A kid-friendly pasta salad (without mayo!): Tortellini pasta salad loaded with green vegetables and Cheddar cheese.
As moms, we are well aware of the struggle that is the lunch box. You send your kid to school with a healthy and nutritious lunch, and they send it right back…uneaten. The lunch box full, bellies empty. Surely, there is a happy medium out there. One in which we can send our children to school with the peace of mind knowing not only are they eating properly, but also…well, eating. Nothing hangs over a loving mama’s head quite like the thought of a hungry baby. I’ve been that mom. Actually, wait — no, I am that mom.
So I went to work in the kitchen, putting together a lunch box idea for both my toddler and my 1st grader. One that would not only prove to be tasty for my kids, but also one that would be easy enough for us moms to prepare. Going into it, I knew tortellini would be the way to go for the pasta.
It’s a great lunch box choice for toddlers, as they can pick it up easily and eat it with their hands. And, keeping along these lines, I chose vegetables that little hands could easily grasp. Broccoli, peas and green beans are my girls’ favorite vegetables, but if you’re little darling prefers carrots, asparagus, squash, etc., you could easily substitute one vegetable for another, and tailor make this pasta salad for your child’s own dietary preferences.
Next, a little, cubed cheddar for some protein, and a small amount of Italian dressing. And, when I say small, I mean small — just the right amount to keep the pasta salad from drying out, and to impart a little touch of flavor, but not nearly enough to overwhelm a small child’s pallet.
This is a cold pasta salad kids will actually eat, and one you can feel good about packing in your child’s lunch box. Doesn’t get much better than that, right? Oh, but it does. Pasta salads are make-ahead (the best ever for crazy weekday mornings), and they tend to go a long way. You can divy out at least 6-8 child-sized portions from this recipe.
A simple pasta salad idea that provides us moms with less cooking to do, less stress and happy little bellies. Yes, I’ll have more of that please. Enjoy.
- 3 cups frozen broccoli florets
- 1 1/2 cups fresh snipped green beans
- 9 ounces fresh cheese tortellini pasta (such as Buitoni)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3 ounces Cheddar cheese cut into 1/4" cubes
- 2 tablespoons Italian dressing
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt optional
Add just under a 1/2" of water to a large saucepan, and place steamer basket inside of saucepan. If water comes over the steamer basket, remove and discard of water until the bottom of the steamer basket is no longer touching the surface of the water. Place over medium-low heat, and add the frozen broccoli. Cover with lid, and allow to steam for 12 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender enough to easily pierce with a fork. Remove the lid and set aside to cool. Cut the green beans into thirds and set aside until ready to use.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans, pasta and peas to the boiling water and allow to cook for 5-6 minutes, or until green beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Strain the pasta and vegetables, and set aside to cool.
Once the pasta and vegetables have cooled, transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add the broccoli and the Cheddar cheese. Drizzle with Italian dressing, sprinkle with salt (if using) and toss until all of the ingredients are evenly coated. Serve right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.