Getting kids into the kitchen is one of the easiest and most fun ways to get them excited about cooking and eating better. That’s why Chef Dan Long, MAD Greens Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Inventor, has come up with some easy-to-prep and prepare recipes that are great for busy families who may not always have a ton of time to make a healthful meal.
The dish below is designed to be easy – incorporating a pre-made sauce base that saves time during the cooking process. The sauce can be made in advance and portioned out to be used in various recipes throughout the week.
“In addition to being easy to prepare, another goal with this dish was to incorporate vegetables in a fun and tasty way to help get kids excited about what they’re eating,” says Long. “The recipe can be used as a starting point for both kids and adults to play around with. Feel free to change up the ingredients to match the taste preferences of everyone in the family.”
Weeknight Kale and Italian Sausage Pasta
This pasta dish combines fun-shaped noodles (seriously, who doesn’t smile when they scoop up a spoonful of farfalle noodles?), a hearty dose of Tuscan Kale and a delicious homemade pasta sauce and makes any weeknight meal just a little more awesome. Enjoy!
1/2 lb. Pasta – farfalle or another interesting shape
1/3 lb. Mild Italian sausage – you can substitute spicy sausage
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as black or lacinato kale) – cut into ½ inch strips. Discard the stems
1 ½ c. Dan’s homemade pasta sauce (recipe below) or whatever pre-made pasta sauce you have on hand
1 c. Reserved pasta cooking water
Parmesan – to taste
3-4 leaves Basil – cut into very fine slivers
- Start cooking pasta according to directions on package.
- While pasta is cooking, break apart sausage and cook in a large saute pan. Once sausage is nicely browned and cooked through, add kale. Cook until kale starts to wilt and then add about ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid.
- Add tomato sauce, allow to come to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer.
- When pasta is done, reserve ½ cup of the water and then drain the pasta. Add the pasta and reserved water to the sausage and kale. Mix everything together until pasta is well coated. There should not be much (if any) loose sauce in the pan.
Top with freshly grated Parmesan and basil. Serves 4.
Chef Dan’s Zesty Homemade Tomato Sauce
This flavorful tomato sauce can be used as the staple ingredient in several recipes. It is a base that can be made in advance, frozen and subsequently used for several different dishes over time.
4 Cans “San Marzano” style whole peeled tomatoes – drain off the juice
2 Onions – medium dice
4 Cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 tsp. Salt
1.2 tsp. Fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. Dried oregano
4-5 Sprigs fresh thyme
1 TBS. Balsamic vinegar
1 TBS. Honey or agave – adjusted to taste
- Over medium heat cook onions until they start turning translucent.
- Add garlic, let cook an additional 1 min. Add tomatoes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients.
- Let cook for 2 hours over very low heat the sauce should be barely bubbling. Stir occasionally to keep the sauce from burning.
After the sauce is cooked you can use an immersion blender to make the sauce smooth or you can leave it as is. This is entirely a personal preference. Use within 3-4 days or freeze.
About Chef Dan
Chef Dan Long is the Co-Founder and Chief Culinary Innovator at MAD Greens. Long and business partner Marley Hodgson founded Colorado-based Mad Greens – Eat Better in 2004. They were intent on addressing the lack of fresh, fast and healthy fare available to the average American consumer.