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After a long day of work, trying to cram in family time and a home cooked meal can be a pretty overwhelming challenge. But while we may often think it’s easier to just order a pizza and play with the kids than it would be to dish out an entire healthy meal, there is a way to do both.

Canadian chef David Rocco faces such a challenge every day. That’s why he enlists his very own sous-chefs — his three children — to help him make dinner as often as possible. That kind of makes him the perfect spokesperson for Barilla pasta’s “Share the Table” campaign, an endeavour to finally bring the family back together at the dinner table for regular meals.

“Mealtime has changed. The whole idea of how I grew up with the family sitting down to eat, it was important,” he tells The Loop. “Now that I’m a father I see all the distractions with the cell phones and our busy schedules and all the rest of it. But to make that connection with your kids and basically share a meal together without any distractions, that’s important.”

Rocco says that enlisting the kids to be a part of the cooking process is not only a great way to teach them about where the food they eat actually comes from, but it also encourages them to eat better too. When they’re given fun tasks like squishing the tomatoes or stirring in some oil to the pot, suddenly they feel like they’ve contributed to what they’re about to consume.

“Just because my kids are kids of a chef doesn’t mean they’re not going to be as picky. Going to school exposes them to stereotypes and ideas and all the rest of it,” he says. “I notice that when they’re involved in whatever activity we do in the kitchen, then they will try it, and eat it. There’s already an emotional attachment to the dish. It’s a selfish reason too for me, because suddenly I’ve spent 20 minutes in the kitchen playing with them on some level, as opposed to just cooking.”

Need some inspiration to get started? Rocco has shared one of his family classics, Pasta Al Forno, with us below. Happy eating!

David Rocco’s Barilla Pasta Al Forno

Makes 5 servings

Calories: 630
Fat: 22g
Protein: 25g
Carbs: 91g
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (500g) BARILLA® Rigatoni
  • 4 tbs (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 15 infornate olives or any black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 10 large sun-dried tomatoes, chopped 2 dried chili peppers, crushed (optional)
  • Salt, QB
  • 3 cups (750mL) tomato purée
  • 3/4 lb (375g) mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Smoked scamorza cheese, roughly chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for sprinkling

 

Directions

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling water.
  2. Heat up a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Pour in the extra-virgin olive oil and cook garlic until browned.
  4. Make sure the oil is hot before adding the eggplant, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and chili peppers. Sauté the whole thing until the eggplant is soft and slightly golden.
  5. Once the eggplant is golden, add some salt and the tomato purée. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is ready.
  6. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add all the sauce, mozzarella and scamorza cheeses. Stir together well.
  7. Pour the whole thing into a large baking dish. Top with a good sprinkle of Parmigiano and bake in a 400°F (200°C) oven for about 30 minutes or until beautifully golden and crisp.