nutritional value the next time you make them. Capitalize on what already works!

An overhead shot of a bowl of Hidden Veggie Pasta.

How to Make Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

The simple answer: throw everything together in a big saucepan or Dutch oven, let it simmer away, then purée!

Once you have all of the ingredients prepped, this recipe involves almost no hands-on time. I also love that this recipe has almost no waste, we use a full cans or cartons of everything, so you don’t have to worry about half a carton of broth sitting unused in your fridge for weeks to come.

Freezing Your Pasta Sauce

 If your making this recipe in advance and plan to serve it later (which you totally should!) follow these tips for storing:

  • Once the sauce has cooled down slightly, transfer it to Mason jars or a resealable plastic bag
  • Let it cool completely
  • Label it (and be sure to include the date you made it)
  • Freeze until ready to use!

Different Ways to Serve Your Sauce

News flash: This red sauce isn’t just for pasta! Here is a list of all of the different ways you can use up your batch of sauce:

Pasta
Pizza
Lasagna
BAKED chicken
Egg bake
stirred into Polenta
Eggplant Parmesan
Chili
Stuffed peppers/spaghetti squash
Minestrone or other tomato-based soups
As a dipping sauce for grilled cheese

Now, who’s ready to get cooking??

If you try this recipe, be sure to rate it and leave a comment below!

Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is great for all ages and is the perfect base for a weeknight family meal. It's freezer-friendly and makes a ton so you'll always have a healthy dinner option on hand. It's also loaded with more than five different veggies!

Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, family-friendly, freezer-friendly, Italian, kid-friendly, make-ahead, pasta, red sauce, toddler, vegetables
Servings: 20 people
Calories: 40 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium roasted sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning Salt-free for young babes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 32-ounce carton chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste Minimize for young babes
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once oil is heated, add onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until onion starts to become fragrant and translucent.

  2. Add garlic, carrot, bell pepper, zucchini and sweet potato and stir to combine. Allow to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and stir to combine.

  3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth, and once again stir to combine. Bring to a low boil (very gently bubbling), then turn off heat.

  4. Transfer sauce to a blender in two batches. You may need to use a mixing bowl to hold some of the extra soup while you are blending. Blend until smooth, then return to the original saucepan or Dutch oven on low heat.

  5. Season with salt and pepper as needed, but if you will be serving this to young babes, minimize the salt as much as possible.

Recipe Notes

TO FREEZE: Let sauce come to room temperature, then transfer to Mason jars with lids, label (including date made) and freeze.

The Easiest Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups

These Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups are baby- and toddler-approved, but great for the whole family! Make them in advance and stick them in the freezer to have a healthy, nutritious breakfast ready to go on busy mornings.

A cooling rack of freshly baked Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Cups.

I don’t know about you, but our toddler always wakes up hungry and ready to eat. It seems like we can barely get a clean diaper on her before she’s begging “Food! Food!” Breakfast also so happens to be her favorite meal of the day, and she eats far more in the morning than she does for lunch and dinner, so we always try to have healthy, quick options on hand for her.

We’ve been big fans of baked oatmeal in our household for a while now. I love that it’s jam-packed with nutrients (especially with the right mix-ins) and that it’s handheld, resulting in much less of a mess than classic or even overnight oats make. While traditional baked oatmeals (in baking pans or dishes) are great, turning your baked oatmeal into single-serving cups ups the convenience factor and makes it really easy to only defrost what you need.

Here’s how this easy and tasty recipe is done!

What You Need

The good news is – not much! Most of the ingredients you’ll be using you’ll already have on hand, especially if you’re making this in the fall.

Rolled oats

I love getting the big bags from Trader Joe’s (these ones also happen to be gluten-free if you need that.)

Pumpkin purée

Buy the can OR make your own with this super simple homemade pumpkin purée recipe!

An apple
Milk

Any kind!

An egg
Maple syrup

And pantry staples like…

Baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice

As far as equipment, you’ll just need a cupcake pan (we love these silicone ones *affiliate link*), a couple of bowls, a couple of measuring cups, and a whisk!

An overhead shot of Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups cooling on a rack.

How to Make Baked Oatmeal Cups

Once you get the basic process of these Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups down, you’ll be able to create tons of different variations.

Simply whisk together the dry ingredients, whisk together the wet ingredients, combine the two, and bake. Easy as that!

Other ideas for flavor combinations might be:

Banana and chocolate chip
Sweet potato and orange
Zucchini and raisin
Peanut butter and apple
Cinnamon and berry
Vanilla and peach

The possibilities are endless.

A straight-on look at a freshly baked batch of Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Cups.

