We get it, family life is busy and preparing family meals and sitting down together takes time. But studies show that it’s worth the effort because every time parents sit down with their kids, it creates another opportunity to connect, and strong family connections appear to keep kids healthier and safer in several areas. In addition, research shows that children who regularly eat dinner with their families at home do better on a number of health measures such as lower rates of obesity and substance abuse, Higher self-esteem and higher reading scores to name just a few.

Here are some simple strategies from The New York Times Family Table experts for getting started or improving your family supper time experience.

Keep it Simple: Give yourself a break. Family meals don’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  “I believe the magic can happen without perfection,” says Lynn Barendsen, a co-founder of The Family Dinner Project. “Come together and enjoy each other’s company and manage to have a great meal. It’s about creating the space to let it happen.”

Start Small: Don’t try to go from 1 or 2 meals a week to 7 meals overnight. Look at your family’s schedule for the week and try to find just one meal time that works for your family. Let everyone know and add your plans to the calendars of all the adults and teens in the house. 

Set One Goal: Don’t try to do everything at once. Look at your family and decide what your needs are. If it’s more family table time, try to find one extra meal that works. If you’ve got picky eaters, focus on strategies to help everyone eat more healthful. If your problem is tension at the dinner table, focus on conversation starters and games to keep everyone happy and engaged. 

Be Flexible: If both parents can’t be home at the same time for dinner, or if teen sports practices get in the way, plan your table time for later in the evening around a family snack or late-evening dessert.

Keep it Fun: The Family Table should be a fun, welcoming space. It’s not a place for stress, arguments and grilling kids about their grades.

Make Dinner Prep Easy: Take Celentano frozen pasta for example. Celentano offers you and your family great-tasting, easy-to-prepare pasta. Made with only the best ingredients, their preservative free, real Italian recipes are fresh and delicious. They’re easy to prepare and can be served for lunch or dinner giving you more time to enjoy your family.

Try these three family-friendly and easy to prepare recipes made with Celentano frozen pastas.

Cheese Ravioli with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce

1 package (24 oz.) Celentano Large Round Cheese Ravioli
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup canned pure pumpkin
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts
Fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cheese ravioli and cook according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic – cook for 2 minutes stirring until slightly soft. Add the pumpkin and nutmeg, cook for 1 minute. Add the cream and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium low once boiling; simmer stirring for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and black pepper; cook for 1 minute until thick. Add the ravioli to the skillet and toss with the sauce, adding some of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Divide among plates and top with toasted pine nuts, walnuts, parsley and additional Parmesan cheese.

One-Pot Creamy Tortellini with Chicken, Kale and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 package (19oz.) Celentano Cheese Tortellini
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
3 Tablespoons – divided Olive Oil
1 finely minced Garlic
3 Tablespoons Flour
1 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 cup Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
4 pieces Bacon cooked & chopped
1/2 cup torn kale
1/8 cup Sundried Tomatoes

In a large skillet over medium-high heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the chicken. Cook for about 6 minutes on each side until the chicken is fully cooked

Remove chicken from skillet and place on a plate covered with foil.

Add 2 tablespoon of remaining olive oil and the garlic to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute. Then add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and heavy cream to the skillet whisking until the mixture is smooth. Bring to a boil, then add the Parmesan cheese.

Turn heat down to medium and add tortellini, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, and kale to the cream sauce. Cover pot and let cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally until the tortellini is cooked through. Add the chicken into the pasta and continue to cook with the lid on for 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Shells with Marinara, Eggplant and Onion

1 package Celentano Stuffed Shells (Add Sauce)
1 eggplant, cut into ½” cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 white onion, sliced
2 jars marinara sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, if desired

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, toss the eggplant in olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. Set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter and onions to the pan, cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently until the onions begin to turn golden brown. Add the eggplant and marinara sauce to the cooked onions and stir to combine. In a baking dish, cover the bottom with half of the sauce. Add the frozen stuffed shells to the baking dish and cover the top of the stuffed shells with remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately.

Celentano products are available in grocery stores island-wide.
For more information regarding Celentano, click here.