By Food & Wine Senior Recipe Developer Grace Parisi
I am not one to indulge picky eaters. It's probably a holdover from my childhood-the resounding "I'm not a short-order cook!" from my mother, nightly. We ate one dinner. I picked the peppers out of my frittata, stashed the tomatoes from my caprese in my napkin and snuck whatever I could to the dog. Now that I'm the family cook, my strategy is to prepare dishes everyone will be happy to eat. Sure, we have a lot of broccoli and green beans-since my kids happen to like them-and because one of my children can't bear spicy foods, the rest of us make do with hot sauce on the side. But as my kids have grown up, so have their taste buds, which is a relief beyond words. The recipes here should satisfy everyone at your table. If they don't, remember: Most kids know how to make PB&Js.
Speedy Baked Ziti
Doctoring good-quality jarred tomato sauce, like Rao's, with ground meat, onion, garlic and spices makes this ziti superfast. Try pairing this quick pasta with a tart, medium-bodied Barbera.
1 pound ziti or penne
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
One 24-ounce jar marinara sauce (3 cups)
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta (about 12 ounces)
1/2 pound packaged mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Preheat the oven to 450° and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ziti to the pot and boil until just al dente. Drain and return the ziti to the pot.
- Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes. Add the ground sirloin, crushed red pepper and paprika and season with salt. Cook over high heat, stirring to break up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the sauce to the ziti in the pot and stir to coat it thoroughly. Add the ricotta in large dollops and stir gently, leaving it in large clumps. Pour half of the ziti into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and top with half of the mozzarella and Parmigiano. Repeat with the remaining ziti and cheeses.
- Bake the ziti on the top rack of the oven for about 15 minutes, until it is bubbling and browned. Let the ziti rest for 10 minutes before serving.
The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.
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Baked Huevos Rancheros photo by Pernille Pedersen
Baked Huevos Rancheros
Traditional huevos rancheros are fried eggs served over tortillas and smothered in sauce and cheese. Here, Grace Parisi bakes eggs, tortilla chips and cheese with seasoned tomato sauce in individual gratin dishes. For more sophisticated eaters, swap pepper Jack for Monterey Jack to add a spicy kick. Get the recipe.
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Italian Wedding Soup photo by Pernille Pedersen.
Italian Wedding Soup
Grace Parisi's kids love a particular brand of canned soup filled with chicken meatballs and soggy pasta, but she prefers real minestra maritata (Italian wedding soup). She makes tiny pork meatballs and simmers them with orzo, chickpeas, spinach and parmesan. She occasionally substitutes green beans for the spinach, depending on who is at the table. Here's the recipe.