Angela & Erica
If your house is anything like mine your weeknight dinners (and let’s face it weekends are no better) are spent rushing to get dinner on the table while doing homework only to argue with your kids over what they are NOT eating. My kids are definitely not big eaters but there are a few meals that I can always count on that will have them eating, not complaints from my husband and actually leaves me time to eat too!
An All-Time favorite in our house is Mini Cheese Ravioli in Fresh Tomato Marinara served with Garlic Bread and Cucumber and Tomato Salad. Sounds time consuming right??? Trust me its not...but it’s okay to milk it a little! My kids love what we call “a pot of gravy”, which is just sauce and meatballs...but only my mother would take the hours to make that on a Tuesday! I’ve simplified this into a light and easy marinara.
Photo: One of our tomato plants this year grown from seeds in late March...looks like its doing well!!!
First thing I do is turn the pot on medium high and drizzle a little bit of olive oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom). Then I chop about 1-2 cloves of garlic depending on the size (or preference), add that to the pot and stir for a minute or so until the garlic is ready (you’ll know from the smell). Now for my secret ingredient...Fresh Tomatoes!!! The kids and I grow a vegetable garden in the spring and summer and we have an abundance of all different types of tomatoes that will last us through Halloween! Growing the garden is so much fun for the kids and you’ll be amazed at what they try when they grow it themselves! You can also purchase about 10 plum tomatoes or use 2 cans of whole peeled plum tomatoes (especially in the winter months). Chopped those tomatoes and throw them in lowering to medium heat. I add whole basil leaves (my kids will eat them even though they are green!) and salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally through the next steps.
Photo: Cucumber plant from our garden!
While the tomatoes are cooking I put a pot of water on high heat for the mini ravioli (or any type of pasta). For the garlic bread I use an Italian loaf of bread that I drizzle with olive oil and add salt and black pepper to taste. Finely chop about 4 garlic cloves and sprinkle on the bread. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top to get a crunchy cheesy bread! Pop under the broiler for a few minutes (the hardest part is making sure it doesn't burn ;)) and cut. You could also put the bread on the grill or grill pan...in the summer I use the grill for Everything!
A cucumber and tomato salad could not be an easier side. Chop 2 beef stock tomatoes and 1 to 2 cucumbers. Add basil, salt, black pepper, drizzle of olive oil and a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, mix and you are done!
By this time your pot of water should be boiling. For ravioli you only need a soft rolling boil since they cook quick. I usually use at least 3 bags (or 3 lbs) of the mini ravioli for the 5 of us (with some left over). I always add salt to the water before I add the pasta (I'm sure there is a reason but I never got an answer from the ladies in my family). Stir after adding the ravioli and watch for the first few to float to the top and then drain in a strainer. You will want them to have a little bite to them and over cooking will turn them to mush.
Your marinara should be done by now and you can turn off the heat. The next step is optional. My kids now enjoy having the tomatoes chopped however when they were younger everything was about texture. You can use the emulsion blender to make a smooth sauce. Use this opportunity to throw in a handful of kale or spinach. The blender will mix well enough so there are no traces of "green" and since it wasn't cooked with the tomatoes there will be no "green" taste! An added bonus is the less a green is cooked the more nutrients it will hold! Top the ravioli with the marinara and serve!
You can always make the marinara ahead and put in a mason jar for a quick reheat during the week. Spread the happiness and tie a wooden spoon with twine or ribbon to the jar and give to a friend, neighbor or family member who just had a baby, is recovering from an illness or Just Because!!!
Hope this recipe make your family as happy as it makes mine!!!
Angela & Erica
Erica Conway is a wife, mother of 4 active boys, Co-Founder of Simply Happy Brand & very active in many community non-profits.