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Ziti with Spicy Pesto "Pantesco" and Pecorino Cheese

Contributed by: ARA Content

Rediscovering The Joys Of Shared Meals

(ARA) - Having a family meal isn't easily accomplished these days. Busy schedules, long work hours and even technology make it feel easier to simply grab a meal and go, rather than take the time to sit everyone down together around the table.

Ziti with Spicy Pesto *Pantesco* and Pecorino Cheese
But American families really do miss coming together around the table. In fact, 93 percent of Americans acknowledge dinner time as the best way to connect as a family, according to a study conducted by Barilla. The obstacles barring the way for family dinner are work schedules, children's schedules and picky eaters in the house. However, the benefits of overcoming these obstacles can be lasting for families. In fact, according to the study, Americans who eat with others more frequently are more satisfied with every aspect of their own lives, including their relationships, their physical and mental health and their level of achievement in life.

In addition, the study shows:

  • Sharing meals ranks No. 1 above all other activities (including family vacations, playing together and attending religious services) in helping Americans connect with their families and their kids.

  • Nearly six in 10 families agree that they don't have as many opportunities to connect with their family or friends as they'd like.

  • Americans who eat with others frequently report lower levels of overweight children.

"Family meals are more than feeding events; they are precious opportunities for family connection in a hurry-up world," says Dr. William Doherty, a professor with the University of Minnesota Department of Family and Social Science and an expert on family time and family rituals. "Children grow up healthier, smarter and better adjusted when their parents take the lead in having regular dinner times."

The importance of sharing dinner is not lost on chef Mario Batali or music star Martina McBride, who are working together with Barilla to spread the word about how families can 'Share the Table' and create lasting memories.

"Dinner is a time where everyone can come together, cook together and share together in a truly unguarded atmosphere," says Batali, James Beard award-winning chef, restaurateur and author of "Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home." "I encourage all families to learn how getting their entire family involved in preparing and enjoying dinner can make a positive difference in their lives."

A mother of three and one of country music's top female vocalists, McBride understands the challenges of work/life balance and family dinners. "With my busy schedule, I have to be creative about making time for the family to dine together," she says. "Now I keep a few staples on hand in the pantry and fridge so we can create a quick dinner together, even after a late day of work and school. And, I'm promising to help my daughters develop a healthy relationship with food that will stick with them forever."

Martina's tips for creating the best family dinner experience include:

  • Once in a while, make everyday dinners seem fancier with candles, a linen tablecloth and your fine china. This will add an element of fun and something to get excited about.

  • Carry on your favorite dinnertime traditions from your childhood and tell your children about family meals from when you were a kid.

  • Plan ahead so you can fit dinners into busy schedules. Put the dates and times on your calendar and don't budge.

Families can discover many ways to fill their meals with boisterous conversation, meaningful interactions and flavorful food at www.sharethetable.com. For every family who joins in the movement to create meaningful family dinner time by registering on the Web site, Barilla will donate $1 to Meals on Wheels Association of America, up to $150,000, to support home-delivered and congregate meal programs. Share the Table families can gain access to more than 700 Barilla recipes - including exclusive Mario Batali recipes - get tips from family experts, design custom weekly dinner plans and dining placemats and share their own dinnertime stories and pictures with others.

If you're looking for some good meal ideas to serve at your next family dinner, Batali shares his favorite recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Barilla Ziti
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 1 cup parsley, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 4 medium fresh plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Directions:

Bring 6 quarts of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Place mint, basil, parsley, garlic, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, red pepper and half the olive oil in a blender. Process in short bursts until roughly chopped. Turn blender on full and drizzle in remaining oil and process until smooth, about one minute. Remove pesto and place in a large serving bowl.

Cook ziti according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add pesto and toss like a salad to coat. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

Serving Size: Makes 4 - 6 Servings


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