Bite-Sized: Making School Lunch Pasta with your Kids


Pasta Primavera. By Jeremy Keith (Flickr: Pasta primavera) (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

LIZ WILLIAMS

 

When my children were in school, school lunch was pretty dreadful.  Remember mystery meat? So I sent them to school with a home-packed lunch. We often made use of leftovers. We made PB & J when we were in a hurry. We also concocted various versions of pasta with vegetables. The kids liked this, and I would even get comments from teachers who wanted their own containers of pasta for lunch.

In order for the pasta not to be refrigerator-cold when it was eaten, I would cook it in the morning. Usually we would make fusilli because it was easy to eat – no twirling required. The kids and I would stand in front of the refrigerator and decide what veggies to throw into the pasta.  Usually it would include cherry or grape tomatoes if we had them. We would add sliced mushrooms, sliced bell peppers, peas, a few spinach leaves or basil leaves, and maybe some nuts. We put all of this into bags or plastic containers. We’d pour in a bit of olive oil, pull a few parsley leaves, and add grated cheese. Opening the container would allow the smell of the cheese to waft around the cafeteria.

The kids could carry plastic forks and have a tasty meal that would benefit from  whatever tumbling occurred in their backpacks. It contained no meat or fish that might not really have been safe for lunch to remain unrefrigerated until it was time to eat it.  If there was salami, thought, I would often throw in a bit for extra flavor. They never seemed to have a problem with food safety.

When we were home together, this was also a great lunch to fix and eat together anytime. We would prepare it to use up the little bits of things left in the refrigerator. At home we could use linguine or vermicelli. We could use butter instead of olive oil. If there were leftover shrimp, bits of eggplant or olives, they would all wind up in this dish.  If the ingredients lent themselves to it, we could make this a sort of pasta primavera with a hint of cream.  If there were lots of tomatoes, we would go that way.  Even though soup has been a traditional way to use up leftovers, this pasta dish was quicker. Chopped parsley and cheese will unify anything.

fusilli
Fusilli, Ralf Pfeifer at German Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons

School Lunch Pasta

MAKES 2 “LUNCH” PORTIONS

  • 4 ounces uncooked fusilli
  • 1 quart of salted water
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Your choice of leftovers, pantry and refrigerator items  such as:
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Nuts, such as pinenuts, walnuts, pistachios, toasted slivers of almonds
  • Olives, capers, or other briny addition
  • Oil-packed tuna
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Green, leafy vegetables such as fresh spinach or chiffonade of kale
  • Roasted sweet pepper strips
  • Beans such as cannolini beans or chickpeas
  • Chopped celery, chopped onion, grated carrot, etc
  • Chopped herbs  such as parsley, basil, and chives
  • A generous grating of good Italian cheese

Bring the salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook according to package instructions.

Drain and immediately toss with olive oil.
Toss together the pasta and the vegetables.
Grate a healthy amount of cheese onto the pasta mixture.
Add more salt or pepper according to your taste.

Divide into two containers for lunch.

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