Over the summer we travelled to France by ferry. Sam was very impressed with the pasta box which we bought in the on-board restaurant. Since he so rarely enjoys tomato-based sauces, I did my very best to re-create it once we got back home.

We call it ferry-box pasta because we bought it on the ferry, and it was served in a box.

Obviously the idea behind cutting up the vegetables so small is to cunningly disguise them. I like to keep a few vegetables big enough to pick out so the children have the illusion of control.


  • olive oil for frying
  • 1/4 onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp demerara sugar
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 chicken breast, chopped
  • about 5 small brown mushrooms – finely diced, but keep a couple to one side and cut them into bigger chunks
  • 1/4 courgette, very finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely diced
  • 200ml passata
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • a sprinkle of herbes de Provence
  • a handful of pitted black olives
  • 200g pasta (dry weight)
  • some chopped parsley and basil

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Meanwhile, fry the onion over a low heat, until it begins to caramelise. Add the demerara and balsamic vinegar and turn up the heat a little.

Remove the onions from the pan. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until browned.

Now add the mushrooms, courgette and garlic. Cook until they too are nicely browned. Return the onions to the pan.

Add the passata and chicken stock. Reduce. Throw in a handful of olives.

When the pasta has cooked, drain and stir it into the pan with the sauce.

Sprinkle over some chopped parsley and basil.