I haven’t been experimenting much with food lately. And the reason is quite simple – whenever I cook, I think about the kind of food my toddler will eat. So it’s more about texture, flavor, colors, and presentation. Surely, she wouldn’t go for anything crispy or too out there (even though she sometimes surprises me). So I try to come up with a lunch or dinner that offers variety and that always packs on vegetables. The key for me is to prepare a nutritious meal we will all enjoy and that will not take me long to prepare. I usually have only about 30 minutes at best in the kitchen before Raya demands my attention so I need to be quick at preparing our food.
So the recipe I’m sharing with you today is just that:
- Toddler-approved by my daughter
- Under 30 minutes to prepare
All kids love pasta, and I prepare a pasta dish once a week. I usually go for a gluten-free version. I do not avoid gluten for her at this point anymore, but I do limit it a lot. I usually choose brown rice pasta, and occasionally spelt pasta (the naturally occurring gluten in spelt has a different molecular make-up than the gluten in modern wheat).
I know some kids may not like the green colour of this dish, but I feel it is important to keep on offering them a variety of dishes, you never know when they might go ahead and try it! Raya likes green food, as she’s used to smoothies, but she also has days where she just won’t touch it. But this one has been a consistent winner with her.
I prepare my own pesto, because I can put more nutritious ingredients in it and limit the amount of oil it has. Store-bought pesto has a crazy amount of it! To reach a rich and creamy consistency I use a ripe avocado instead of oil, which is a source of healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, E, K and B6, as well as folate, potassium, and beta-carotene.
I love topping the pasta with some cashew sauce, as I feel it gives the dish more richness, so I am also sharing the recipe for a simple cashew sauce below. If you are feeling adventurous, go ahead and even add some lemon juice and garlic to it for some kick! I love adding nutritional yeast to sauces, and Raya loves the flavor of it. Nutritional yeast is a great source of complex B vitamins, protein and zinc, they all are important for our growing kids.
Lastly, let’s not forget to pack this meal with vegetables. You will find broccoli, peas, and green beans in here. And I find they compliment the pasta very well.
So let’s get to the recipe:
Toddler approved pasta with pesto and vegetables
- 300g brown rice fusilli pasta
- 1 head of broccoli, cut in small florets
- 100g peas (fresh or frozen)
- 100g green beans (fresh or frozen)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil or ghee For the pesto sauce:
- 1 ripe avocado
- juice of 1 lime
- 40gr fresh basil (about 3 handfuls)
- handful of sundried tomatoes
- 3 – 4 tbsp water (or more if needed)
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 clove garlic, minced For the cashew sauce (optional):
- 100g cashews
- 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 40ml water
- salt to taste
- optional add-ons (lemon juice, garlic)
- Bring 1 ½ litre of water to the boil and cook the pasta according to packaging instructions. Drain and place in a bowl.
- In a heated pan, sauté the peas and beans with some garlic. Set aside once they are soft but still crunchy.
- Steam the broccoli florets until they become soft and bright green. Be careful not to overcook them! Set aside.
- Place all the sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend until they reach a creamy consistency. You can also mash the avocado by hand and add the lime juice and water to create a creamy sauce.
- Place all the ingredients for the cashew sauce in a food processor and blend until it forms a thick sauce. If you like your sauce runnier, add some more water.
- Add the avocado pesto, beans and peas to the pasta and mix well.
- Finally, gently fold the broccoli florets into the pasta.
- Serve on a plate and add the cashew sauce on top.
If you do make it please share with me how you and your kid liked it!