"The way I overcame my kids' fussy eating: I made them cook."

San Remo
Thanks to our brand partner, San Remo

I am the chump who recently spent $2000 trying to “cure” my son of extreme fussy eating. Each week he and some fellow-fussy-eaters would sit down with two qualified occupational therapists and discuss foods – their tastes, their shapes, their textures.

It was 12 week course during which Giovanni, 8, tried one new food (and immediately rejected it) and at the end of the course his eating was just as narrow as before.

I ended up involving him in not only the shopping of the food but in the cooking as well. He was so excited to help me cook, and although he didn’t try anything new at first, he was eventually tempted to taste some of his own creations, and now he is eating a few new foods (which is an incredible relief).

Children, particularly fussy eaters, need to see how dishes are made and feel as though they are part of the process. They don’t just want food placed in front of them – well, sometimes they do – but they want to know what has gone into it.

Getting your children to eat proper foods doesn't have to be such a challenge. Image: Revolution Studios (Daddy Day Care).

I will always be grateful to be born Italian because pasta is my go-to for most meals, because it’s so affordable, versatile and healthy, and my kids love it.

Here are three go-to pasta recipes that my children and I cook together.

Jo’s Traditional Spaghetti Sauce.

 You can use any meat to make spaghetti sauce and have a great base for a dish. I use mince, sausages, beef, chicken thighs, whatever I have on hand. I even throw leftover meat into this basic yet delicious sauce to create an amazing meal every time.



Any meat (see above) – about 750g

500g spaghetti

2 bottles plain “passata” (natural tomato sauce)

6 cups water

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

4 cloves garlic

4 fresh basil leaves

1 whole zucchini


  1. Grab a big pot and heat the olive oil. Place the meat you are using and fry it until lightly brown.
  2. Add both bottles of passata and then fill each passata bottle with water, shake them to get every little bit of passata, and pour into the pot making up approximately 6 cups of water.
  3. Grate the garlic into the sauce using a cheese grater or garlic mincer and then add the wine, salt and basil.
  4. Peel the zucchini and then grate it into the sauce. It’s a great way to add some vegies and the kids will never even know it is in there!
  5. Bring it to the boil and then simmer it with the lid on for 40 minutes minimum.

Normally I use spiral pasta to serve this sauce because the shape of this pasta holds the delicious, thick tomato sauce really well, and goes nicely with chicken thighs and beef. If I’ve used mince, meatballs or sausages I’ll use traditional spaghetti. Top this dish with some sharp, grated parmesan cheese.

Who doesn't love a thick, delicious tomato sauce? Image: iStock.

Jo’s Hearty Chicken Soup.

Pasta can be used for so many dishes, and in cooler weather we eat a lot of chicken soup. It’s incredibly hearty and with the addition of pasta makes for a filling meal. I let Giovanni shred the chicken in this recipe because that’s fun for kids to do. Also, there’s a bit of stirring to be done and he loves seeing all the different ingredients with their colours, textures and shapes swirling around in the soup.



Approximately two litres of water

250g chicken drumsticks or thighs (or leftover barbeque chicken or even beef)

250g pasta of your choice (my family loves the large shells)

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large chopped onion

2 tomatoes chopped

1 stick celery

200 grams green beans

1 medium carrot chopped

Can also add corn, zucchini or spinach. Whatever veggies you have lying around that you need to use up.


  1. Get your largest pot and fill it with water to about three-quarters full.
  2. Add chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs. You can even make it with beef if preferred or left over chicken or meat. Add in all the chopped vegetables as well as oil and salt. Bring it to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. After 30 minutes, remove the meat from the soup and place on a large flat plate. Use two forks to shred the meat and then add it back to the soup.
  4. Simmer for another 10 minutes and then add some dry pasta. I use the large shells because it holds the delicious chicken and vegetables in it so with every mouthful you get to eat a bit of everything.

"It’s incredibly hearty and with the addition of pasta makes for a filling meal". Image: iStock.

Jo’s Traditional Lasagne.

My son Philip, with his egg and nut allergies, tends to eat a lot of dinner foods for breakfast. When I make spaghetti (see above) I usually double the recipe and make a lasagne at the same time. That way we can eat it for breakfast or dinner the next night.



One packet large lasagne sheets

Traditional spaghetti sauce (see above)

Mozzarella cheese

Sharp parmesan cheese

Any bits of cheese you have leftover can be used, including ricotta.

To add vegetables, add them to the sauce beforehand and cook them into the sauce for at least 20 minutes by bringing to the boil and simmering. Eggplant, zucchini and spinach work best.


  1. Add one or two cups of water to the sauce to make it nice and watery. Using a small to medium baking dish, spoon some spaghetti sauce onto the bottom avoiding the meat and vegetables. Then layer with lasagne sheets. Break if needed to fit the baking dish.
  2. Add a layer of sauce including lots of meat and vegetables and sprinkle with mozzarella.
  3. Repeat until almost to the top and then add lots of sauce, once again avoiding the meat and vegetables.
  4. Grate sharp parmesan on the top and then bake on 180 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Once cooked, allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before attempting to serve. That is key to having a good-looking piece of lasagne instead of a watery mess!

get your kids cooking

Lasagne is always a kid-friendly option. Image: iStock.

I am happy to say that my children are avid cooks now. They especially love the part where they get to try bits and pieces as well as lick spoons and bowls. You can start them off as young as toddlers by letting them throw choc bits into cookie dough or by letting them sprinkle cheese on top of a lasagne.

Have fun with it, even if dinner is a bit late. It’s incredible to see how quickly they learn and how interested they are.

Happy cooking!