Last week after school Max asked if he could help me make supper. My immediate reaction was to hold back a sigh and wonder how to let him down easy. My hubby had been away on a business trip for most of the week and I was trying to get everything ready for them, and myself, as I was leaving for Vancouver the very next morning after James arrived home. But, when I remembered that spaghetti was on the menu I thought, why not? This version of spaghetti is about as simple and quick as it can get. And, it’s a great recipe for kids to start learning how to cook.
I normally think of dinnertime as my sacred space. Some days the kids play great together all afternoon and I can whip around the kitchen undisturbed. Other days we’re all a bit tired and cranky and don’t know quite what to do with ourselves. On those days I don’t feel an ounce of guilt letting the kids watch a cartoon or two while I prep dinner. For me the mealtime prep is the calm before the messy-eating, bath-time-bathing, homework-doing, water-fetching, cuddle-cute-little-kids-in-pajamas-before-tossing-them-into-bed, storm. But, I’ve been meaning for a while now to get the kids in the kitchen with me more when I’m making dinner. They spend much more time baking with me than they do cooking and so, I gave myself a little kick in the pants and said yes. And, I’m glad I did because it ended up being a big help, rather than the hinderance I had in my mind.
We tag-teamed in the beginning – he mashed up the meat with a spoon while it cooked, I chopped the onions and garlic, he stirred in the sauce and tomatoes. And, then we let it bubble away – him stirring occasionally between mad dashes to the living room to see what his little sister was watching on tv, and I had some time to I tidy up the kitchen and prep some things for the next day. It definitely made me realize that I do need to bring them into the kitchen more, not just for baking, but for mealtime prep too. Some days it won’t be so realaxed. But, just think, in a few years, when spaghetti is on the menu, he’ll be able to make dinner all by himself. I say that’s worth it!
This makes a large batch of sauce, enough for two meals for a family of four. I had put it on the menu so that over the weekend, while I was gone, James would simply have to heat the leftover sauce and cook up some spaghetti. I think my family could eat this meal every week if I let them, but I am far to fickle to make the same recipe two weeks in a row. Lucky for them, I usually store the leftovers in the freezer, so on those days when I simply don’t feel like cooking, I pull the leftover sauce out of the freezer and hear squeals of joy in the process. I can’t really say that happens with most of my other creations on the days I don’t feel like cooking. ;)
I like to use a good quality pasta sauce with minimal ingredients and great flavour as the base for this recipe. We like to keep our spaghetti bolognese pretty simple. We use just a few spices, and no extra veggies so that the tomatoes really shine. We prefer a looser sauce that’s on the runny side. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, because the solids stay on top of the pasta, but it is runnier than it looks. This is just how we prefer to make it, but you can feel free to take this recipe and make it your own, because every family needs a simple squeal-worthy recipe for spaghetti.
I’d love to know: Do your kids help you in the kitchen with dinner? Are there any simple recipes that you make that are especially good for kids to help with?
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- ½ onion (or 1 small), diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (700ml) jar pasta sauce (use your favourite!)
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- spaghetti (whole wheat, gluten-free, whatever you prefer), cooked according to package directions
- freshly grated parmesan, for serving
- Set a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add a small bit of oil, the beef, onion, salt, and pepper. Break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened and beef is browned throughout. Add garlic cloves and cook for one minute. Stir in pasta sauce, tomatoes (with juices), basil, and oregano. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Taste and season according to preference. Serve over spaghetti, top with parmesan.