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Cooking With Teenagers

By May 2, 2016October 19th, 202211 Comments

Travelling with teens has its rewards and its challenges. My 13-year-old son is one of my challenges: he’s a picky eater. Maybe “picky” isn’t quite a fair moniker. He enjoys dishes like French magret de canard (grilled duck breast) and manakeesh, a Lebanese type of pizza with zataar (a mix of Middle Eastern thyme, sesame seeds and other spices). Let’s say he’s “particular.”

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Fortunately, Italy is the BEST place to travel with a “particular” eater – especially a teenager. Lots of pasta and pizza help enormously. And a big hit with both of my teens was the discovery of a frittata di pasta: using leftover pasta, some good extra virgin olive oil, a few eggs and lots of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which is found in every Italian supermarket and food shop (and at half the price than in the US!). This is an easy, tasty dish similar to an omelette, that is inexpensive, too. Italian recipes tend to have few but good quality ingredients and the process of putting them together is fairly simple. It’s a perfect introduction for a young person to the joys of cooking.

spaghetti in water

What is even better, however, is directly engaging George in an Italian kitchen. He is a naturally curious person but also very precise: he typically wants to know who, what, where, when, how? We discovered this on a trip to Rome when I noticed he would regularly wander into the kitchen and ask his zia lots of questions. As a result, he became the family expert on spaghetti alla carbonara: the egg to pasta ratio, not to scramble the eggs when the hot pasta hits them (!!!), the correct cooking of the guanciale cured pork and the like.

whisking eggs

What could be better than eggs, bacon and cheese over pasta? Now, he makes it at home — or he persuades his mother to do the work while he orchestrates. Either way, he is learning how to cook, getting to know the ingredients he likes, is comfortable being in the kitchen (a very good sign) and a happy eater; but, better yet, we have a taste of Rome in our home kitchen whenever we want it. Grazie, Giorgio!

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  • Zhuan says:

    Thanks Kiki, for another very interesting read. Way to go, George, you’re rocking it!
    I can’t wait to have some taste of Rome in my own home since I always love recipes with few but good quality ingredients!!

  • Maria McKain says:

    This post brings back great memories. When I was 18, I made my first trip to Italy to visit some friends living in Naples. Our very first dinner was Spaghetti Carbonara and it was amazing! Can George come over to my house and make us dinner? Great cook and handsome too! I loved your story and am ready to hop on the plane and head to Roma!

  • Jenny says:

    This post made me hungry:) Congratulations to George for learning to cook delicious Italian food! I would love to go to Italy with my family sometime.

  • Rebeca says:

    I love these great reminders of good and simple Italian Cuisine. I’m encouraged to try these recipes with my 13-year old who doesn’t like to cook but loves to eat. I think Italian food will the best way to get him excited and engaged in the kitchen.

  • GG says:

    Way to go George! What a great idea to get him (and teens in general) involved in cooking. Cooking is an art which combines creativity and talent – all in an edible form! Can’t wait to sample these creations when I visit.

    • Elizabeth Janus says:

      thank you for the comment grace. you are so right about creativity and talent. some the best cooks i know are artists. check our blog for more delicious recipes.

  • Sami says:

    Thank you Kiki for another great article, and George for orchestrating behind the scenes! Looks like an easy recipe which I should try out.

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