There are few foods that are as kid-friendly as pasta. And what’s not to like? It comes in a bunch of different fun shapes, it’s filling, and you can customize it with whatever kind of sauce you want. Parents love it because it’s a relatively easy and low-stress dish that the whole family enjoy, especially as the coronavirus quarantine stretches from days to weeks for most of us. While mom and dad might not be enthusiastic about a dinner of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, string cheese and Go-Gurt, we’ll happily sit down to a giant bowl of pasta you can easily whip up from non-perishables in the pantry.
But because of its wide appeal, it can be easy to get into a pasta rut. Whether it’s noodles and butter, or mac and cheese, once kids pick a favorite of something, they turn to it again and again. While it’s great that they found something they like, variety is the spice of life, and with pasta, the sky’s the limit when it comes to difference sauces, protein options, and shapes. But at the end of a long day you’re probably exhausted and may not have the brain-power to come up with a new kid-friendly pasta dish. That’s why you need to bookmark this page immediately: easy pasta recipes kids will love.
1. Easy Cheesy Veggie Pasta
Your kid probably likes pasta and cheese, but if they’re reluctant to eat their vegetables, this recipe for easy cheesy veggie pasta is perfect. It’s quick to make, delicious, nut-free, egg-free, and vegetarian. Kids will gobble it up and you’ll feel better because there is some green in their bowl.
2. Nutella Pasta
Sure, this may sound gross to you, but hear us out. Kids love pasta, and kids love Nutella, so putting them together is a winning combo. Better yet, this recipe is super easy. Literally, you just make the pasta and stir in some Nutella. That’s it. You can also add things like coconut flakes or chopped walnuts if you want to get fancy. Another option is to make a pot of spaghetti and put some plain cooked pasta aside. Make a savory sauce for dinner, and then let your kids mix in some Nutella to the plain leftover pasta. Dinner and dessert in one pot!
3. Mac & Cheese Waffles
This recipe also combines two things kids love: macaroni and cheese, and waffles. It’s basically box mac and cheese with a few simple add-ins (like more cheese!) Then mix it together, pop it in a waffle iron, and you’ll have a super-tasty special meal that the kiddos will request over and over.
4. Spaghetti & Meatball Waffles
At this point you may be sensing a theme of putting two kid-friendly foods together for one awesome dish. Because pasta is such an amazing blank slate, it allows you to put it in any form you’d like, including tacos. This simple recipe for spaghetti and meatball tacos will put a new spin on Taco Tuesday.
5. Ravioli Lasagna
Lasagna is delicious, but it’s also pretty time-consuming. That’s part of the beauty of this recipe for ravioli lasagna: there are only four ingredients which come together in no time at all, and you end up with a pan full of comfort. So grab a jar of marinara sauce, some frozen ravioli, and shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese, and you’re all set!
6. Pizza Pasta Salad
Not only does this recipe combine the two kid favorites of pasta and pizza, it’s also incredibly convenient because it can be served hot or cold. Make it for dinner one night, and then pack it up for lunches the next day. This pizza pasta salad is also a great way to add some sneaky veggies to their plate.
7. Tomato Butter Spaghetti
If you were scrolling through recipes in 2011, you probably saw a viral pasta dish made with a simple sauce mostly comprised of tomatoes, butter, and onions. We’ve tried it and can confirm that it is, in fact, delicious. We also think it would be great for kids. Even if your child isn’t usually a fan of red sauces, have them give this one a try, because it might change their mind.
8. Buttered Pasta
OK, OK, I know we said that we wanted to move past simple noodles and butter, but this recipe is next-level. Sure, the basic premise is the same (pasta + butter), but this recipe also throws in some parmesan, nutmeg, and black pepper. This means that you’ll probably want to eat this dish too, and not just scoop it into small, colorful plastic IKEA bowls for your kiddo.
