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PASTA BAKE

A pasta bake is a classic midweek family meal, as it is cheap and easy to put together, and usually goes down well with everybody! We’ve brought together some expert tips and simple steps to take your pasta bakes from good to great.

Why is a pasta bake so great?

Pasta bakes are simple, cheap and delicious, and they lend themselves well to making a big batch for future meals.

Veg makes a great addition to pasta bakes, particularly for fussier eaters as the sauce provides lots of flavour and the veg is more likely to be accepted.

Pasta bakes also keep well, so you can make it the day before and cover and chill (or freeze) until you are ready to stick it in the oven to heat through and serve, making it a great meal for busy nights.

We’ve got you covered for lasagne [add link] and mac ‘n’ cheese [add link], but for a more generic pasta bake, this is the place to start.

Use the basic recipe, small tweaks and tips below to take your pasta bakes from good to better!

How are your pasta bake skills?

Getting
started

I’m just starting out.

Next
Level

I’m ready to take it to the next level.

Engaging
Kids

How can I get my kids involved and interested?

Getting Started

Pasta bakes are simple, cheap and delicious, and they lend themselves well to making a big batch for future meals.

Veg makes a great addition to pasta bakes, particularly for fussier eaters as the sauce provides lots of flavour and the veg is more likely to be accepted.

Here is a simple recipe for a pasta bake which you can use as a base and build on over time…

Pasta Bake

Claire Wright

Effort:
Complexity:
Cost:

Ingredients:

Meat/veggie alternative, if using*

Pasta

Jar of sauce (usually tomato)

Grated cheese

Share:

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C/gas 5.

  2. Cook the meat/veggie alternative according to pack instructions (usually just a case of frying in a little oil until browned and cooked all the way through).

  3. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but cooking for 1-2 mins less (usually just boiling for 10 mins or so) then drain.

  4. Add pasta to a casserole dish along with the meat (if using) and sauce, stir well and top with some grated cheese. Bake in the oven for 20-30 mins, until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling.

*You don’t need to add meat/fish or a veggie alternative to a pasta bake, but if you want to, you can use most here – perhaps try starting with chicken breast pieces, a few sausages chopped into bite-size pieces, a tin of tuna or sardines, or some beef or veggie mince

There is no need to go any further with this recipe until you are confident with it and feel up for the next step, but if you want to add some veg straightaway, see our tips below for ideas of where to start.

Feeling ready? Let’s see how you can get your next small victory without battles…

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Engaging Kids

Engaging Kids

Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating.

Kids in the kitchen

Kids in the kitchen

The eventual aim, if possible, is to get kids in the kitchen. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to mean they are with you from start-to-end creating mess and rising stress levels! It can be as simple as giving them one small job (stirring, measuring, pouring, grating, chopping…) ideally involving veg. They can come in to do their little bit, and have fun with you for a few minutes. Getting them involved, making it playful and praising them plenty for their involvement, perhaps even serving it as dinner they “made”, makes it much more likely they will eat the food offered, not to mention teaching them important life skills. Find ideas, safety tips, videos and even a free chart in our Kids in the Kitchen section here.

Activities

Activities

While getting kids to interact with veggies for real and using their senses to explore them is best, encouraging hands off activities like arts & crafts, puzzles & games or at-home science experiments can be a great start, particularly for those who are fussier eaters or struggle with anything too sensory. Use these veg-themed activities as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. We have loads of crafty downloads here, puzzles here, and quirky science with veg here.

Sensory

Sensory

Once you feel your child is ready to engage a little more, you can show them how to explore the veg you have on hand with their senses, coming up with playful silly descriptions of how a veg smells, feels, looks, sounds and perhaps even tastes. Find ideas, videos and some simple sensory education session ideas to get you started here.

Serving

Serving

The moments before food is offered can be a perfect opportunity for engagement that can help make it more likely a child will eat it! Giving children a sense of ownership in the meal can make a big difference to their feelings going into it and the pride they take in it. You know your child best, but if you aren’t sure where to start, we have some fun and simple ideas for easy roles you can give them in the serving process over here.

NEXT LEVEL

I Want To Improve My Pasta Bake

If you are feeling confident with your favourite pasta bake recipe, but you’re wondering if there are some small tweaks you could make for the better, this is for you.

We’ve outlined some simple stages for continually improving on a basic pasta bake to get you from good to great. Find where you feel your current recipe sits and see if the next step is something you could aim for. You don’t have to go any further, but if you choose to, make sure you are feeling confident with this new stage before you try the next one.

And remember, the MOST important thing is that the family enjoys the meal! These changes and swaps can take as long as is needed if your family isn’t ready for big changes all in one go. Small simple improvements over time may not even be noticed.

engaging kids

Play is essential!

Think of children helping in the kitchen as a role play game with plenty of fun for maximum effect. One of the best ways to develop a love of veg in kids is to get them involved in the prep of the veg. Not only is cooking an essential life skill for kids to learn, but it’s a great, fun way to get them engaging with healthy foods!

DO you have a question you’d like one of our experts to help you with?
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