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'Cooking for Kids': Try these Italian favorites

Healthy eating is easy and delicious with chef Jamie Oliver's tasty, nutritious pizza and pasta specialties. Check out the recipes.
/ Source: TODAY

As a chef and father, Jamie Oliver realizes how important good food and good eating habits are for kids, so he's started a revolutionary campaign in England to ban junk food and get fresh, tasty and, above all, nutritious food on school menus. As part of a special series, Oliver visited “Today” to share some fun, healthy recipes you can cook for your kids.

Tomato Base Sauce
Makes about 3 liters

Ingredients3 tablespoons olive oil3 small onions, peeled and chopped2 red peppers, chopped3 courgettes (zucchinis), grated3 carrots, grated1 butternut squash, peeled and grated1 large pinch dried oregano2 bay leaves6 (400g) tins plum tomatoes

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan, and fry the onion, pepper, courgette, carrot and butternut squash for 5-10 minutes. Add the oregano, bay leaves and tomatoes, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer for around 30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before blitzing until smooth with a hand blender. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Orrechiette al Forno from 'Jamie's Italy'  

IngredientsA large handful of fresh basil leavesOptional: red wine vinegar5 cups of tomato base sauce (recipe above)14 ounces dried orecchiette4 big handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese3 (5 ounce) balls of mozzarella

Make your tomato base sauce, tear in the basil leaves and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and a little swig of red wine vinegar if you like.

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas 6 and put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Add the orecchiette to the water and cook according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss with half of the tomato base sauce and a handful of Parmesan. Get yourself an appropriately sized baking tray, pan or earthenware dish, and rub it with a little olive oil. Layer a little pasta in the tray, followed by some tomato sauce, a handful of grated Parmesan and 1 sliced up mozzarella ball. Repeat these layers until you’ve used all the ingredients, ending with a good layer of cheese on top. Pop it into the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden, crisp and bubbling. Italians seem happy to eat this dish at room temperature or quite cold, but I prefer to eat mine hot.

Meatballs

Ingredients2 pounds meat for mincing or store-bought minced meat2 slices of bread2 level tablespoons dried oregano1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, pounded1/2 small dried red chilli, pounded1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary1 egg yolkSalt and freshly ground black pepper4 tablespoons olive oil5 cups tomato base sauce (recipe above)2 handfuls of fresh basil, picked and torn2 ounces mozzarella cheese, broken up2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

If your meat is not already minced, whiz it up in a food processor to the required consistency and place it in a bowl. Use the food processor to turn the slices of bread into breadcrumbs. Add the breadcrumbs, dried oregano, cumin, chilli, rosemary and egg yolk to the minced meat and season with 2 level teaspoons of salt and a good twist of black pepper. At this stage you could add your optional ingredients (cooked together gently until tender and allowed to cool). Mix well, and, with wet hands, roll and pat into meatballs the size and shape you want. (These can be cooked straight away or put on greaseproof paper, covered with clingfilm and refrigerated for up to a day.)

Preheat a thick-bottomed casserole to a very hot temperature, add 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, swirl around the bottom of the pan and add your meatballs. Fry them until they are brown all over, being careful not to break them up but just moving the pan around so that all sides of the meatballs get nicely colored. Turn the heat down and cover with the tomato sauce, loads of ripped up fresh basil and a little broken up mozzarella and grated Parmesan. Cook in the oven at 200°C/400°F/gas 6 for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden.

Basic Pizza Dough from 'Jamie's Italy'

Ingredients1-3/4 pound strong white bread flour7 ounces fine ground semolina flour or strong white bread flour1 level tablespoon fine sea salt2 (7g) sachets of dried yeast1 tablespoon golden caster sugarAround 1 pint lukewarm water

Pile the flours and salt onto a clean surface and make a 7-inch well in the centre. Add your yeast and sugar to the tepid water, mix up with a fork and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. It will look like stodgy porridge — continue to mix, bringing in all the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat it into a ball. Knead the dough by rolling it backwards and forwards, using your left hand to stretch the dough towards you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes until you have a smooth springy soft dough.

Flour the top of your dough, cover it with clingfilm and let it rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll it thinly. Now divide the dough into as many balls as you want to make pizzas, i.e. lots of small ones or a few larger ones, but I suggest that 6 is a good quantity for this amount of dough.

Timing-wise, it’s nice to roll the pizzas out 15 to 30 minutes before you start to cook them. If you want to work more in advance, it’s better to keep the dough in clingfilm in the fridge rather than having rolled-out pizzas hanging around for a few hours. Take a piece of the dough, dust your surface and the dough with a little flour or semolina, and roll it out into a rough circle about 0.5cm thick. Tear off an appropriately sized piece of tinfoil, rub it with olive oil, dust it well with flour or semolina and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with the other pieces and then, if you dust them with a little flour, you can pile them up into a stack, cover them with clingfilm and put them in the fridge.

When you’re ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 250°C/500°F/gas 9. At this stage you can apply your toppings. Remember: less is more. If you can, cook the pizzas on a piece of granite in your conventional oven — if not, do them one by one on the bars of the oven shelf towards the bottom of the oven. (If you’re going to cook your pizzas on the bars of the oven, make sure they’re not too big — otherwise they’ll be difficult to maneuver.) Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pizzas are golden and crispy.

Spicy Salami, Courgette, Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza from 'Jamie's Italy'

Topping4 tablespoons tomato base sauce 6 thin slices of firm courgette (zucchini)8 fresh basil leaves10 thin slices of spicy salami3 ounces mozzarella Olive oilSea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Smear your tomato sauce evenly over the pizza base. Lay over your courgettes and basil, then your salami — you want this to go on last so it goes crispy. Place small pieces of mozzarella in between the gaps, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until crisp and golden.

Tomato Soup

Ingredients
5 cups tomato base sauce 1 US pint chicken stock Basil leaves Olive oil Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Take your tomato base sauce and heat gently in a pan with the chicken stock. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, and serve in bowls or mugs with some basil leaves ripped over and a drizzle of olive oil, if you like.

Recipes provided by Jamie Oliver and Hyperion Books. Copyright 2005 by Jamie Oliver. All rights reserved. For more about Jamie Oliver's campaign in England, logon to .