Welcome to Eat Your Food!, our biweekly column of real meals made for real kids by Nick Evans.
Getting my kids to try new foods is a big goal of mine. Most kids don’t like new foods right away. They have to be exposed to them over and over again before they grow accustomed to new foods and maybe (MAYBE?!) even like them.
Sometimes I like to introduce flexibility and creativity to mealtimes by preparing familiar flavors but in a different format—such as this Pepperoni Pizza Penne!
What kid doesn’t love pepperoni pizza, right? And this has all the normal flavors of a classic, simple, kid-friendly pepperoni pizza, but with pasta instead.
Believe it or not, getting kids used to seeing foods in unexpected meals is a big step toward getting them to be adventurous eaters. This recipe takes a baby step in that direction with the benefit of being super fast to make.
THE DAD ADD
If I’m going to eat a helping of this pasta for myself, I make a spicy breadcrumb topper. It goes well on any pasta, honestly, but it gives some much-needed texture to this particular dish. Use it liberally!
I served this pasta in bowls to my 3 1/2-year old son and my 20-month old daughter. My daughter refused to eat it in a bowl, so hers was moved to a plate. I pick my battles during dinnertime and I let her win that one.
My two kids teamed up on this recipe. My daughter is a carb addict and focused solely on the pasta. My son was passing her pasta from his bowl and she was passing mini pepperoni right back. Dad ate the extra mozzarella.
If you walked in after dinner, you would’ve been convinced that both of them had eaten quite well, but really it was a victory in teamwork and not necessarily in dinner.
Mom and Dad had servings of the pasta (all parts included) with a side salad and a big sprinkle of the Crispy Breadcrumb Topper, and both were very happy with it. We had some leftovers, which we baked the following night into a small pasta casserole!
MORE WEEKNIGHT PASTAS
Pepperoni Pizza Penne Pasta Recipe
If you can’t find mini pepperoni, you can use normal-sized pepperoni and cut it into quarters.
If you have leftovers (my family of four made it through a little over half of this serving size), I’d recommend tossing it in a small buttered baking dish, adding the leftover crispy breadcrumbs to the top, and baking it the next day at 350°F for about 20 minutes. Delicious baked pasta dish!
- 12 ounces penne pasta
- 1 cup marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 ounces mini pepperoni (see Recipe Note)
- 8 ounces mini mozzarella balls
- Basil chopped, garnish
DAD ADD: Spicy Breadcrumb Topper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Pinch of salt and pepper
1 Cook the pasta: Add penne pasta to salted water and cook according to package instructions.
2 While the pasta cooks, make the spicy breadcrumb topper: If you’re making the Dad Add (highly recommended), melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat. Add breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring regularly, for 4 to 5 minutes until breadcrumbs are toasted and browned. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
3 Assemble the pasta: When the penne has cooked, drain it and return to hot pot. Stir in marinara sauce and oregano.
Off the heat, fold in mini pepperoni and mini mozzarella balls.
4 Serve: Divide pepperoni pizza penne between bowls and garnish with fresh basil and spicy crispy breadcrumbs, if using.
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