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Next Steps Pasta Bake

Claire Wright

In season now


Meat/veggie alternative, if using* (try to use a little less than you usually would)

1 tin of beans or lentils

Pasta (about 50g dried pasta per person)

500g homemade tomato sauce or 1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes or 1 jar/pack of passata (500-700g)

aim for 1-2 handfuls of veg per person

Grated cheese (one small handful per person)


We suggest you do this in stages, slowly, and go as far as works for your family, here’s how your final recipe might come together…


  1. Preheat oven to 190C/gas 5.

  2. Cook the meat/veggie alternative (if using) according to pack instructions (usually just a case of frying in a little oil until browned and cooked all the way through).

  3. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but cooking for 1-2 mins less (usually just boiling for 8 mins or so) then drain.

  4. Add pasta to a casserole dish along with the meat (if using) and 1 tin of beans or lentils (butter/cannellini/kidney beans or green lentils are especially great here) and sauce, any frozen veg or cooked fresh veg (or leftover ones!), stir well and top with some grated cheese. Bake in the oven for 20-30 mins, until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling.

  5. If you are using fresh veg, try to cook it first (perhaps with the meat if you are cooking some) until it is softened. Great choices are: diced carrots, celery and/or onion, sliced mushrooms, sliced peppers, diced sweet potato or squash, diced aubergine or courgette… Alternatively, you could stir through some fresh leafy greens like spinach or kale with the sauce before baking!

  6. If using frozen veg, you can usually get away with just chucking it in before stirring and baking! Try: peas, sweetcorn, mixed veg, Mediterranean veg, sliced carrots, sliced peppers, sliced mushrooms, shredded cabbage, green beans, broad/edamame beans, diced sweet potato or squash, broccoli florets (defrost these first as they might take longer to cook otherwise)…

*You don’t need to add meat/fish or a veggie alternative to a pasta bake, but if you want to, you can use most here – perhaps try starting with chicken breast pieces, a few sausages chopped into bite-size pieces, a tin of tuna or sardines, or some beef or veggie mince

Engaging Kids

Engaging Kids

Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating. Find out more here.

Kids in the kitchen

Kids in the kitchen

Get younger kids mixing the sauce and cooked pasta together, helping you grate the cheese and scattering over the pasta, and chucking a couple of handfuls of your chosen veg into the pan.

Older kids might be ready to learn how to chop some fresh veg to add at the start of the meal, boil the kettle and cook the pasta, and help you stir all the hot ingredients together!

Master these skills:

Washing hands,  Weighing,  Tasting,  Mixing


Use arts & crafts as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. While you make your pasta bake, why not set a child up with:

Tomato Veg Crown

Tomato – Cutout ‘n Colour

Tomato – Evil Inside!

Tomato – Squash ‘Em!

Tomato – Totally Blitzed!

Find more arts & crafts and puzzles & games on our website.



Why not start with a couple of slices of carrot and get them to describe what how they sound – does it remind them of anything? Maybe it sounds like giant footsteps or an axe chopping wood. If they take a bite with headphones on does it become louder? If they won’t put it in their mouths, can they snap it with their hands close to their ear to hear it? See if they want to chuck some into the pasta bake after having engaged with them.

Watch Ruth Platt’s video on sensory activities with carrots for more inspiration, or get more tips, games and videos over on our Sensory page.



Why not let your child help you meal plan? Let them pick out the veg they want to buy to add to the pasta bake, and the flavour of the sauce so they feel it is their meal. See if they want to help you with the shopping, too. Make sure to praise them for their choices when it comes to making and serving the meal, it may encourage them to eat it as they take ownership!

Get more ideas over on our Roles for Kids page.

Claire Wright

Editor: After leaving Exeter University with a degree in English Literature, Claire worked in various fields ranging from youth work and charities to publishing, before starting up a food-focused website when her first child was born. After being asked to project manage the publication of Veg Power's Crowdfunder book, Claire came on board as a fully-fledged team member in 2018 to take on the role of Communications Manager, then Editor, looking after Veg Power's website, content, recipes and social media platforms.

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