By Jenny Stauffer

Since I started guest-blogging for this spot, one question I hear often is, “Do your children eat that?” And here is my take on that. I cook what I cook, and for the most part, my kids eat what we eat. I do consider my pickiest eater. But really, unless it is an obvious offender (i.e. salmon), I am not making another dinner!

I really think it is important to prepare the meal you and your husband love, and if you need to, you can adapt it to suit your kids’ taste. Take pasta. My non-picky eater-loves blue cheese, goat cheese, mayo, mustard, you-name-it. She will eat prosciutto, etc. Picky eater hates creamy anything. So, I make the pasta, and spoon some plain noodles out for her, and maybe I add some chopped deli meat to her plate to make up for the lost protein. If she doesn’t eat it, oh well! The rest of us loved our dinner! This is why I love pasta!

Love it! So I have quite an inventory of good pasta recipes. I’ll share some of my favorites with you all. I have lots more coming for spring and summer (salads!), but these are easy family-friendly recipes that we like. Happy Eating!

Spaghetti Pie

*Recipe source:  At Home Café:  Gatherings for Family and Friends by Helen Puckett DeFrance
This is very moist and tasty.  It looks like a lot of steps, but it comes together very easily.

1 lb ground beef
½ chopped onion
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
¼ cup white wine
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
s&p to taste

Spaghetti Mixture
6 oz thin spaghetti, cooked only to al dente
1 T dried basi
½ cup grated Parmesean cheese
4 T unsalted butter, softened
½ medium clove of garlic (I use the jar of prechopped)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup (or more!) shredded mozzarella cheese

To Make Filling: 
Cook beef and onion in large skillet.  Drain fat and return to pan.
Stir in tomato paste and sauce, wine and seasonings.  Heat thoroughly and then remove from heat.

To make spaghetti mixture: 
In a large bowl, toss pasta with basil. Stir in Parmesan, butter, and garlic.

To assemble pie:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a deep 10-inch pie plate.
Spread ¼ of the filling onto the bottom of the pie plate.  Press spaghetti mixture into plate to make a “crust”.  Spread ricotta cheese on crust and top with remaining filling.
Bake for 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 10 more minutes.
Cool in pan 10-15 minutes.

Pasta with Chicken, Sundried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola Recipe

Adapted from Junior League of Raleigh cookbook “You’re Invited”

½ cup chopped, drained oil-packed sundried tomatoes, 2T oil, reserved
2 boneless skinless breasts, cut into chunks
1 pound gnocchi or seashell pasta
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ c chopped fresh basil
½ cup canned low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups gorgonzola, crumbled

Heat 1 T of reserved oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.
Add chicken and sauté until cooked through.
Transfer chicken to plate.  Do not clean skillet.
Cook pasta, drain, transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 T reserved oil in same skillet.  Add garlic, sauté until tender (1 minute).
Add tomatoes, chicken, basil, broth, cheese and proscuitto to skillet and bring to boil.  Add sauce to pasta and toss with s & p.  Top with pine nuts and serve.

*The following ravioli recipes are very similar.  One being Mexican, the other two Italian.  All are super easy, so I included all three!

Tex-Mex Ravioli Bake

Recipe Source: Southern Living

1  (16-ounce) jar mild salsa
1  (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree
1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
1  (28-ounce) bag frozen cheese ravioli, unthawed
2  (19-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2  cup  chopped fresh cilantro
1  bunch green onions, thinly sliced
2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Combine first 3 ingredients. Pour 1/2 cup sauce mixture on the bottom of a lightly greased 2-quart oval or 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Top evenly with frozen cheese ravioli. Layer with black beans, chopped cilantro, green onions, and remaining sauce mixture; top evenly with shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.
Bake, covered with aluminum foil, at 350° for 45 minutes or until bubbly. Remove foil, and bake 5 more minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

Real Simple’s Ravioli Lasagna

1-24 to 26oz jar marinara sauce (I used 26oz can spaghetti sauce)
2-20oz packages refrigerated cheese ravioli (I used Buitoni 4 cheese ravioli)
1-10oz box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.
Spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9x13inch baking dish. On top of sauce, layer a third of the ravioli, half the spinach, half the mozzarella and a third of the sauce; repeat. Top with remaining third of the ravioli and sauce. Sprinkle with the Parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling, 5-10 minutes.

Real Simple’s Ravioli

Another ravioli meal.  This may look boring and bland, but I promise it tastes like a restaurant-quality meal.  My meat-eating husband does love this, and my kids do, too!

1 14-15 oz pkg refrigerated ravioli
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
s&p to taste
¼ cup parmesean

Heat oil.  Add walnuts and garlic until lightly browned
Add cooked pasta, lemon juice and season to taste.  Top with Parmesan cheese.

Other quick ideas:
*Tortellini or ravioli with favorite tomato or alfredo sauce.  Likewise, can toss with olive oil, salt, and cheese.
*Stir fry some frozen veggies, add soy sauce and serve over pasta.
*Boil shaped pasta and toss with pizza sauce.  Add cheese and pepperoni, if desired.

Once again, everything sounds fantastic! Can’t wait to try these recipes for the family. We are big pasta lovers too! – Katie