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Spaghetti and meatballs (with hidden vegetables)

Is spaghetti and meatballs a family favourite in your house?

The problem with the standard spaghetti and meatballs – and probably part of the reason why veg-adverse kids love it – is that they picture just plain pasta and meatballs smothered in tomato sauce. Unfortunately, that’s typically what they get when ordering at a restaurant and so then expect the same at home.

What they don’t realise is that spaghetti and meatballs is the perfect recipe to disguise a whole range of veggies. Now I know we don’t want to deceive our kids. But if it gets them eating more vegetables, it’s a necessary con.

Plus, meatballs are synonymous with kid-friendly cooking. So getting them to help cook their own dinner is another sneaky way to up the chances of having a clean plate. But be warned… things may get messy.


  • 500g lean beef mince (or go 50/50 pork and beef mince)
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 teaspoons tomato paste

*Makes 24 meatballs to serve four.


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup peas and corn
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 serves of spaghetti (wholegrain, if you can get your kids to go for it!)

*Sneak in any other veggies you want your kids to eat more of – just remember to dice them up super small.


Kids: Throw all the meatball ingredients into a bowl. Get your kids to roll up their sleeves, mix the ingredients together and roll into bite-sized balls.

Grown-ups: Cook meatballs on a medium-high heat in a non-stick pan. Put meatballs to one side while you make the sauce and pasta.

Grown-ups: Brown onion and garlic in a tablespoon of oil. Add in tomatoes, tomato paste, zucchini and water and then simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Kids: Put meatballs in the sauce and gently stir together so they don’t break up. Parents to supervise the stirring process.

Grown-ups: Cook spaghetti, plate up and dollop on the meatballs and sauce.


Grown-ups: Have creative answers ready for any kid who spots a microscopic diced-up veggie and gets suspicious.