Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla

Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla; the content and opinions are my own.

Jumping back into a school year schedule can be scary. Trying to serve school night meals that are quick, simple, healthy, and delicious can be downright terrifying.

Adding to the terror is the fact that I’m not much of a chef. What I am is a crafty mad scientist. I don’t so much mix ingredients as I do assemble supplies. Hence my most successful creations end up looking more like experimental DIY projects than respectable meals prepared by an adult.

And yet, all that playing with food and making things more fun than they need to be works well with being the dad of a picky eater. And I’m not talking prefers-blanched-asparagus-over-steamed picky. I’m talking eats-roughly-the-same-number-of-things-as-he-is-years-old picky.

Luckily, my persnickety seven-year-old loves pretty much every variety of pasta. Also lucky? Barilla has 38 different pastas and 14 different sauces with which to satisfy my hungry, finicky beast.

In addition to their endless meal combinations, Barilla products fulfill that whole quick, simple, healthy, and delicious list I mentioned earlier. It’s not surprising they’re the #1 pasta brand in both the United States and Italy… as well as the preferred brand of my first generation Italian husband!

While our family certainly enjoys tried-and-true meals like spaghetti with meat sauce, lasagna, and baked ziti, I like to get creative from time-to-time to hold my son’s interest. Who am I kidding? It’s just as much fun for me! Here’s one of my favorites… MONSTER PASTA!

Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla


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Barilla Cellentani
Barilla Chunky Traditional sauce
Dried bay leaves
Fresh green beans
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Mint flakes
Dried parsley flakes
Hamburger buns
Butter or margarine
Black olives


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I mentioned my son was a picky eater, yes? As with many kids, this is especially true when it comes to vegetables. Here’s where mad scientist dad comes into play…

For every cup of Barilla sauce you plan to use, put 1/4 cup cooked carrots into a food processor; chop/blend until well-mashed.

Add an equal amount of sauce to the food processor. For example, if you’ve processed 3/4-cup carrots, add 3/4-cup Barilla Traditional Chunky sauce. Blend until well mixed (i.e., until your kid can’t tell there are carrots in it. MWAAHAAHAA!)

Dad Tip: I like to use carrots because they’re sweeter, but cauliflower also hides well in sauce.

Combine the carrot/sauce mixture with the remaining sauce in a saucepan. Add 3 bay leaves, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


If you normally snap your beans, leave a few whole (for maximum monster effect); rinse and steam for 10 minutes or until tender, not mushy. In a bowl, season beans with olive oil, garlic salt, and mint flakes. Toss until beans are well covered.

Dad Tip: Start with just a dash of garlic salt. My son is part vampire and too much garlic seems to repel him. You can taste first and always add more.


With only 3 people in our family, we invariably end up with odd numbers of a lot of foods; for example, hamburger buns. I like to use the leftover buns to make quick garlic bread, but sliced potato bread, French bread, etc., also works.

Separate hamburger bun halves, then cut those in half to create semi-circles. Spread a thin layer of margarine or butter, season with garlic salt and parsley flakes. Toast or bake until slightly brown and crispy.


Prepare using directions on box to a perfect al dente. Drain well.

Dad Tip: If you’re not immediately ready to serve the pasta, ladle a small amount of sauce into the pasta while still in the colander. Lightly mix to prevent pasta from sticking together or drying out.

Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla


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Serve pasta in oversized bowls; ladle pasta onto sauce, mix until pasta is well covered.

Add string beans, garlic bread, and olives as shown. Feel free to customize with different vegetables for additional spooky appendages.

Let your kids help in assembling the monster! This is the easiest and safest way for little ones to assist in meal prep, and it makes them feel like they’re a part of the process.

Is your child not a monster fan? Using the pasta, bread, and vegetables, you can arrange the food into a menagerie of beasts. Below I’ve created a bunny, a parrot, and a crab. With the myriad types of Barilla Blue Box pastas and Barilla sauces, the options are limitless!

Monstrously Delicious Back-to-School Meals with Barilla
Click to enlarge

A big part of parenting creatively is finding ways to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary. This meal using Barilla pasta and Barilla sauce is simple and quick enough for a school night, and is a wonderful way for you and your kids to have fun, bond, and of course enjoy a monstrously delicious dinner together!

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Barilla and the LGBTQ Community
Some of you may be wondering why I’m working with Barilla again, in light of the intolerant comments made by the company’s president a few years ago. Following Guido Barilla’s apology in 2014, Barilla put its words into action, changing polices and messaging, both internally and publicly. In the three years since, Barilla has scored 100% on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. While this doesn’t erase the hurtful remarks, it does show Barilla has done the work to create a diverse and welcoming company. If we’re going to tell companies how to change in order to be more inclusive, then we need to acknowledge when they do.




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