At long last, I’m sharing the recipe I’ve probably made the most since Adriana started eating solids (which somehow feels like forever ago and just yesterday at the same time). I’ve had so many requests for this recipe, but never got around to sharing it because it would always be devoured right away, leaving no time for photos. Last week, I finally made it in the morning so I’d have a bit of time to snap a few shots.
I use the term “recipe” lightly here because I never measure the ingredients for this pasta; not having to measure anything is part of its beauty and ease. I measured it here so you can get a feel for it, but once you do, I encourage you to throw caution to the wind and wing it! It’s really hard to mess up. You can often find me glugging marinara, spooning hummus, and dumping hemp hearts with abandon into the cooked pasta. The quicker the better, especially when there’s a hangry toddler screaming “Paaaaaaaasta!” at your feet.
Not only is this pasta fast and delicious, it packs in tons of protein, fibre, and healthy fats. You can also change it up and customize it so many different ways—I’ve provided a few ideas in the recipe, but I’d love to hear what you come up with, too!
I’ve been hesitant to share “toddler-friendly” recipes on here because I’ve learned a few things about feeding a toddler: 1) what they claim to love and hate changes by the day (or minute), 2) toddler likes and dislikes are not one size fits all, and 3) the food my daughter loved at one year old (virtually everything!) is certainly not what she loves at two years old (this age is much more hot and cold, as she loves to assert her independence). It’s not uncommon for me to think I’ve found a foolproof toddler-friendly recipe to share with you, only for it to then be rejected for a month straight. (And I once read that a little one often needs 20 exposures to the same food before they take to it, too.) Luckily, my dear recipe tester, Nicole, runs a daycare and she shares most of my recipes with her daycare children, which gives me a much better idea whether a recipe will be, generally speaking, a winner. I’m happy to say this one was enjoyed!
Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have a mix of “my baby/toddler/kid loved this” and “my kiddo only ate one bite” in the comments—that’s just the nature of the beast. (And by “beast” I mean toddler, in a sometimes cute/sometimes scary kinda way…am I right?) But my hope is that some of you will be able to fall back on this recipe as often as we do. I don’t know what I’d do without it as it’s just so easy. Oh, and yes, us adults like it too, so even if you don’t have kids you may want to give it a try on those busy, too-tired-to-cook weeknights. It’s great paired with a simple side salad and Lemon-Tahini Dressing, which can be thrown together while the pasta cooks.
I’ve made this pasta countless times for our family; it’s hard to beat how fast and nutritious it is, and it can be changed up so many ways. It packs in around 20 grams of protein and 11 grams of fibre per (adult-size) serving (depending on which kind of pasta you use, of course—see my notes), not to mention healthy fats from the hemp hearts. My advice if you’re in a rush is to start heating up the water first, before you gather any other ingredients, as it can take some time for the water to come to a boil. If you happen to have a batch of my Fail-Proof Marinara Sauce from Oh She Glows Every Day (p. 175) on hand, it works wonderfully in this dish. Of course, store-bought marinara works just as well, too.
For the pasta:
- 1 box (340 g/12 ounces) rotini or fusilli pasta*
- 2 cups (500 mL) marinara sauce
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup (80 mL to 125 mL) hummus
- 1/4 cup (35 g) hemp hearts
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Frozen peas or other veggies**
- Cooked lentils or beans
- Fresh spinach or basil, minced in food processor
- Puréed cooked carrots or cauliflower***
- Add water into a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. While you are waiting for it to boil, gather the rest of the ingredients. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, add the pasta, and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, stirring every now and then to prevent the pasta sticking.
- Drain the cooked pasta well and place it back into the pot. Stir in the marinara, hummus, and hemp hearts until combined. Taste and add a bit of salt or other mix-ins if desired.
- Heat over low until warmed throughout. If serving this pasta to a little one, spread a scoop of pasta out on a plate to gently cool it before serving.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple days. To reheat, add the pasta into a pot along with a bit of extra marinara sauce (this adds moisture back) and stir to combine. Heat over medium-low heat until warmed throughout.
* I typically use whole-grain kamut pasta. And sometimes, I mix in a bit of red lentil pasta for a protein boost. Feel free to use any kind of pasta you and your family enjoy!
** To quickly thaw frozen peas, add them to the pot during the last minute or two of cooking the pasta.
*** When I have time, I love to steam or boil carrots (or cauliflower) and then purée them until smooth. Then I stir the puréed veggies directly into the pasta. It’s an easy way to add even more nutrition without impacting the flavour too much.
This pasta goes lovely with a simple side salad and garlic bread. If your little one isn't a salad fan, try giving them small lettuce leaves for dipping into the dressing.