Cheesy Vegetable Pasta Bake

We've entered the 'picky toddler phase'. I used to take pride knowing that Sebastian would eat anything I put in front of him. I made a concerted effort to provide him with a wide range of foods - colors, textures, and flavors - from a young age. I thought that his love for all foods would continue throughout his toddler years and into young adulthood, but now I am skeptical. I've been reading up on picky eating, and from what I can gather, it's just a phase - which is slightly reassuring. It's mostly the textures that are throwing him off. Mixed consistencies and fibrous vegetables are very much in the - no-thank-you - category right now. And he will absolutely under no circumstance eat a vegetable. Any vegetable.

I've been reading up on picky eating, and from what I can gather, it's just a phase - which is slightly reassuring. It's mostly the textures that are throwing him off. Mixed consistencies and fibrous vegetables are very much in the - no-thank-you - category right now. And he will absolutely under no circumstance eat a vegetable. Any vegetable.

He loves fruit, dairy, carbs, and protein, but he wants them in the simplest form. Nothing fancy, and absolutely no spices. I've been trying to hide vegetables in our meals, baked and roasted to a very fine tender form, but he still seems to recognize them and quickly remembers about his dislike. People recommend pureeing them into a sauce and adding to pasta, which is something I am willing to try. I've tried adding them to smoothies, which hasn't really been a success. I'm still learning and we are trying to figure this out, but it is such a process and so exhausting. It feels like it has happened overnight.

I made this pasta bake hoping that he wouldn't recognize the vegetables hidden among the delicious cheesy sauce, and tender pasta noodles, but there is no fooling that kid. He ate the pasta, but picked out all of the vegetables including the corn. What kid doesn't like corn? Anyways, I loved it, and Brent loved it, and I had a few friends over that evening who also loved it, so Sebastian, you are out-numbered. It's a mixture of my favorite winter vegetables - mushrooms, peppers, cauliflower, kale, and frozen corn. I use this combination in almost everything I make in the winter - quiche, scrambles, quesadillas. I combined my favorite vegetables, pasta, and two cheeses. Topped with bread crumbs and baked until perfection!! It is sooo good.

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CHEESY VEGETABLE PASTA BAKE

serves 8

prep time:  20 minutes

cooking time: 50 minutes

3 tbsp canola oil

1 cauliflower, chopped

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

2 cups chopped kale

1/2 cups corn kernels

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp pepper

sauce

1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups milk

2 cups shredded cheddar

1 cup shredded gouda

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp chili flakes

12 oz dry penne pasta

1/2 cup bread crumbs

In a large frying pan, heat the oil on medium-high. Add the cauliflower and fry until soft and brown. Add the sliced mushrooms and bell pepper and fry until soft. Add the kale, corn, salt and pepper and fry until the kale is soft. Set to the side.

Preheat the oven to 400ยบF.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Let the flour and butter cook for a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk. Bring to a low simmer. Simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in the cheeses and seasonings.

Add the vegetables and pasta to a large baking dish. Toss to combine. Pour the cheese sauce into the dish. Top with breadcrumbs. Place into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and serve warm.