Back-to-school Dinner Ideas (Plus a Fun Garden Project from NYT for Kids!)

September is here. We’ve made it through many complicated obstacles and tried to solve problems we never thought about before. Zoom calls, frozen screens and mute buttons are part of our kids’ lives as well as ours now. There is no parent guidebook for these times. Are you in need of dinner ideas for back-to-school schedules? Keep checking in here for recipe inspiration when you feel like you’re running out of culinary gas.


First up is a fast and easy pasta dish the whole family will enjoy. It uses a few ingredients and comes together quickly for a weeknight dinner.


Pasta with Pancetta and Creamy Tomato Sauce

Extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot bulb

1 clove garlic

1 package Citterio Pancetta cubes

29 oz can Hunt’s tomato sauce

De Cecco penne rigate

Kosher salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 or 4 scallion stalks


Start to boil a pot of water for pasta. Do not add salt until the water is boiling.

Pour 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a cold pan with shallot and garlic. Leave the shallot and garlic in the peel. They will flavor the oil as it heats up in the pan. Heat the shallot and garlic in oil for about 4 to 5 minutes until the oil starts to shimmer.

Remove the shallot and garlic clove from the pan and add the cubes of pancetta. Stir and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the pieces are browned.

Add the can of tomato sauce. Stir to combine.

Do not rinse tomato can. Fill about halfway with water and add to the pan. This will thin the tomato sauce a bit. Stir and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Place pasta in boiling water with a generous pinch or two of Kosher salt.

When the pasta is nearing the end of cooking time, take a half cup of the cooking water out and save.

Drain pasta when done and place back in the pot. Add tomato sauce and the reserved cooking water. The starch in the water helps the sauce coat the pasta.

Add heavy cream and stir.

Have the kids snip bits of scallions with scissors and toss with pasta.

Serves 4-6

Find more recipe ideas from my regular posts over at the Food and Drink section at Parade.


Don’t throw the bulbs of scallions away! You can regrow them. Take a look at my piece for The New York Times for Kids about what to do with those scallions.


Good luck with whatever back-to-school looks like for you! Come back for more recipe ideas.

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