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Meatballs and Spaghetti with hidden vegetables for children

These tasty meatballs with spaghetti by Dinner Like a Boss Author Katy Holder will trick to kids into getting some of their 5-a-day come suppertime

Posted: 7 March 2018
by Bonita Turner
Dinner like a boss hidden veg meatballs and pasta
From Dinner Like a Boss by Katy Holder (Photography © Benito Martin)

Hidden Gem Meatballs with Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

Feeds: 4 people

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

These meatballs are one of the first answers I get from my kids to the ‘What do you want for dinner tonight?’ question. I don’t mind one bit because they are full of vegetables (the ‘hidden gem’). My kids had no idea for a long time – of course, now that they love them so much, it’s far too late to complain about the vegetables!


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, coarsely grated (see note)

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and finely grated

2 zucchini (courgettes), about 250 g (9 oz) in total, finely grated

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

600 g (1 lb 5 oz) lean minced (ground) beef

75 g (2¾ oz/1¼ cups) panko breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

700 ml (23½ fl oz) tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)

350 g (12½ oz) spaghetti or other pasta shape

50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) finely grated parmesan or tasty cheese

2 tablespoons coarsely torn basil leaves (optional)

1 Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 4–5 minutes, or until softened, then transfer them to a large bowl.

2 Using clean hands (or a clean tea towel/dish towel) squeeze out any excess liquid from the grated carrot and zucchini. Add them to the bowl along with the parsley, mustard, meat, panko breadcrumbs and egg. Season with salt and pepper (if liked). Using your hands, combine the mixture, mixing for a couple of minutes. Form the mixture into golf ball–sized meatballs. If you have time, chill them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, but this is not vital.

3 Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil for the pasta. Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan over a medium heat and add the meatballs in a single layer (or do this in two batches if necessary, but return all the meatballs to the pan when adding the passata). Cook for 4–5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the meatballs start to brown. Add the passata to the pan and shake the pan. Using a wooden spoon, carefully scrape between the meatballs to dislodge any crusty bits from the base of the pan. Turn the meatballs to coat them in the sauce, then cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10–15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.

4 Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid.

5 Stir the reserved cooking liquid into the tomato sauce. Divide the spaghetti between bowls and top with the meatballs and sauce. Scatter over the cheese and basil (if using).


These meatballs can also be baked. Once they’ve had their initial browning, transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Spoon over the sauce and turn to coat, then scatter over the cheese and bake in a 190°C (375°F) oven/170°C (340°F) fan-forced for about 15 minutes.


Dinner like a Boss roast chicken and crumble 2 course family lunch

Dinner Like a Boss by Katy Holder (Hardie Grant, £12.99) Photography © Benito Martin

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