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Toddler pushes for pasta pizza

Toddler has given a new appreciation for pasta


March 25, 2008
By J.M. Hirsch

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My toddler has given me a new appreciation for pasta.
It’s a case of convenience. He likes feeding himself and favours a
stuff-fistfuls-in-his-mouth approach. I like feeding him things he can
feed himself, especially if they come with a low risk of death by
choking.

boypizzaMy toddler has given me a new appreciation for pasta. It’s a case of convenience. He likes feeding himself and favours a stuff-fistfuls-in-his-mouth approach. I like feeding him things he can feed himself, especially if they come with a low risk of death by choking.

And so by trial and error (thankfully, none serious) we have developed a handy repertoire of child-friendly finger foods to satisfy his growing sense of independence. But that wasn’t enough.

His mother and I need to eat, too. And I refuse to cook separate meals. And we like what some would call “foreign” fare. Which means we’ve all been eating a lot of ethnic, finger-friendly, easy-to-swallow foods.

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With that many modifiers, you might think the list would be short. Hardly.

Stuffed grape leaves are a great start. Parker is old enough to pick them up whole and take bites out of them. Similarly, sushi is another hit. Although he seems hit or miss on the seaweed wrapping, Parker reliably devours whatever is inside.

And then there is pasta. Was there ever a more child-friendly food?

We usually pass on anything long and stringy, favouring heartier, easy-to-grab shapes such as whole-wheat ziti or bow ties.  Parker will eat pasta with just about anything, so it’s also a great way to work vegetables and protein into his diet.

One recipe popular in our home calls for tossing the cooked pasta with baby spinach greens, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and heaps of grated Parmesan cheese.

For something meatier, I toss the pasta with olive oil and chopped spicy soy sausage, which Parker practically inhales.

I also like turning the pasta into a pizza-like dish, as described by Rick Browne in his The Big Book of Barbecue Sides (Collectors Press). Pasta meets pizza – could there be a more perfect food?

Pasta Pizza
500 g (1 lb) ziti, rigatoni or other medium pasta shape
15 ml (1 tbsp) olive or vegetable oil
1 can (227 m/8 oz) tomato sauce
30 ml (2 tbsp) minced fresh oregano
30 ml (2 tbsp) minced fresh parsley
50 ml ( 1/4 cup) grated Romano cheese
5 ml (1 tsp) minced garlic
2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (500 ml/16 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
250 ml (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese (about 125 g/4 oz)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Spray a deep-dish pizza pan with cooking spray.

Cook pasta according to package directions, reducing cooking time by 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Add tomato sauce, herbs and Romano cheese to pasta and toss. In a medium bowl, mix garlic and red pepper flakes with crushed tomatoes and eggs. Pour this mixture over pasta and mix. Transfer pasta to prepared pan or baking dish.

Layer remaining ingredients over pasta, finishing with mozzarella. Use a flat plate or rolling pin to lightly flatten and compact vegetables and pasta.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cut pizza into wedges and sprinkle with Parmesan.•


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