Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cooking with children.

I have never had more fun than hosting fifth and fourth graders for an afternoon of cooking activities.
Just look at their intensity!
Observe how they are taking notes, following instructions, trying their hands at chopping and measuring,
On this day, we were making lasagna.
We were also doing math, writing, history, learning the nutritional value of whole foods, including seeds and skin in tomatoes, and finally, tasting the cooked food and finding words to describe the entire experience.

There were a total of six adults, 30 children, all in a very small living room, an adjacent kitchen and a dining room/sun room that became a prep room for the meal and the dessert.
My strategy was to start instructing and describing a process or a food, put my assistant to help, while the rest of the class took notes, and during a major hiatus, the other adults conducted math and writing instructions.
Usually, the children and adults walk a mile to get to my house. On this occasion, since it was raining heavily, a bus dropped them off and picked them up a couple of houses down the road. My garage became the terminal, for shoes, back-packs, rain gear.

While most were writing down the instructions, few were selected to assist me.
They had brought tomatoes, garlic, onions and zucchini from their garden at school. We used everything!

First, we made the sauce:

1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 cans of tomato paste (I use Contadina)
1 big can of whole tomatoes (Here, we used the tomatoes from the garden)
a dash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1lb of ground beef
1lb of Italian sausages
a bunch of Italian herbs such as basil, parsley, fresh oregano from my garden
1lb mozzarella
1lb of Ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 C of grated Parmesan cheese for the filling
1/2 C of Parmesan to serve on top of the finished product
1 lb of lasagna noodles, boiled and cooled.

Chop your onions, garlic and herbs.
Saute the meats, crumbling the sausages and the ground beef in a T of olive oil. Remove from pan and add the onions and garlic. When onion is soft, add the tomatoes and cook down, Add the paste and stir until amalgamated. Add two cans of water and lower the heat. To the tomatoes and paste, add the vinegar and return the meat to the pan to cook at a simmering level for about twenty minutes.
Taste and add salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the cheeses:
Mix grated mozzarella, the egg, half of the herbs, chopped fine, and the Parmesan cheese.
Add salt and pepper and set aside.

In a big flat, oven-proof pan, add sauce at the bottom and spread it around to cover bottom thoroughly.  Begin the layering with the noodles so they fit the bottom and a strip around as well. On this platform layer the cheese mixture, a ladle or two of meat sauce and additional mozzarella and parmesan. Continue to layer until the last layer is pasta with just sauce and a sprinkling of the dry cheeses.

Bake, covered at 350F for the first 30' and uncovered for an additional ten minutes.
Serve with a salad and some crusty bread.


  1. Wonderful - and lasagne is such a great idea to cook for and with kids.

  2. I can imagine the fun you had. I hated school but I did love cooking class :-)) Take it easy Diane

  3. I'm so glad I found you again and this looks like a wonderful activity. How fun for those kids and how educational too! You looks so cute in your apron!

  4. I wish my daughters could also be there. As the second best option, we will try to follow your recipe. We make lasagna often, but have never made the sauce from scratch

  5. Note:

    A dash of balsamic or a cup of good red wine!
    With children, I chose balsamic.

  6. I loved reading every single one of these posts about teaching these fifth graders to cook. Everyone involved in this learning activity needs a standing ovation. You, dear Rosaria, are a treasure. I truly don't think you know how much you have impacted the lives of these young children. I admire you so much.

    Oh, and thanks for the recipe.

  7. How wonderful for them and you. My grandkids were very eager to help at that age.

  8. This is such a timely post for me, Rosaria! My grandson has been asking me if I would teach him to cook. I've quite a reputation among my children as I taught all three of my sons to cook and his father encouraged him to get some lessons from Grandma! I am planning to have him make with me blueberry muffins as our first project together. Having read your post, I decided he can assist with the Christmas Eve lasagne -- so many thanks for the idea!

  9. Lasagna with all those fresh ingredients sounds absolutely divine. Would you believe I've never made a straight up Italian lasagna before? I've made a Mexican one. My kids have just reached the point where they like lasagna, so that will be an upcoming project. I've been looking forward to making it with them.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  10. I wish I had been in that class, it looks like great fun.

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