Series: Cooking Around The World With My Son – Italy

Tortellini with Skinny Basil Pesto (left) and Marinara (right).

The evening of August 21, I was on my Pinterest “homepage” and saw a pin for Kids’ Culinary Passport from Inner Child Food.  I did not follow Inner Child Food on Pinterest, but another pinner that I do follow had pinned this culinary passport post.  Although I immediately loved the idea of cooking and crafting with your kids from different countries, I was not going to repin the post.  B was signed up to take a camp the following week that was doing just that – cooking new foods from around the world.  So, I moved on and continued to scroll through my Pinterest homepage.  But a voice inside me said, “Go back and pin that; you might need it”.  I disagreed with that voice, but I’ve learned through experience to listen to it, so I went back and pinned it.

The next day, I received an email form the camp counselor, reminding me about the camp the following week and expressing his excitement to get cooking with the kids.  Right before ending the email, he mentioned that common allergens would be used throughout the week and to please let him know if B had any.  I replied that B is allergic to peanuts and was told that 2 days during the week peanuts would be used.  I promptly removed B from the class and requested a refund.  I called the hubs to express my irritation that the allergy information had not been divulged to parents during registration as well as B’s disappointment.  He loves to cook and was looking forward to the class.  The hubs said, “That’s alright.  We’ll just make our own cooking camp at home.”  Then that voice popped up again, “See?  I told you you’d need pin.”  When I got off the phone, I found the pin, went to the Kids’ Culinary Passport and read the post – five countries, five crafts, five recipes.  B’s camp was 5 days.  This was perfect!  We would just cover each country from Inner Child Food’s the following week and B would get his week of cooking camp!

Hahaha!  “The best laid plans of mice and men…”  Oh, well.  So goes the life of homeschoolers.  We learn through life and somedays life takes us out of the house and we’re not home to cook.  Or the pantry does not have all the ingredients needed to cook a new dish and it’s that last week before payday when I refused to run to the store and just work with what is already in the house.  Over the past 2 weeks, B has cooked 6 days from the 5 countries in Kids’ Culinary Passport from Inner Child Food.  We did not do the crafts because we do plenty of those.  We did not use all the recipes from Kids’ Culinary Passport, either, because we didn’t have the ingredients on hand or we wanted to do something different.

The plan was just to do the 5 countries in Kids’ Culinary Passport, but then I got a text from a friend this morning.  She asked me if we had done Korea yet because she had found a cool recipe for us.  I decided right then that we’ve been having so much fun, why not continue our culinary trip around the world?  I asked her for the recipe and I’m looking forward to trying it!  I don’t know how many countries we’ll do nor how often we’ll cook from them, but I’ll share our journey with you and be very grateful to Inner Child Food for inspiring us.

**UPDATE**  Below, I’ve added the details about Italy we talked about as well as my marinara recipe.

Our first country was Italy because I had fresh tortellini in the fridge that was due to expire at the end of the week.  B made my homemade marinara sauce and Skinny Basil Pesto from  We eat marinara sauce all the time, but I had none on hand that day, so we needed to make a batch anyway.  It’s a staple I’ve been working with B to memorize.  If you can cook your own spaghetti sauce, you won’t go hungry and you’ll impress girls!  I chose the pesto recipe from Skinny Taste because I’ve enjoyed other recipes from that site and this recipe did not call for pine nuts.  I had no pine nuts and it was suck-it-up-I’m-not-going-to-the-store week.  Both sauces were delizioso!  Over dinner, the hubs talked to B about how the colors of the Italian flag remind us of tomatoes, Mozzarella and basil.  I had B point out Italy on our world map and asked him when we’d “visited” Italy during our 4th grade History lessons.  We covered The Middle Ages in 4th grade (July 2012 – May 2013) and B told me that Italy held the capital of The Holy Roman Empire as well as the Catholic Church.

A mom in B’s old playgroup kindly shared her dad’s spaghetti sauce recipe with me 6 or 7 years ago and I am forever grateful to her for that!  Here is the tweaked version that I make in my house:

Simple Marinara Sauce
1-2 tbsp Wegman’s Basting Oil (you can use olive oil, but I am allergic to it)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes (I stock up on Tuttorosso with Basil when they’re on sale; when they aren’t, I use Wegmans’ store brand)
heaping 1/4 cup brown sugar (adjust this to your taste, we like a sweeter sauce)
6 – 8 fresh basil leaves, minced

The simple version of directions: Heat oil in pan.  Add garlic and sauté, but don’t allow it to brown.  Add canned tomatoes, brown sugar and minced fresh basil.  Cover pot with lid most of the way – this keeps sauce from jumping out of your pan, but also lets steam escape so sauce isn’t watery.  Simmer for 1 hour.

The version that I do after many trials and errors: Get everything ready first, because this goes fast.  Mince your garlic, open up your cans of tomatoes and have them next to the pot, measure out your brown sugar and mince your fresh basil (or get out a heaping tsp of dried basil, Italian seasonings, salt & pepper or whatever you like or have on hand).

Heat oil in a large, non-metal pot with a lid; I use an enamel-coated cast iron pan.  Once oil is hot, add garlic and stir constantly.  You must keep it moving to prevent it from burning.  You don’t want the garlic to get brown, but you need it to cook enough so that it is no longer raw.  Smell your garlic when it 1st goes in the pan – it’s strong.  Keep the garlic moving and continue to smell it until the aroma has mellowed – no longer stings your eyes and nose.

Immediately add in about 1/3 of a can of tomatoes to stop the garlic from cooking further and stir quickly.  The pan is hot and those tomatoes will pop and bubble right out of you pan.  Stir them until they cool down the pan a little and stop bubbling, then stir in the rest of the tomatoes, the sugar and herbs.  Bring sauce up to a low boil (it bubbles on top), then reduce your flame as low as it can go.

Cover pot with lid most of the way – this keeps sauce from jumping out of your pan, but also lets steam escape so sauce isn’t watery.  Simmer for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure sauce on bottom does not burn.  Enjoy!

Stay tuned for the country of our next cooking adventure, Mexico


  1. Anonymous says:

    Are you posting the recipe for that sauce? Having had the honor of tasting your marinara, I agree that B must memorize it. You could propose to a girl with that sauce!


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