Pesto & Veggie Pasta Bake

This recipe is a new take on the old classic and timeless family favourite Mac & Cheese.

I used wholewheat pasta noodles and added veggies to pack in the nutrients. Remember that wholewheat is nutritionally superior to the white ‘nutritionally empty’ equivalents when it comes to grain choices. Wholewheat contains more fibre, minerals and vitamins that are essential for healthy bowel functioning, growth and development in little people (too many wholewheat foods can hurt little tummies too, so everything is moderation is the rule of thumb).

I used ready-made pesto sauce but if you feel the urge, whip out your food processor, go ahead and make your own (if your child has an allergy to nuts, make your own and leave the pine nuts out). Deli versions that have been freshly made tend to include less preservatives than bottled versions.

You can get as creative as you like when it comes to adding in different veggies and you could even look at adding in some protein for a meatier meal (mince meat/soy, flaked fish or chopped chicken/meat that have been pre-cooked could all work well).

*What you’ll need:

  • 4 cups wholewheat pasta noodles (I used penne noodles but any pasta will work)
  • 4 large black mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1 small red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow pepper, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 3 heaped Tbs pesto
  • 1 Tbs oregano
  • 1 Tbs parsley, finely diced
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2.5 cups milk (full fat is preferable)
  • 2 heaped Tbs flour (I used almond flour but you could use any flour)

Method: 

  • Preheat oven to 180°
  • To make the filling:
    • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions (without adding any salt), drain and set aside
    • In a medium-large sized pan, heat up the olive oil and fry the chopped onion until glassy
    • Add the mushrooms, peppers, oregano and parsley
    • Fry the mixture for around ten minutes, until the mixture catches a little and gets some colour
  • To make the sauce:
    • In a saucepan on a low heat, melt the butter (do not allow it to burn)
    • Add the flour, mixing with a whisk to get rid of the lumps
    • Slowly add the milk and the mustard powder and continue to whisk until smooth and lump-free
    • Add the grated mozzarella cheese
    • Continue to whisk thoroughly until you have a smooth mixture (no clumps of melted cheese in sight! It should more or less be the consistency of a double thick milkshake)
    • Remove from the heat
  • To assemble:
    • Place the cooked pasta into a greased oven-proof dish
    • Pour the veggie mixture on top of the noodles
    • Pour the cheese mixture over the noodles and veg
    • Spread the pesto and sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the top
    • Bake for twenty minutes or until golden brown

*Makes 10-12 portions for baby/toddler

Note:

  • This recipe may need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the above-mentioned ingredients

  • Never leave your baby or toddler unsupervised while eating

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