Let tweens and teens cook pasta dishes?  Yes!  That’s how

Let tweens and teens cook pasta dishes? Yes! That’s how

Fortunately, pasta is a fast food that almost always tastes better than it really is, and it’s easy for teens and tweens to cook.

Instead of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, let your kids toss a bunch of ingredients into the pasta and see which combinations become their new favorites. Just grab a pan and make a quick meal out of pantry, fridge, and freezer essentials.

Let this be a cheat sheet of simple dinner ideas (plus leftovers) that can be built around a base of pasta.

Mix and match two or three items from the following categories and you’ll have hundreds of meal plan ideas.

It all starts with pasta and sauce.

Vegan bolognese with mushrooms.  And with a little practice, fancier dishes like this could be within the reach of the tweens and teens in your household.

Let your kids experiment with different types and shapes of pasta to change the feel of the food each time.

There’s a world of noodles on the shelves, including high-fiber, whole-grain, and protein-enhanced options; chickpea, lentil, black bean and other legume pastes; and gluten-free options made with rice and corn.

Get your kids to start cooking at home

Frozen or fresh options, such as gnocchi and tortellini and ravioli stuffed with cheese or meat, can also be part of the rotation. For extremely busy days, keep a few packages of precooked pasta on hand to make meal prep even faster.

For the sauce, you can certainly make a homemade marinara, but there’s no shame in having a variety of packaged and pre-made refrigerated options on hand. And sometimes simple olive oil is all it takes to bring the food together.

Start by heating olive oil or sauce in a skillet while the pasta is boiling, then add ingredients to heat. When the pasta is ready, toss it in and serve.

Canned or jarred beans and vegetables

Chickpeas can add a nutty flavor to your teens.  and tweens' pasta masterpieces.
For pasta, stick with bean varieties that are naturally creamy and tender, like cannellini beans, butter beans, or great northern beans. Or add garbanzo beans (also called garbanzo beans), for a slightly firmer texture contrast and nuttier flavor. Drain and rinse canned beans before using to reduce sodium content.

Canned, packed in water, or marinated vegetables, such as roasted red pepper slices, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes, can give pasta a Mediterranean twist. No need to rinse here, the marinade will add more flavor.

Add frozen vegetables

Your children may be more likely to eat spinach and other healthy vegetables if they are added to the pasta dishes they are preparing.
Fresh vegetables are always fantastic. Frozen vegetables have just as many nutrients as their fresh counterparts, so you won’t miss a thing by keeping your freezer stocked with as many options as possible. Many? What if:

• vegetables like kale and spinach

• vegetable noodles made from zucchini or pumpkin, which can be mixed with pasta noodles for variety

• chopped or whole vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, and peas

• Sliced ​​wild mushrooms.

It’s also handy to have a few packets of mixed veggie mixes on hand, like Italian or Mediterranean-style combos, for nights when no one has the bandwidth to make decisions.

meaty complements

Meatballs are a classic addition to pasta for a reason: they're so good!  If fresh is too much to tackle, just thaw some frozen.

Precooked meat options or plant-based meat substitutes add more protein and flavor to pasta meals without the extra work. Well, maybe a little extra work: If you’re picking frozen meatballs, thaw them first to avoid cold centers. You may want to try:

• meatballs (based on beef or poultry)

• leftover roast chicken

• bacon

• sliced ​​sausage, fully cooked

• chopped or sliced ​​salami or ham.

Quick-cooking frozen seafood, such as shrimp or scallops, can also be tossed into the pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking.

cheese please

Bocconcini are mozzarella balls and are delicious with pasta.

Feta may be the most popular pasta cheese on TikTok, but it’s not the only cheese that elevates a pasta meal.

18 products to help you master the Mediterranean diet (CNN Underlined)

Instead of baking cheese into your pasta, add it at the last minute and let the residual heat melt the cheese slightly. Try:

• crumbled feta, gorgonzola, or fresh goat cheese

• sliced ​​or cubed soft-rind cheeses, such as brie and camembert

• small balls of mozzarella like pearls or bocconcini

• cubed smoked soft cheeses such as mozzarella or gouda.

For creamy curds like fresh ricotta or burrata, spoon or slice the cheese on top of the pasta just before serving.

Don’t forget the toppings

Ingredient time: how about grated Parmesan cheese?

Speaking of cheese, a classic aged cheese sprinkle is never a bad idea. Parmesan, Pecorino, Asiago and Grana Padano are hard, salty Italian cheeses traditionally used to top pasta.

If lactose isn’t your friend, add a variety of textures and crunch with panko breadcrumbs (regular or gluten-free) or toasted chopped nuts.

a finishing touch

After tossing the cooked noodles with their sauce and extras, add a splash of pasta water to the pan (up to 1/4 cup for every 8 ounces of pasta). Instead of making the sauce too watery, the starch dissolved in the water helps thicken the sauce so it adheres better to the pasta.

Casey Barber is a food writer, illustrator, and photographer; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and website editor Good. Meal. Stories.

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