Spaghetti and Meatballs & Kid-Friendly Food | Kitchen Explorers | PBS Food

Spaghetti and Meatballs & Kid-Friendly Food

What is your definition of kid-friendly food?  This may seemingly seem like an easy question but the answer is more complicated than you may think.  When it comes to the politics of food the issue of kid-friendly food can be a loaded question with parents on all sides of the spectrum.

For some parents preparing meals for kids has become a dumb-downed process catering to children’s palates, which is heavily influenced by fast food chains and marketing campaigns for pre-packaged meals on television.  For others it means more of a simplified approach in food preparation such as plain pasta with butter, grilled chicken with rice, or rearranging the way food is plated to look more appealing and appetizing.

In my own family, my daughters are greatly influenced by what their peers are eating and not eating.  This has been both positive and negative.  My older daughter wouldn’t eat hummus until she discovered her best friend loved hummus.   On the downside, my daughters are always asking for me to buy gummy fruit snacks for their lunches because everyone else has them.  When it comes to those charming character molded gummy snacks, we decided last year we would no longer bring them into our home.

Peer pressure is just one channel of influence.  When our family dines out, the concept of kid-friendly food is reinforced by the children’s menus.  I’ve noticed kids menus in most restaurants are all suspiciously similar: deep-fried chicken strips, cheese burgers, corn dogs, mac and cheese, PB & J, and cheese or pepperoni pizza.  No wonder kids prefer these same dishes when eating at home.  Because my kids love eating all of the above mentioned foods, it has become an ongoing battle on what they would like to eat at home and what I actually serve.  The battle isn’t the food themselves,  it comes from my kids only wanting to eat these types of food.  I end up being the “bad” parent for not being a short order cook and caving into their requests.  My sister has a saying that I implemented in our home, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

When I asked for a definition of kid-friendly food on Savory Sweet Life’s Facebook page I loved this answer from Jill Harris Springer, “… anything you can get your kids to eat willingly.”  I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below to discuss this because I, as a parent, would love to know.

Here’s a recipe for one of our favorite kid-friendly meals we eat on a regular basis.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

A traditional recipe for the kid-pleasing pasta dish.



  • Meatballs:
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I love using San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • You'll also need a 1 lb box of spaghetti


  1. Meatballs: Preheat oven to 400° F. Cook onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat until softened (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. In a large bowl, add the onion/garlic mixture and all the other ingredients. Combine everything by hand until well mixed. Firmly form 2”meatballs by hand. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Brown meatballs and place on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in the oven.
  2. Tomato Sauce: Prepare Tomato sauce while meatballs are baking.
  3. Cook onions and garlic in oil in a pot over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes with juice reserved in a separate bowl. Simmer sauce uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and half of the reserved liquid until sauce reduces for 5 minutes. *Add parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top as garnish.
  4. Putting it all together: Cook a 1 lb box of spaghetti to al dente, drain, and plate it. Place a few spoonfuls of sauce on top of the noodles followed by meatballs. Finish it off with a couple tablespoons of parsley and grated cheese.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Alice-Currah-169x215Alice Currah is the publisher of popular food blog, Savory Sweet Life. Her approachable everyday recipes are accompanied by beautiful step by step photos and have been featured online at Martha Stewart, Real Simple, The Pioneer Woman, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, Saveur, iVillage and many more. In March 2010, featured Alice as one of “Eight of the Very Best Food Bloggers.” You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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