If you’re looking to shake up dinnertime and get your kids more interested in food, think about hiring yourself a pint-sized sous chef to help in the kitchen. Cooking with our kids is not only a fun and rewarding experience, but it can be an empowering, educational, and confidence-building activity for them too.
In this first installment, we tackle the long-standing classic and favorite of families the world over: lasagna. So don your aprons big and small, grab your spatulas, and away we go.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 medium carrot
1 large onion
1 celery stalk
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6oz can tomato paste
Splash of red wine vinegar
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
Handful of fresh basil leaves
1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the meat. Break it up with a spatula, then let it brown as you prepare the vegetables.
Let your mini-chef peel the carrot as you roughly chop the onion and celery, then add onion, celery, carrot and garlic cloves to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped (button duty ranking high in kitchen honors for the little ones) or skip the food processor and finely chop the vegetables yourself.
Add chopped vegetables to the pan along with the oregano, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar, and stir well to combine.
Simmer gently for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened and meat is cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. Cut the zucchini into thin strips lengthwise (if you have a Y-shaped peeler, this is a good job for careful kids). Set aside.
Place the ricotta cheese in a large bowl and have your mini-chef stir it vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the beaten egg, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Grease a deep square or rectangular baking dish (9” x 13” works well), then spoon in 1/3 of the meat sauce. Have your kids lay down a layer of the noodles, snapping them to fit (tell them it’s like a puzzle!). Spoon over 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, then sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella on top. Ask your child to lay down the zucchini strips however they like: side by side or overlapping is fine as long as they are mostly spread out. Repeat another two times with the remainder of the meat sauce, noodles, ricotta and cheese (reserving ½ cup of mozzarella). Have your little ones spread the basil leaves on top in the design of their choice, then sprinkle the remainder of the mozzarella on top.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes until piping hot and cooked through. Remove foil and bake for an extra 10 minutes to brown the top. Remove from oven, let it sit for 15 minutes, then serve to your hungry kitchen staff with a green salad on the side. Buon appetito!
More Feeding the Family Ideas:
(Note: If you’d rather cook a vegetarian version, just omit the sausage and cook the marinara sauce according to the rest of the recipe.)