9. Broccoli Pasta
If your child likes broccoli (or at least is willing to try it), this dish is a winner. It’s quick, made in a single pan, and yes, chock full o’a healthy vegetable. The winning combo of garlic, lemon, pine nuts, and cheese makes this taste like it came from a restaurant. It also calls for anchovies, which you could leave out if you have to (but they basically dissolve in the sauce and just add flavor, so your kids probably won’t notice). And again, this is another one where you could take leftovers to school or work the next day for lunch.
10. One-Pot Alfredo
Though pasta with alfredo sauce sounds like a grown-up dish, it’s essentially fancy macaroni and cheese. (If you need to sell it to your kid, that’s a good way to do it.) But as delicious as alfredo sauce is, it can also be a pain to make. That’s the beauty of this recipe: it’s all done in one pot. Better yet, you can customize this however you want, adding in some chicken or peas for variety.
11. Chicken Pesto Bowtie Pasta
Pesto is another thing that you should have your kids try at least once to see if they like it. A lot of children do, and the fact that it turns their pasta green is an added bonus. Here’s a recipe for chicken pesto bowtie pasta that’s easy to make, easy to eat (no swirling of noodles around a fork!), and really tasty.
12. Pumpkin Pasta
If you’re someone who can’t wait for PSL season, you’re going to love this recipe for pumpkin pasta. And chances are your kids will too. Because this uses canned pumpkin, you can make it year-round and don’t have to worry about it being in season. And if the idea of eating a usually-sweet food with pasta grosses you out, that’s not an issue, thanks to plenty of garlic, balsamic vinegar, and tomato paste. If you have extra sauce you can also freeze it to use later for an even quicker weeknight meal.
13. Dessert Mac & Cheese
Okay, hear us out. This is actually a delicious recipe and tastes like a yummy blueberry custard than your regular macaroni and cheese. This recipe comes from Baking Sense and delivers a creamy dessert with a crunchy topping your kids will be asking you to make again and again. Best part? You don’t have to fuss with hand mixers or the oven at all.
14. Pesto Tortelini Pasta Salad
We’re talking spinach or cheese tortellini, pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes, and a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. If you’re sending this along in a kid’s lunch box, make sure to get pesto sauce without pine nuts in it as it’s an allergen.
15. Chicken Ramen Soup
Let’s be real, who doesn’t love a good quick ramen dish? They hit you right in the sweet spot, filling you up and leaving you satisfied and smacking your lips. But indulging in 1300 milligrams of sodium for a 10 ounce Cup Noodles is not good for anyone, let alone kids. So here’s a way to control all the ingredients and make a home cooked version of chicken ramen soup in just 30 minutes. You’ll need to have ramen noodles around, but that shouldn’t be a problem, they’re in nearly every supermarket, grocery store, and bodega in the U.S. With some low sodium chicken stock, ramen noodles, and some fresh ingredients, you can have your kids smacking their lips too. At a quarter of the sodium intake.
16. Pesto Pasta
Got pasta? Good. Got a jar of pesto in the pantry? Great. Boil, mix, sprinkle with parmesan and serve.
17. Pasta Greek Salad
It’s like a Greek salad but you also got cold and fun-shaped pasta soaking up all the flavors from the feta cheese, tomatoes, red onions, olives, and cucumbers. Best of all, it’s fresh and you can use leftover plain pasta the next day.
18. No-Bake Lasagna Noodle Lasagna
So they might shake your head at you in Italy, but keeping a box of no-bake lasagna noodles at home and a box of frozen fried eggplants in the freezer means you can assemble an eggplant lasagna in the time it takes to boil water for the traditional noodles. Some sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese and a healthy dusting of parmesan later means you’re only 30 minutes away from a cheese lasagna you made “from scratch.”
19. No Sauce Pasta Bolognese
If the kids are not feeling saucy, you can toss some freshly boiled pasta with salt and olive oil and fold in a mixture of sautéed ground beef or turkey, chopped onions, and some seasonings to taste. It’s not fancy, but it’s delicious and will fill those bellies in no time.