How to Store Baked Oatmeal Cups

Once the cups are baked and cooled, place them in a gallon-size Ziploc and freeze for up to three months.

When you’re ready to serve, simply microwave however many you need for 30 seconds to a minute (maybe more if you’re defrosting a bunch at once.)

Just like my Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins or my Peanut Butter and Banana Breakfast Cookies, these cups are a great on-the-go option for busy mornings, or even a great travel snack when you’re on the road. 

Read on for the recipe and, if you want to learn more of my tips and tricks for feeding toddlers, be sure you’re signed up for my weekly newsletter!

A stack of Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups leaning against a pitcher of milk.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

These Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups are baby- and toddler-approved, but great for the whole family! Make them in advance and stick them in the freezer to have a healthy, nutritious breakfast ready to go on busy mornings.

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: after-school, apple, baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, breakfast, freezer-friendly, meal prep, oatmeal, pumpkin, toddler
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 114 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk of your choice (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (Use canned or follow the link in the Recipe Notes to make your own)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup diced apple
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray cupcake pan with cooking spray and set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oats, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin purée, maple syrup, egg and vanilla.

  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Whisk in diced apple.

  5. Using your 1/4 cup measure, scoop mixture into prepared cupcake pan.

  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until oatmeal is set.

  7. Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely before transferring to Ziploc for freezer storage.

Recipe Notes

Here's the recipe for homemade pumpkin purée!

Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins + Healthy Baby Snack Ideas

Having healthy snacks on hand is a must when you have a little one.  These Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are a great freezer-friendly option to have on hand at a moment’s notice, plus I’m sharing some of my other favorite healthy baby foods for snacking!

A tall stack of Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins leaning against a carafe of milk.

If you’re always on the lookout for simple, healthy snacks for your little ones, these Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are for you! In fact, they’re not just for your little ones, they’re also great for YOU. Healthy baby food that mamas and papas can also enjoy? Sign me up! These are sure to please even the pickiest eaters and, since they’re only sweetened with applesauce and made with whole grains, you don’t have to worry when your kids keep on going back for more.

As I mentioned in this Healthy Carrot Cake Pancake Recipe post, we opted to do baby-led weaning with our little one and she has shown no sensitivities to eggs, other dairy, gluten, etc. If your little one HAS shown sensitivities to any of these, obviously use your best judgment. Again, mother always knows best!

Freshly baked Pumpkin Carrot Muffins in a muffin tin.

These Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are exactly what they say: super easy! I mean, if you know how to stir a spoon and you know how to operate an oven, you’re in good shape here. Just the kind of healthy snack we need when we have our hands full with young babes, am I right?

These muffins also happen to freeze well, so if you have a minute to bake some up this weekend, you’ll have the perfect healthy snack for your whole family for the next week (if you’re lucky.)

This is exactly the type of recipe I like to share with my custom meal planning clients, because it comes together quickly and holds up well in the freezer. We all need more recipes like this one!

A Pumpkin Carrot Muffin broken in half, served next to a warm drink.

While we’re on the topic of healthy baby food, I thought it might be helpful if I share some more of my favorite make-ahead snacks that family members of all ages will enjoy.

Multigrain crackers with peanut butter

Quick tip: Make your own! Sometimes those pre-made ones you can buy at the store are full of random ingredients. Also, when buying peanut butter, always be sure to check the ingredients list and make sure that peanuts are the only ingredient. (This goes for all nut butters.)

String Cheese with sliced grapes

This is a great mix of protein and healthy carbs, and almost always a hit with the little ones.

veggie- and fruit-packed popsicles

I mean, what baby or kid turns down a popsicle?? Check out some fun baby-friendly popsicle recipes in my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers.

Now, your turn to tell me: What are your favorite healthy baby foods?

And read on for my Healthy Pumpkin Carrot Muffin recipe!

Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins (Baby- and Kid-Friendly!)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

An easy-to-make muffin loaded with pumpkin puree and shredded carrots. Naturally sweetened with applesauce, these muffins are perfect for kids, babies and adults. A great on-the-go snack!

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: after-school, baby-friendly, breakfast, carrot, freezer-friendly, kid-friendly, muffin, naturally sweetened, pumpkin, snack
Servings: 12 muffins
Calories: 100 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup milk of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 cup spiralized or grated carrot
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin tins or line with paper liners and set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. 

  3. Add eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, milk and orange zest and stir until combined. Stir in carrot.

  4. Scoop batter evenly into prepared muffin tins and bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

  5. Cool in muffin tins for 5-10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack. 

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar

These convenient, single-serving freezer oatmeal cups are laced with maple and brown sugar and make the perfect on-the-go breakfast for busy mornings!

