Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Bake

A small shell pasta (such as orecchiette) topped with creamy vegan ricotta and marinara sauce makes a toddler-friendly alternative to large stuffed shell pasta.

Ingredients:

For the ricotta:

  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

For the remaining ingredients:

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 (16-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup vegan Parmesan shreds
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar marinara sauce
  1. To prepare the ricotta, combine the tofu, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic powder in a blender; process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. To prepare the pasta, cook the orecchiette according to package directions. Drain and transfer to the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Set aside
  3. Meanwhile, steam the spinach for about 2 minutes, until wilted, then drain and chop.
  4. In a bowl, stir together the spinach, prepared ricotta, vegan Parmesan, and nutmeg. Spoon the ricotta mixture over the pasta, then top evenly with the marinara sauce.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Serve with a green salad to complete the meal!

Tofu Pasta Shell Casserole

I love jumbo stuffed pasta shells, but the effort of making them is wasted on my kids since I just need to cut the pasta into smaller pieces. This recipe relies on small pasta shells instead, for a kid-friendly riff on a grown-up favorite.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons olives oil
  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 (16-ounce) package shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup minced artichoke hearts
  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and zucchini; saute for 3 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and cook for 10 minutes, until heated through; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions; set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the minced artichokes, tofu, and nutritional yeast; mash with a fork until crumbly.
  4. Spoon about 1/2 cup sauce into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Top with the pasta, followed by the tofu mixture, and add the remaining sauce on top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Pesto Penne Salad

Penne Pasta SaladFile this recipe under quick and easy. It’s equally delicious served warm, cold, or at room temperature!

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (12-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 cup vegan pesto
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, and pesto, tossing to coat.

Pizza Pasta

Pizza Pasta

Combine two kid favorites (pizza and pasta!) in this quick meal. I had originally intended to use wagon wheel pasta, but opted for sea-themed shapes instead, like boats and sea horses. Any fun-shaped pasta adds to the dish’s whimsy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (8-ounce) package button mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces fun-shaped pasta
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded non-dairy mozzarella
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to the bowl with the mushrooms.
  3. Add the sauce and mozzarella, stirring to combine.

Butterfly Pasta Salad

Butterfly Pasta Salad (1)

Butterfly-shaped farfalle pasta add a whimsical touch to this easy lunch. With my son home from in-person school by lunchtime now, we’ll be making lots of new midday recipes in the weeks to come!

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1/2 cup vegan Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Combine the pasta and water in a large skillet. Bring to a boil; continue to cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.
  2. Add the mixed vegetables, Parmesan, and olive oil, stirring to combine. Let cool before serving.

Ooey Gooey Noodle Worms

Ooey Gooey Noodle Worms (3)

I love activities that introduce new textures to a toddler, even if they might seem a little gross to us grown-ups. Veronika has no qualms about getting her hands dirty, so on today’s menu was mud worms!

I cooked up a batch of linguine for the “worms”, and then placed them on a shallow tray that we could take out to the patio. Now we just needed to bury them in “dirt” a.k.a. chocolate pudding.

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She gleefully began scooping through, using both fingers and a sand shovel

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In retrospect, I would have used a lot more pudding and a lot fewer “worms”, as this wasn’t really hunting or digging. We just had lots of worms crawling all over the tray! But of course the pretend play was a bit advanced for her anyway, and she loved scooping.

Ooey Gooey Noodle Worms (1)

We got our fingers in the mixture together and used words like “slimy” and “goopy” as we played.

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When the noodles landed on the patio, they did sort of look like little worms after a rainstorm.

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Then Veronika decided it was even more fun to scoop them up from the tray and toss them on top of other items on the patio.

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Admittedly that made clean-up a little tougher, but she was having so much fun I didn’t stop her! All in all this was good gooey fun.

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Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese (2)

I wish I could claim there was some secret, healthy ingredient in this homemade mac ‘n’ cheese. But nope. This is pure comfort food, and sometimes that’s exactly what the family needs.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 cups shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon yellow mustard
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk until combined. Add the soy milk and cook for about 2 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken.
  3. Stir in the cheese and continue to cook over low heat until the cheese becomes melty. Stir in the pasta, salt, black pepper, and yellow mustard.

Macaroni and Cheese (1)

Noodle Knowledge

Noodle Knowledge (2)

Travis’s latest Raddish Kids included this cute lesson, a chance to learn more about noodles and pasta – and the difference between them!

To start things off, I set out a station where he could explore a wide variety of pasta shapes and sizes.  Our array included: rotini, cavatappi, spaghetti, elbow macaroni, small shells, and penne.

Noodle Knowledge (3)

I challenged him to talk about the differences and similarities that he noticed. Some were long (spaghetti), some were short (cavatappi). Some were straight (penne), some were curly (rigatoni), etc.

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This is a fun chance to introduce your kids to the idea of a Venn diagram, showing how categories can overlap. Older kids, especially, might enjoy drawing detailed diagrams, although we kept ours simple.

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Once the exploration was done, we set up a game! Travis’s goal was to match up each pasta shape with its name, using yarn to connect them. This was also great for sight-reading!

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He was so into it that he wanted to snack on cooked spaghetti. This made for the perfect nosh while we watched a few suggested videos that delved deeper into the history of pasta.

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Make sure to check out a world map for a visual of key countries, like China and Italy.

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We had to finish with fun stories, of course. Raddish suggested The Great Pasta Escape by Miranda Paul and Noodle Magic by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, among others.

Noodle Knowledge (1)

I was surprised to see no mention of Strega Nona, the most classic spaghetti story I can think of, so we added that in. Afterwards, both kids wanted to play “Strega Nona” with a magic pot and leftover dry spaghetti, which was perhaps the best part of the whole lesson.

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Broccoli with Meatless Crumbles & Rigatoni

Broccoli Rigatoni a

This hearty recipe makes enough for the whole family, one of those rare gems that pleases kids and adults equally.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 8 ounces meatless crumbles (such as Gardein)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Non-dairy Parmesan cheese sprinkles
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the meatless crumbles in a skillet for about 5 minutes, until browned. Transfer to the bowl with the pasta.
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the broccoli, water, and bouillon cube; simmer for 8 minutes, or until the broccoli is very tender. In the last minute, stir in the basil and parsley.
  5. Add the broccoli mixture to the pasta mixture, and stir to combine.

We like this topped with the Parmesan shreds from Follow Your Heart!

Broccoli Rigatoni b

Creamy Pasta with Broccoli and Chick’n

Creamy Pasta Version 2

The kids loved a recent creamy pasta recipe, so I mixed things up with this variation to keep it novel. You can use all broccoli, all cauliflower, or a mix of the two.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy ranch dressing
  • 3 tablespoons oat milk
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 14/ teaspoon mustard
  • 2 cups cooked rotini pasta
  • 1 cup cooked and finely chopped broccoli and cauliflower florets
  • 4 ounces cooked and finely chopped Gardein chick’n strips
  1. Whisk together the mayonnaise, dressing, milk, vinegar, and mustard in a large bowl.
  2. Add the cooked pasta, broccoli/cauliflower, and chick’n, stirring to coat. Serve warm or chilled!

For a Mediterranean spin on the pasta, omit the broccoli and chick’n, and instead stir in 1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup sliced black olives, and 1/2 cup cooked zucchini (or summer squash).

Creamy Mediterranean Pasta