One of the things that amazes me about young children is their incredible ability to eat anything and pretty much not gain any weight. As adults, we’re always fighting our weight and trying the next new fad to help us lose it.
One of the other things that amazes me is Emma’s insatiable affinity for pasta. If I were to consume a third of the pasta that she does, well, I just can’t even imagine what it would do to my waistline. And, 9 times out of ten when asked what Emma would like for dinner, her answer will be noodles. I suspect if given any further decision on what kind of noodles, she would request buttered or macaroni and cheese (as much as I would like to prepare every meal from scratch, I’ve been known to serve the occasional box of macaroni and cheese, supplemented with a variety of ingredients to improve its nutritional value).
To avoid the buttered noodles or macaroni and cheese, I have tried to be imaginative on how to get some variety (even if it is only to keep my sanity by not making the same thing over and over again!). When scanning a copy of Better Food for Kids, by Joanne Saab and Daina Kalnins, I came across a recipe for baked noodles that, after a few variations, turned out to be a huge hit. The recipe itself calls for egg noodles and says that it freezes well — I substitute whole wheat pasta and make it fresh every time. It’s just so easy and I can mix up what vegetables and cheese I have on hand each time.
Baked Cheesy Pasta
- 1 250g package whole wheat pasta (or whatever pasta you have on hand)
- 2 cups cheese, shredded (mozzarella, cheddar, havarti, gruyere or whatever you have on hand and your family prefers)
- 1-2 cups 1% cottage cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2-3 poached and shredded chicken thighs
- 1 1/2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
Preheat the over to 350F. Prepare the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. While the noodles are cooking, in a large bowl combine the cheese, cottage cheese, chicken, garlic, parsley and eggs. Mix well.
Pour half of the prepared pasta into the bottom of a casserole. Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper and then add the peas. Then spread the 3/4 of the cheese mixture over top of the peas. Top with the rest of the noodles and cheese. Shred some additional cheese over top to your liking. Bake for 20 minutes loosely covered and then 10 more uncovered until golden on top.
* Note: I’ve been known to add/substitute whatever else we have on hand to make this pasta, including canned tuna or salmon in place of chicken, as well as substituting in chopped spinach for the peas. In the photo, I actually used oreicchiette pasta and spinach. The opportunities are endless.