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar are the perfect healthy breakfast for busy mornings on-the-go.

It’s the final countdown! Two weeks (plus or minus a few days) until Baby D’s due date and things are getting real. I’m rushing around trying to get a bunch of things done before she gets here, but I’m also trying not to stress myself out too much because I know right now I need to be focusing on relaxing and not being too exhausted whenever I go into labor. I’ve got a few meals (and baked goods) stocked in the freezer and I have to say that one of the things I’m looking forward to the most are these Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar, so naturally I wanted to share them with you!

I’ve had these in my mind to make for quite some time, and I figured there’s no time like the present to give them a shot. I mean, who doesn’t want single-serve batches of brown sugar and maple-flavored oatmeal ready to go at a moment’s notice when they’ve got a newborn baby in their arms?

Not only is it a quick and easy breakfast or snack solution for what I’m sure is going to be a crazy time for us, I also hear oatmeal is good for lactation and, since I’m trying to breastfeed as much as possible, I want to get that milk flowing!

Two bowls of Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal with Maple and Syrup ready to be devoured for a healthy breakfast.

If you’re as much of a fan of Trader Joe’s as I am, then you may have come across THEIR version of freezer oatmeal packs which I absolutely love. I haven’t made them much since I’ve been working from home since I have a little more time (and the hubs likes his Protein Power Smoothie in the morning), but when I was working my 9-to-5 I loved being able to pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and have a delicious bowl of non-instant oatmeal on days it would otherwise be impossible time-wise.

There’s really not anything tricky about my version of Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar. In fact, they’re a meal-prepper’s dream come true. You’ll simply cook up some high-quality oatmeal on a morning you have a little extra time, flavor it with tasty (and very seasonally appropriate) maple syrup and brown sugar, dollop a hefty scoop of said oatmeal in some jumbo muffin tins, and pop them in the freezer.

Once they’re set, you can pop them out of their tins and wrap them up individually for an easy grab-and-go breakfast that everyone in your family is sure to love, not just busy breastfeeding moms!

Create your own Make-Ahead Oatmeal Freezer Cups by scooping homemade oatmeal into jumbo muffin tins and freezing!

Seriously, though, they are like a little taste of homey comfort food that you can enjoy on any day of the week. As long as you have a couple of minutes to give the cups a quick spin in the microwave, you’ll be setting yourself up for a REALLY good day with a tummy full of healthy, filling oatmeal that tastes like it took you at least an hour to make.

Now, enough about delicious Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar, on Friday I promised I would tell you about the fun, surprise-filled weekend we had. It was one we’ve had on tap for at least 5 or 6 months now, basically ever since we found out I was pregnant. Chris’ mom’s 70th birthday is this week (tomorrow, to be exact) and we wanted to do something really special for her.

Unfortunately, since I’m ready to pop any day now, we knew we wouldn’t be able to travel to celebrate with her, so we decided to bring the party here to Santa Barbara. We talked all of Chris’ siblings into coming to town (yes, all four of them, even his sister from Texas!) and rented a sweet house just up the road from ours.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar make the perfect balanced breakfast for a busy morning.

Chris was able to convince his parents to come visit, but mom thought she was just coming to see us and stay at our house. Little did she know that the whole family would be here, and staying at a beautiful vacation home to boot!

Long story short, we had such a great time hanging out with everyone and celebrating my MIL, but now I think we’re ready to slow down and really take in these last few days as a family of two (well, three if you count our fur baby). We have a couple of date nights and lots of relaxing in our future…Any other suggestions as to what we should do to savor these last few days before our little babe arrives? Let me know in the comments below! (And go make some Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar ASAP!)

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar are the perfect meal-prep for busy mornings on-the-go.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

These convenient, single-serving oatmeal cups are laced with maple and brown sugar and make the perfect on-the-go breakfast for busy mornings!

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: breakfast, freezer-friendly, kid-friendly, make-ahead, oatmeal
Servings: 18 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups coconut milk (two 13.5-ounce cans)
  • 8 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Bring coconut milk, water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add oats. 

  2. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has absorbed into the oats, stirring occasionally, then stir in the brown sugar and maple. 

  3. Spray some jumbo muffin tins with cooking spray and scoop oatmeal evenly into the cups. Place in the freezer until solid, at least a couple of hours or overnight. 

  4. Remove the tins from the freezer and, using a butter knife or small offset spatula, gently loosen the oatmeal cups from each tin. Wrap each cup in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer.

  5. When you’re ready to heat up your oatmeal, take one of the cups, unwrap it and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally if needed and top with any additional toppings you desire. Some of my favorites include nuts, peanut butter and more maple syrup.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar | CaliGirlCooking.com