Trying to come up with fun and easy lunches during the school year can feel like hitting a series of dead ends that circle you right back around to the trusty options your kid will enjoy for a few weeks before resisting out of sheer boredom. As parents, we’d love to send them off with lunchboxes packed with gourmet delights that excite them, but who has time to prepare anything beyond the basics?
Leave it to Catherine McCord, mom of three, cookbook author and founder of Weelicious and One Potato, to come to the rescue. The two recipes McCord shares here, Spaghetti and Meatball Muffins and Grilled Pizza Roll Ups, are jazzed-up takes on familiar, kid-friendly dishes — but they are twists that I, for one, would never have even thought to cook up. McCord says the muffins one will blow our minds and are perfect for kids and adults. The end result looks like hors d’oeuvres worthy of a fancy dinner party spread. McCord says that what sets this recipe apart from traditional spaghetti and meatballs dishes are three secret ingredients created by Gourmet Garden, including its roast garlic stir-in paste and lightly dried herbs (used here). “They’re lifesavers for any home cook and add endless flavor to dishes,” she says.
The Pizza Roll Ups are perfect for the family that loves the idea (and taste) of homemade pizza but have no time for such luxury. “My kids would live on pizza and grilled cheese if we let them, so why not mix it up to create this lively mash up,” McCord says.
Spaghetti and Meatball Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min
1/2 pound ground turkey, light or dark meat
1/2 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden lightly dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Gourmet Garden lightly dried parsley, plus additional to sprinkle on top
1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden roast garlic stir-in paste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, whisked and divided
1/3 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Place first 9 ingredients (using only 1 egg, whisked) in a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, roll 1 tablespoon of turkey mixture into balls. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the turkey meatballs for 5 minutes or until golden on the outside. Boil the spaghetti al dente according to package directions, drain, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cool thoroughly.
Toss the spaghetti and remaining whisked egg in a bowl to combine. Divide the spaghetti between 12 regular muffins cups (about 1/4 cup each) and press down to make nests. Place a meatball into each spaghetti nest, top with 1 tablespoon marinara sauce and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.Remove spaghetti nests from oven, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese and bake for 5 minutes or until pasta starts to become golden and cheese has fully melted. Sprinkle with reserved lightly dried parsley and serve.
Grilled Pizza Roll Ups
Makes 4 roll ups
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 5 min
4 slices sandwich bread
4 mozzarella cheese sticks or 1/2 cup grated mozzarella
4 pepperoni, diced optional
1/2 cup marinara sauce, warmed
1 tablespoon butter
Cut the crusts off the bread. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pieces of bread until flat. Place a cheese stick or 2 tablespoons of cheese on the edge of the bread closest to you and add the diced pepperoni, if desired. Tightly roll up the bread, pressing the seam end down to adhere.
Heat butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the roll ups seam side down for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Continue sautéing the roll ups on each side until golden all over.
Cut each roll up into 4 “sushi rolls” and serve with marinara sauce.
For more great school lunch ideas, check out Weelicious’s school lunches section.