Did you know eating together as a family can have physical and mental health benefits? And it’s not just about what you’re eating. The importance of families eating together is well documented with studies showing that the effect is both immediate and long-lasting. Children who eat with their families do better in school, have stronger vocabularies, and are less likely to suffer from obesity. There are also a variety of positive outcomes that improve a child’s well-being such as a decreased risk of substance use or delinquency, heightened personal and social well-being, and better academic performance.
But while families are encouraged to eat together, not every meal has to be a sit-down dinner extravaganza with an appetizer and short ribs slow-cooked for 12 hours. Today’s families are busy with parents who work and children with active after-school schedules. The most important thing about family meals is to make them frequent, fun, and family-centered.
Here are five tips for successful family meals courtesy of Dietitian Caitlin Reid.
1. Turn screens off and ask everyone to put devices on silent and keep them away from the table.
2. Make sure the family knows when you are expecting them to sit down together for a meal. Advance notice means everyone can make it a priority.
3. Ask all family members to help out with getting dinner ready. This could be setting the table, cooking dinner, or serving.
4. Consider time-saving cooking methods like slow cookers or doing some prep earlier in the week or on the weekend so there’s less to do on the night.
5. Plan ahead by thinking about the meals you want to cook for the week and write them they can be seen.
Four Weeknight Dinner Recipes for Busy Families Courtesy of Giovanni Rana Pastas
Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli with Meat Lovers Sauce
One 10-ounce package Giovanni Rana Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli
One 15-ounce container Giovanni Rana Marinara Sauce
8 to 10 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed, crumbled
Generous drizzle quality extra virgin olive oil
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)
Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned and golden, breaking it up with a spoon, 5-6 minutes. Add the Marinara sauce, bring to a simmer, cover and keep warm.
In the meantime, cook the ravioli according to package instructions and drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the ravioli to the skillet and gently toss to incorporate, adding cooking water to the pan a little at a time to achieve a sauce-like consistency if needed.
Divide the ravioli among 2-3 bowls and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Baked Chicken & Mozzarella Tortelloni with Broccoli, Corn and Alfredo Sauce
One 20-ounces package Giovanni Rana Chicken Mozzarella Tortelloni
Three 10-ounces jars of Giovanni Rana Alfredo Sauce
1 cup fresh corn or frozen corn thawed
1 big head broccoli cut into florets
Butter or cooking spray to coat the pan
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Coat a baking pan with butter or cooking spray. Blanch broccoli florets in hot salted water for 3-4 minutes, and drain.
In the same water, cook the Ravioli for 1 minute and drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water. In the meantime, warm the Alfredo Sauce in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Ravioli and toss to coat, adding the reserved pasta cooking water a little at a time to loosen the sauce if needed.
Add the broccoli florets and corn and gently toss again. Transfer the Ravioli to the baking pan and bake for 15 minutes, until bubbly, then serve. If you want a golden top to your dish, broil for 2 minutes on high and serve.
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Brown Butter Sage Sauce
1 package Giovanni Rana Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 kabocha squash
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
15-20 leaves fresh sage
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut kabocha squash into even wedges about 1/2 in thick, place on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Evenly space squash wedges on pan (should not be piled high) and place in oven. Cook about 30- 35 minutes until tender (keep checking after 25 minutes).
Cook Giovanni Rana Butternut Squash Ravioli according to package directions.
In a large skillet, add butter and cook until browned (it will have a nutty perfume). Add sage to butter. Be careful, he sage will fry and pop! Add quickly and remove your hands in a fast sweeping motion. Add 2 ounces of pasta cooking water to the butter sage mix, and then add dried cranberries.
Place drained Giovanni Rana Butternut Squash Ravioli into browned butter and sage mix. Toss well and add Parmigiano Reggiano. With a large kitchen spoon, place Ravioli on a plate. Garnish with wedges of kabocha squash. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and crushed pecans. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately and enjoy! If you desire you can add Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Prosciutto & Cheese Tortelloni with Prosciutto, Butter and Sage
One 10-oz package Giovanni Rana Prosciutto and Cheese Tortelloni
3 tbsp butter
¾ cup prosciutto, roughly torn
12 sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
In a large skillet, melt butter, prosciutto, and sage over medium heat until the butter has melted and prosciutto is crispy about 3 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the Tortelloni according to package instructions. Drain, add the Tortelloni to the skillet, toss and season with pepper to taste.
Divide Tortelloni among plates and serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Giovanni Rana products are available in grocery stores island-wide.
For more information regarding Giovanni Rana, visit www.giovanniranausa.com