How to plan a family-made feast, Italian style

By
Eve O'Sullivan
Added
09 May, 2016

Want to get the kids in the kitchen? Then take some advice from Elisabetta Minervini, author Mammissima, who’s shared her favourite Italian recipes that the whole family will enjoy cooking.

I love involving my children when I am in the kitchen. It helps create a bond between us and at the same time it instills in them a sense of pride and self-confidence. Moreover, it makes them understand that cooking is not difficult or something to be afraid of, but is part of a daily routine, like brushing your teeth, getting dressed or reading. This will be of great help to them when they leave home to go to university, for example, as they will be able to continue leading a healthy life. Good food habits start early, and I think that it’s important to teach your children to eat everything. The fun and pleasure of having a good meal is the key to success in teaching your children how to cook.



Roasted peppers



Our children love this recipe, and their involvement starts from the moment we step in the supermarket and they help me choose the peppers. They like the festival of colours created by this dish, which mixes yellow, orange and red peppers. Once the peppers are cooked, they help me take the skin off and remove the seeds inside, and finally season the peppers with olive oil, parsley, garlic and salt. This dish takes only 5 minutes of your time to prepare, and while the peppers are in the oven you can have a relaxing glass of wine on the sofa. They are fantastic both as an antipasto and as a side dish to accompany meat or cheese, and they can be stored in the fridge to be eaten the following day. They will be even more delicious then, as they’ll have absorbed all the flavours.



Courgette boats



I am not sure what the standard name for this dish is, but this is what I called it as a child, and we have maintained the tradition. With a healthy imagination, the courgettes on the plate could be boats waiting to sail to faraway lands – and we use cocktail sticks to create little pirate flags to be planted on deck. Courgette boats are quick and easy to prepare, and it’s almost impossible to get them wrong. Therefore they are the perfect recipe for young cooks, and also encourage children to eat their vegetables.



Pizza



Making pizza over the weekend is so much fun. The children love to roll the dough, choose the toppings and invent new shapes: flowers, butterflies, fish and owls have all made their appearance on the table at one time or another. Pizza parties with school friends are always a great success too – there’s no better way to keep children busy than getting them to bake their own pizza from scratch. If you make more dough than you need, you can always roll it into balls, wrap them in kitchen foil and put them in the freezer. The day you intend to use them, take them out of the freezer and put them on a plate at room temperature for around three hours before you start making pizza. If you are in a hurry and you can’t wait two hours for the dough to rise, just put the bowl with the kneaded dough, covered with a wet kitchen towel, in a preheated oven at 45C–50C for about 20 minutes. Your dough will then be ready for use.



Sea bass in a salt crust


This recipe is really easy to prepare, as you just need to lay the sea bass on top of baking parchment and let the children pack the fish in salt and then dig it out from the salt crust later. Cooking time is one hour, but there are always plenty of things to do in the house in the meantime, including homework.




Chocolate ‘salami’



This recipe, which takes its name from the resemblance to a salami, is ideal for private parties and guilty pleasures. And I find that children love helping crush the biscuits and mix the ingredients. If you’re uncomfortable giving your children raw eggs, you can leave out the eggs from this recipe. In that case, the mixture will be harder to work – but the chocolate salami will be easier to digest, and equally delicious.


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